MADRID – Spain is grappling with a critical shortage of skilled construction workers. The Spanish employment agency SEPE is desperately recruiting, offering salaries up to €35,000 and permanent contracts, no experience necessary.
Florin Nicolae Nistor, a Romanian, moved to Spain 24 years ago and entered the construction industry. However, the 2008 crisis led to a drastic increase in unemployment, prompting many to leave the sector or retire early. Today, Nistor runs a small construction company. Despite the industry booming again, the scarcity of skilled workers poses a significant challenge. He asserts the ability to double his workload if only he could find competent professionals.
Delays and unfulfilled contracts
The shortage hinders the Spanish construction industry. The revival, fuelled by European funds, is stretching the sector to its limits. Delays are increasing, and some contracts remain unfulfilled. Of construction companies, 49% report decreased productivity due to labour shortages, a 9% increase from the previous year.
Reliance on foreign workers
Since the 2008 economic recovery, the industry heavily depends on foreign workers. However, improved conditions in their home countries are prompting many to return. Furthermore, there is a notable lack of Spanish construction workers. In the early 2000s, the construction sector was thriving, and those with technical education were in high demand. The 2008 real estate crisis ended this era, and interest in construction education dwindled.
Changing work perspectives
Although construction education is regaining popularity, many young professionals now prefer office jobs in development or consulting over on-site work, citing better working conditions and higher salaries. Companies now resort to taking away staff from competitors. Yedra Martínez, a construction director, notes the fierce competition and rapidly increasing salaries. Therefore, workers often leave for better opportunities elsewhere.
EU funds but no workforce
The construction sector was among the first to resume after the lockdown. Despite significant European funding aimed at revitalising the economy, a lack of workforce capacity became evident. Sergio Estela, a union secretary, points out that the shortage is not limited to construction but is more pronounced due to higher wages. The issue affects all of Europe, with societal changes altering perceptions of work.
Despite improvements, construction remains physically demanding. The issue of labour shortage is a complex one, spanning beyond just the construction industry, reflecting broader changes in work preferences and societal values.