As the state’s construction sector is witnessing the slowest growth in the country, construction companies are scrambling to find a way to keep up with demand and maintain profitability.
The state’s chief minister Amarinder Singh has set a target of creating a net gain of 500,000 construction jobs in the state by 2019.
He has also proposed a plan to provide an additional 3 million rupees ($47,800) in cash assistance to companies to help them cope with the growing shortage of labour.
But while Punjab’s growth is in line with the national trend, the country’s second-largest state is struggling to find the jobs for the workers it is importing from outside the country.
The government’s plan, which is being closely watched by businesses in the construction sector, comes as the industry is in the throes of an unprecedented wave of job losses, with a total of 12,500 jobs in construction lost between June and October.
Amarinder Singh and his government have set a deadline of January 1, 2020 to provide the necessary funds to help the industry grow and create more jobs, as well as provide the companies with a safe and reliable supply of skilled labour.
In Punjab, the government is also looking to increase the number of construction jobs by 5 per cent annually, as the state has been facing a surge in construction-related job losses.
But the government has also suggested to boost the number by an additional 10 per cent per year in 2019-20 to ensure the industry can provide more employment to its workers, but not to the extent of the increase in the national rate of unemployment.
The government has proposed that if a construction company is able to fill an average of 30 per cent of the jobs it creates in the year it starts with, then the government will provide the company with an additional 4 million rupee ($57,800).
However, the minister said in a press briefing on Tuesday that the government would not be introducing any such plan for 2019-2020.
“The government will only support the employers to provide work to their workers, and not to impose any scheme on them,” Amarinder said.
The minister, who is in charge of the government’s Construction Industry Development Ministry, said the government was working on a strategy to improve the employment situation of construction workers.
“The government is making every effort to meet the job losses of construction industry workers in the last few years,” he said.
The Punjab government, however, is yet to decide on the best course of action to improve employment in the sector.
“The minister said the ministry was considering options to ensure safety and security of construction projects in the short and long term.
But, there are no clear answers,” a source in the ministry said.
Meanwhile, the Indian Construction Confederation (ICC), a trade body that represents the construction industry in the central and eastern provinces, has said that the industry needs a minimum of 3 million workers to sustain growth.
According to the ICC, the total number of labourers employed in the entire construction industry stood at 6,933,965 in July, up from 6,892,878 in June.
However the construction ministry, which represents the industry, said that it was not aware of the figures of the ICC and said that they could not be released due to “proprietary reasons”.
“It is not possible for us to disclose the figures that we have in our possession due to the fact that it is classified under the secrecy clause of the Indian Penal Code,” said a government spokesperson.
“As the minister has not given any details about the details of the new proposal, we cannot comment on it,” the spokesperson added.
This article first appeared on The Hindu.