This week we surveyed over 900 tradesmen on the state of the Irish construction sector and the main issues facing their businesses. The survey was conducted with a view to representing the concerns and requirements of over 60,0000 Irish tradesmen prior to both budget 2016 and the next election.
The results were interesting and should be noted by all political parties. After all, with approximately 60,000 self employed tradesmen in Ireland, it represents a very large voting block.
The first finding revealed that 81% of all tradesmen surveyed intend to vote at the next general election! So there's an incentive for Fine Gael, Fine Fail, Sinn Fein, Labour and everyone else to consider!
The following were the highlight findings of the survey:
- 72% of respondents rated the lack of credit from banks as the main impediment to growth in the sector.
- Over 30% of self-employed Tradesmen indicated that they had credit applications declined or stalled in recent months.
- 64% of respondents cited the poor supply of applicable public building and maintenance contracts as having an adverse effect on their business.
- 55% of respondents highlighted a skill shortage across all main trade categories along with high employment costs as a barrier to growth
- Only 16% of employers envisage taking on an apprentice in the next 12 months.
- Employers cite the poor availability of apprentices and the high costs of the scheme as a barrier to employing apprentices
- 83% of respondents cited a reduction in income tax rates for the self-employed as a requirement in Budget 2015.
- 63% of all respondents indicated that a reduction in the Construction Vat rate from 23% to 13.5% in Budget 2016 would increase activity and employment in the sector.
- 66% of respondents rate the Home Renovation Scheme (HRI) as having been of benefit to their businesses in the last 12 months.
The statistics from the above need to be considered carefully by all political parties. We’re hearing lots of rhetoric about the recovery of the construction sector but this feedback shows that there are many issues on the ground which haven’t yet been addressed.
The poor supply of credit is certainly depressing the sector - and despite government spin about stability funds and more lines of credit - these simply do not filter down to the SME tradesmen trying to operate a local business. Indeed we continue to hear lots of stories of tradesmen with projects in the bag, being turned away from the doors of banks before they can even submit an application form.
The poor supply of apprentices and the cost of employing them continues to rumble on. In reality the government must be aware that the numbers coming through are way to low to fuel any long-term growth in the construction sector. Incentives must be put in place to attract young people into apprenticeships and also for tradesmen to take them on.
And what of the brain drain ? Thousands of skilled Irish tradesmen trained in our system effectively sent overseas (and in some cases asked to finish their apprenticeships in Australia or Canada). Most are happy employed in better paid jobs in a more favourable climate. Do we think that they believe that conditions have improved sufficently to move back to Ireland ? Are there incentives to get them to consider it ? No to all of the above.
While the sector has improved, there is still a lot to do. We've laid it out there for the politicial parties to consider. It couldn't ba any easier. Next move Fine Gael / Fine Fail / Sinn Fein / Labour et al.