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Labour shortage may hasten automation in construction

It may not be life as usual for the construction industry going forward in the post-lockdown era which will be governed by social distancing norms. The way cement being used will largely be dictated by the way construction industry evolves henceforth.

According to some experts, social distancing and problem in getting workers may give increased boost to the use of ready mix concrete (RMC) in the construction. Given the recent reverse migration of workforce as a fall out of COViD-19 crisis, construction sector is already facing mini-crisis like situation post-lockdown. The experts are of the opinion that going ahead 25% of the migrated workforce may not want to return at all.

Thus, scarcity of labour may force the industry to depend upon RMC as it will avoid crowding of workers at the site, help address social distancing norms and also help finish work faster. So far, use of RMC was restricted mostly in large projects in big cities but the situation emerging in post lockdown may enhance its acceptance in Tier II cities and even for small projects its use may rise.

Abundant supply of cheap labour in India has restricted the growth of RMC in India which hardly accounts for 10-12% of total cement consumption. On the other hand, in developed world, RMC accounts for 50-55% of the total cement consumption. However, cost may be the main factor which may deter increased use of RMC as it includes margin of the RMC supplier. Further, the government charges 18% GST on RMC which may also act as hurdle in the growth of RMC in the country.

Labour shortage may also push the construction sector to go for increased use of automation on site as well as off site. Thus, apart from using RMC machines, construction sector may also go for materials like Autoclave Aerated Concrete (AAC) blocks instead of conventional red bricks.

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