The combined turnover of Ireland’s top construction firms has increased by €720m on last year and this evening, the Construction Magazine Top 50 Contractors 2018 will be announced at an event in Dublin.
May I be the first to congratulate all the companies, their employees and, of course, their clients who have contributed to what has been yet another progressive year for the construction sector. The increase in turnover and employment levels across the various sectors is most welcome from Government’s perspective. It reflects an economy that has shown an average of 4.4% growth in the years 2013 – 2017 with unemployment figures down from 16% in 2012 to just below 6% in April of this year.
The increase in export activity demonstrates growing diversity that will stand the sector in good stead in more challenging economic times. Government’s commitment to advancing digital technologies in the delivery of the National Development Plan will further expand the sector’s export potential.
There is evidence too that the recovery in the sector is spreading beyond the urban centres where the ‘green shoots’ were first seen in 2013. Recent analysis also highlights a welcome increase in residential construction activity whilst growth in other areas remains strong.
Our workforce is internationally renowned for its skills, professionalism and innovation which has contributed to sustained investment, even during the toughest years of the recession. In this regard, the construction sector has played a key role in the recovery both in the construction of vital public and social infrastructure but also attracting inward investment by recording extremely positive outcomes amongst the sectors’ large, multinational client bodies.
Confidence levels in the Irish economy are undoubtedly high but it would be remiss not to mention the challenges; housing, Brexit and the current uncertainty in global trade arrangements have the potential to impact further growth.
Skills shortages and the persistently low margins that are evident in certain sectors are challenges that are particular to the construction industry. Skills shortages allied with the uncertain global trade situation are likely to increase inflationary pressure in the short to medium term whereas low margins are impacting relationships and payments in the extensive construction supply chain. If not addressed, the capacity for the industry to grow is limited.
Government is committed to working with industry to manage these challenges. Indeed it is imperative so that all citizens and businesses may enjoy the benefits of the substantial investment that will accompany the National Development Plan.
I look forward to positive engagement with the industry over the coming months as we consider the optimum means of procuring the necessary expertise to deliver Ireland 2040 in a sustainable, efficient and cost effective manner.
Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan T.D, Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform