Construction in Asian delays without migrant workers

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With millions of migrant labourers from Dubai to Singapore quarantined or having returned to their homes because of coronavirus lockdowns, cities are facing shortages of essential workers as they begin to ease restrictions.

In India, strict lockdowns in cities led to an exodus of millions of migrant workers to the countryside, while in Singapore and the Gulf nations, authorities are trying to contain infection clusters among foreign workers.

“We will see a major labour shortage in large Indian cities for several months, especially in construction, logistics, transport and manufacturing,” said Chinmay Tumbe, an assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

In Singapore, where more than three-quarters of total cases have been linked to crowded dormitories that house more than 300,000 foreign workers, tens of thousands of labourers have been quarantined amid criticism of the squalid accommodations.

With Singapore’s economy fuelled by cheap foreign labour, the government’s handling of the situation will determine how migrant workers view the city-state, said Alex Au, vice president of the nonprofit Transient Workers Count Too.

“Already, we are seeing construction delays and shortages of sanitation workers; pavements have not been swept in weeks,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“With fewer migrant workers or delays in their return to jobs, some industries will struggle, given their dependence on migrant labour – construction, hospitality, domestic work, and service sectors like cleaning, security,” he said. REUTERS

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