A key stakeholder in the construction industry has called for a wage increase in the sector to attract enough manpower to support the government’s ambitious infrastructure projects
Philippine Constructors’ Association (PCA) Executive Director Ibarra “Barry” Paulino said the industry is having a hard time attracting enough laborers especially with the physical risks associated with the job and low daily wages.
“As of now, we are having difficulty inviting workers in the construction industry because it’s a dirty job—this is the reality,” Paulino said as he spoke during a forum sponsored by the Italian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines (ICCPI) this week. The event coincided with the launch of the ICCP Infrastructure and Construction Focus Group on Monday, September 24.
According to the National Economic and Development Authority, the government’s massive infrastructure projects, also known as “Build, Build, Build” program, which includes 75 flagship infrastructure projects in the next five years, would need an average of 1.1 million new construction workers annually until 2022.
That’s a huge manpower requirement that both the government and the construction industry admit will be difficult to fill. As a result, the PCA executive director expressed worries that only 61 percent of the projects are “doable.”
“Almost always, we find that most workers prefer to be in air-conditioned offices and receive Php300 to Php350 a day, against working on the ground under the elements of sunshine, rain, etc. and just receive Php500,” Paulino added. “This is a challenge that we should look at.”
Philippine Constructors’ Association (PCA) Executive Director Ibarra “Barry” Paulino during a forum sponsored by the Italian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines
The PCA executive director suggested a salary increase “of starting [at] 20 percent” for construction workers so infrastructure projects may stir interest among workers. That represents a big jump considering that the average daily wage of employees under the industry has only increased by an average of 4.2 percent in the past three years.
Based on the data provided by the Philippine Statistics Authority, construction workers now receive an average of Php387 a day, just a slight improvement from their compensation in 2015 at Php339.
That also pales in comparison to what a Filipino working as a carpenter abroad may receive which range from Php1,083 to Php1,416 a day according to data provided by job marketplace site Workabroad.ph.
“A blue-collar job is high paying abroad. It’s only here that we look down on this kind of work. We have to put dignity back to the workers,” Paulino added.
To support higher pay for construction workers, he suggested that the government also increase the cost of projects. Proposed laws lowering corporate income taxes may also help companies way workers more, Paulino said, in reference to the second tax reform package more popularly known as the TRABAHO (Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-Quality Opportunities) bill.
“If you compare our pay with developing nations, we are almost at par. The problem is in the taxes. It’s too high,” he said.
One of the bill’s main provisions is lowering the corporate income tax (CIT) from the current 30 percent to 20 percent in the next 11 years. The rate will be decreased every two years by two percentage points starting in 2021.
Elyssa Christine Lopez is a staff writer of Entrepreneur PH. Follow her on Twitter @elyssalopz