Labour supply will fall as workers stay home

Inexplicably, the migrant site workforce travelling from the sub-continent seems to have grown tired of the Gulf navvy lifestyle. Not that the labour camps in Al Quoz and Sonapur could ever have held much getaway appeal for the thousands of Indian nationals who left the country last year on employment visas. Perhaps a committee should be formed to investigate why they don't want to come here anymore.

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By  Sean Cronin Published  May 13, 2006

|~||~||~|Inexplicably, the migrant site workforce travelling from the sub-continent seems to have grown tired of the Gulf navvy lifestyle. Not that the labour camps in Al Quoz and Sonapur could ever have held much getaway appeal for the thousands of Indian nationals who left the country last year on employment visas. Perhaps a committee should be formed to investigate why they don't want to come here anymore. According to the Indian Minister for Overseas Affairs, workers from the country are being urged to stay at home and participate in India's domestic construction boom. While wages are still significantly better on the sites of the Gulf, they are diminishing in real terms as the cost of living in cities such as Dubai, Bahrain and Doha rises. Stories about the realities of working as a construction labourer in this part of the world are also now filtering back to India and being reported by the media in the country. Clearly some people are asking themselves do I really want to leave my family, and travel to a strange country for the prize of a wage that is maybe 20% to 30% better than I could earn at home? The rise in construction costs is what everyone is talking about in the industry, but up until now the real contributors to site inflation have been materials and fuel. And until now the assumption has also been that the labour pool available in the sub-continent was fairly inexhaustible. But as one M&E contractor I spoke to this week said, the days of going over to India and finding 50 plumbers or electricians in one go, are over. It means the prospect of severe labour shortages and wage inflation emerging in the sector is becoming more real. And that has to be a major concern for contractors currently bidding for long-term labour- intensive contracts. It won't be committees that improve the fortunes of migrant construction workers in this region, it will be the same forces of supply and demand that brought them here in the first place.||**||

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