New panel to help construction sector tackle labour crunch

PHOTO: New panel to help construction sector tackle labour crunch

A new government committee plans to help the construction industry come up with innovative ways of tackling the labour crunch and its reliance on foreign workers.

The Construction Productivity Steering Committee will be chaired by Senior Minister of State for National Development Lee Yi Shyan.

Speaking at the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) awards on Thursday night, he said the committee will look at simplifying rules and regulations in the industry, while using public sector projects as a model.

While further details were not available, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan had mentioned such a committee in Parliament last month.

Its goal,he said, was to maximise productivity even as the Government tightens the supply of foreign labour, and ensure that building projects are not delayed, or have costs spiral out of control.

Housing Board contractors, Mr Khaw noted, had been able to deal with the labour cuts.

The total number of foreign workers that a main contractor can use for a project depends on its Man-Year Entitlement (MYE). An MYE of two, for instance, will allow a company to hire two workers for a year, or one worker for two years.

The Government has been steadily cutting back on the MYE, with cumulative cuts hitting 45 per cent in July.

But the construction sector currently takes in about half of the new foreign workers that come here, Mr Lee told a 2,000-strong crowd at the Resorts World Sentosa on Thursday night.

"This is clearly not sustainable," he said.

"If we want to drastically raise our productivity to closely match those in advanced economies in the next 10 years, our built environment sector's productivity must achieve at least 30 per cent improvement by 2020."

This painful transition can be cushioned by the strong pipeline of upcoming projects, he added.

Construction demand this year is projected to rise to as much as $32 billion, and the outlook is expected to remain healthy in the next two years.

Mr Lee also congratulated the winners of the 293 awards given out on Thursday.

Among them were six developers and builders who won the inaugural Quality Excellence Award for consistently delivering high quality projects.

They are: City Developments Limited, Woh Hup Limited, Dragages Singapore, Allgreen Properties, Tiong Seng Contractors and CapitaLand.

The Housing Board was also conferred the newly created Advocates Award to recognise its productivity efforts.

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