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Delays expected at construction sites due to decrease in workforce

Ministry of the Environment
Publication date 20.3.2020 14.48
Press release

The Government has decided to restrict the traffic at borders starting on 19 March 2020. This also concerns commuting to work across the borders. The restrictions have impacts on the Finnish construction sector, which has a lot of foreign workforce.

The situation caused by the coronavirus is completely new for the construction business as well. The working group set up by the Ministry of the Environment on Monday 23 March will follow the situation in the housing and construction sectors, together with relevant partners and operators, and give proposals for necessary measures. Besides the Ministry of the Environment, the working group has representatives from the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries RT, and Finnish Association of Building Owners and Construction Clients RAKLI.

Constant monitoring of the situation is necessary to be able to address all the questions that will arise. “Obviously, there is no way the construction sector could have foreseen such drastic changes,” says Senior Ministerial Adviser Kirsi Martinkauppi. “As much as a third of the workforce comes from abroad, so delays in construction schedules will be inevitable. At the moment we cannot say anything definite about when it is a question of a force majeure situation, in which case the deadlines and time limits of construction projects could be relaxed.”

How will the restrictions on workforce mobility affect the construction sites? Questions and answers

Can construction sector employees get to work on Monday?

According to the news from the Border Guard, crossing internal borders will only be permitted for persons who, based on a permanent employment contract, work in the areas along the borders with Sweden and Norway where travel for work is common.

This means that from 22 March 2020 at 00:00 commuting to work from e.g. Estonia will not be permitted.

How will the restrictions on border traffic affect construction in Finland?

From now on border crossing will only be allowed for those working in the critical sectors that are defined in the Border Guard’s guidelines, such as healthcare and transport personnel. Construction sector employees shuttling between two countries will have to stay in their home country for a longer time. Workforce in the construction sector will decrease, causing delays at construction sites.

What proportion of the workforce comes from elsewhere?

In the Helsinki region 33% and in the whole country 20% of the workforce comes from abroad.

Will there be a shortage of labour at construction sites?

Besides the decrease in labour from abroad, the workforce will also be reduced due to the fact that many Finnish employees with families stay home with their children.

Are we going to run out of construction materials?

Goods transport continues as usual and we have construction materials in Finland, so running out of these is not the main concern. Cement is being made in Finland and we have the raw materials - what we need is employees.

What should be done at the construction sites to react to the changes?

Construction sites should prepare for possible delays and take measures concerning especially moisture protection during the construction process.

Can the deadlines and time limits of construction projects be relaxed?

The situation caused by the coronavirus is new in the construction sector as well, and it is impossible to say anything definite as yet. It is quite obvious that the constructions sites could not have predicted such drastic changes.

Inquiries: Kirsi Martinkauppi, Senior Ministerial Adviser, [email protected], tel. +358 295 250 177, +358 50 582 2464