Realty needs to build legions, brick by brick

Jan 26 2013, 11:14 IST
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SummaryWith the urban population projected to touch 496 million by 2020, the real estate sector finds itself short of personnel to cater to the resultant demand. Public and private initiatives in training are making some headway but not enough to bridge the widening chasm

The wage rate for a plumber in Delhi adjusted for purchasing power parity is about 32 per cent of the wage rates in New York City. Despite a few adjustments for changes in the currency market, these numbers stick.

Yet India is a labour surplus economy and the US isn’t. Also the skill levels available for workers to pick up in the US far outweigh those available in any metro in India. Despite the difference, the sharply rising wages show how the skill shortage in the construction sector is driving up wages without any benefit to the rest of the economy.

WAGE LEVELS

* Minimum wage rate for skilled worker in Delhi: R9,568 per month

* Minimum wage rate in New York city: $7.25 per hour(Conversion based on a 26-day period and applying a PPP factor)

The result: plumbing gear for instance bought from the best of companies do not sit on their hubs properly. Repairs by the neighbourhood hardware dealer with a makeshift plumber creates a temporary solution. Eventually the cold water tap gets stuck, or won’t close properly, leaking water in the bargain.

This is a common occurrence in almost every real estate project. The examples point to the lack of adequate skilled people who can deliver quality services for the sector.

A study brought out by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) — an independent, representative professional body which regulates property professionals and surveyors — titled ‘Real Estate and Construction Professionals in India by 2020’ says that the shortage begins right at the top with fewer professionals available in core disciplines such as engineering, architecture and planning.

Bridges over sewers

“It is a fact that there is a shortage of both civil engineers and architects. The problem has reached such proportions that several colleges are shutting down their civil engineering departments,” says PSN Rao, a professor at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.

“Earlier there were courses in public health engineering. Now hardly any institute offers it for there are neither teachers to impart knowledge nor students to enrol,” adds Rao. The discipline deals with design and operations of water supply and sewerage systems, the backbone of any city. “Currently civil engineering departments in elite institutes have branched into specialisations in roads, bridges, even nuclear reactor construction, but not this vital field,” says Rao.

With official statistics projecting the country’s population to hit 1.379 billion by 2020 of which 35.98 per

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