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Labour costs rise as Kenyan construction sector booms after polls

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- A boom in Kenya’s construction sector following political stability after disputed elections last year has seen labor costs rise as demand for masons swells.

The masons are currently the most sought-after personnel in the sector, thanks to the current boom.

Political stability that followed truce between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his rival in the polls Raila Odinga has given property developers the confidence to complete projects and start new ones.

The East African nation is now awash with construction projects, both residential and commercial, in the capital and major towns.

But developers have to dig deeper into their pockets to part with up to 25 U.S. dollars a day for skilled masons and 15 dollars for unskilled workers.

The labour costs have risen from about 20 dollars and 10 dollars respectively or even less. On the other hand, foremen and supervisors are demanding up to 50 dollars a day.

“It seems everyone is building now, so the costs have shot up significantly as developers desperately look for masons,” John Kyalo, a contractor in Kitengela, said on Thursday.

Kyalo is supervising the construction of a seven-storey residential apartment.

Work started in November last year. Then, he had no problem getting masons at the price he could afford, but from March this year, he has struggled.

“I started with 25 masons but I now work with 10 at most. This has slowed down progress,” he said of the house that is currently being roofed. He is now paying the skilled masons 18 dollars a day, up from 15 dollars when he started.

“Those who left felt I am paying low but I cannot work beyond budget,” he said. Initially, developers in Nairobi would import cheap labour from other towns. They would then pay for accommodation costs for the workers.

But labour costs in the towns have equally risen thanks to booming real estate sector.

The situation in Nairobi is exacerbated by the fact that some construction workers are moving to the upcountry towns as some developers seeking highly skilled workers lure them with higher pay.

Antony Kuyo, a consultant with Avent Properties in Nairobi, noted labour costs contribute to about 30 percent of the total costs of a project.

“If this goes higher, then it becomes uneconomical for the developer. It is one of the reasons costs of houses remain high,” he said.

Kenya’s construction sector grew by 7.2 percent in the first quarter, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.


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