The construction industry plays a vital role in the economy. At the start of the lockdowns earlier this year in view of the spread of COVID-19, the percentage of construction workers terminated workers because of the pandemic rose significantly over a short period of time, according to a survey conducted onlineby the Associated General Contractors of America.

After the World Health Organization announced in March that the coronavirus outbreak had become a pandemic, many countries declared national lockdowns. This restricted the movement of people and resulted in a complete shutdown of many businesses. Construction companies were not left out of the restrictions.

Effects of the Pandemic on the Construction Industry

According to a survey by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), published in September, 60% of firms reported future projects had been delayed or outrightly canceled since the beginning of the pandemic. The results of the survey show that project delays have begun to affect contractors. Also, there was a marked shortage of labor, as 52% of firms struggle to find craft workers. The unwillingness to work is because many workers fear the possibility of being infected by the coronavirus.

Following the unexpected occurrence of the virus, construction workers in developing countries who are likely to be without insurance that cover unemployment or any other protection against loss of income were left stranded.

The effects of the confinement on construction have been felt in different aspects of the industry, including economic and human resources. Aside from job loss and suspension of projects, time and cost overruns and unfavorable financial implications have also been experienced.

During a panel discussion on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction survey collected in April, the lobbying group’s senior economist, Curtis Dubay, expressed his thoughts:

“We underwent a severe contraction in the economy in late March and into May, but now we’re starting to see a rebound of the data and the economy’s getting slightly better, but we’re not anywhere near where we were before the pandemic hit and the Commercial Construction Index reflects that.”

The construction industry could be a means for the economy to recover after the sudden outbreak of COVID-19, as history has shown that construction was relied upon in the past to help improve the economy. The federal government usually drove the upswing by increasing investments in building and infrastructure, which ultimately resulted in decreased spending in other sectors. Construction will also indirectly benefit local businesses when they supply food, shelter, raw materials, transport and other services to workers for the duration of the projects.

How to Kick-Start the Economy Through the Construction Industry

To kick-start the economy and employment, sound government principles and pledges are required. Some of these policies may include:

1. Attending to projects that were not completed before the lockdown

Investments can be made in unfinished infrastructural projects. These backlog projects stand a better chance because they can quickly be approved. Usually, they are more labor intensive and are a means of temporary job creation.

2. Application of international labor standards

The International Labour Organization has policies that are widely accepted and known to be able to enforce recovery projects, as well as protect informal workers.

3. Cutting budgets and maximizing profit on small capital funds

The major worry in this present situation is the unpredictability of the economy. Contractors are conversant with risks, but no one envisaged the pandemic or is familiar with dealing with the blowback of one as extensive as this.

The recurring question is what markets will look like in early to mid-2021. Getting into partnership with clients and reducing the budget for work done is an option contractors can tend towards.

4. Adapting to new technologies and skill acquisition

It is no news that some changes have been made in technology usage in the construction industry. Remarkably, these changes allow the increasing use of environmentally friendly technologies. There is a need for workers to be skillfully trained for initiative in order to adapt to these changes. Flexibility in knowledge and application is advised if construction workers plan to achieve a lot.

Conclusively, according to Khan (2005), the construction sector and construction activities are known to be some of the major sources of economic growth and development. Therefore, this sector should be taken into serious consideration when the improvement of the economy is discussed.