This article first appeared in the 28 June 2022 edition of the Cape Argus newspaper.
Cape Town - South Africa’s construction industry is struggling, and in its latest construction industry large sample survey, Stats SA has reported 118 000 jobs losses between the end of June 2017 and June 2020.
The Stats SA Construction Report for 2020 also revealed that the total income for the industry decreased by 7.1% between 2017, when it stood at R470 billion, and 2020, when it was at R437bn.
The report is a periodic assessment of construction enterprises conducted every three to five years on the nature and structure of the construction industry.
However, as Stats SA does not have enough data available to show the industry’s performance since the pandemic began in June 2020, they are unable to provide a clearer picture of the current situation in the industry.
Stats SA economic statistics deputy director general Joe de Beer revealed this while releasing the report and said the questionnaires for the survey were completed between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020.
“I think we can safely say this is a report that gives us baseline information, pre-Covid-19, but that already shows that since 2017, the industry has been in a decline.”
Asked for a clearer picture of how the industry was affected by Covid-19, De Beer said this would emerge by the end of this year with the release of the annual financial statistics in December.
De Beer would not speculate on reasons for the decline in the industry and said: “We don’t give opinions in statistics. In our surveys, we just ask about the financials.”
Western Cape Property Development Forum chairperson Deon van Zyl said although the data may have some academic value, it cannot in any way be an accurate reflection of the status quo and therefore cannot be the basis for any policymaking at this point.
“Releasing construction statistics for a period that lies nearly two years in the past, in the wake of what we have endured through Covid-19 and all its economic consequences, is trying to close the stable doors after all the horses have bolted.”
He said the Stats SA report shows clearly how serious the situation has been since 2017, even before the pandemic hit.
Van Zyl said Stats SA should change its work methodology to engage directly with contractors, sub-contractors and labour on the ground to ascertain and understand the real state of the construction industry.
Calling the report “ancient history”, Van Zyl said it was not useful as a policy making document and instead Stats SA should engage with bodies like Master Builders South Africa, the South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors and the Construction Alliance South Africa.