Portuguese builders

Recently I was talking to some Portuguese friends both are builders one owns a firm which solely constructs swimming pools and has completed over 700. The other is a medium sized general builder covering everything from factories to house renovations.

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Portuguese Builders and the recession

After a little friendly banter we were discussing the economy in Portugal and whether the recession was starting to reduce or not.

We all agreed that the recession was still just as bad and that there was no sight of an upturn yet.

Unexpectedly we all said that we all had enough work on the books  which i found very strange!.

It also emerged from my two friends that retaining and hiring of skilled Portuguese people was becoming a problem.

Every Portuguese family that I know has a brother or sister working abroad. For instance one of the best stone workers that I have ever seen has just gone to France to work on the construction of a new hotel. He was being pressured to go and join his relatives but had stayed behind because his wife was having a baby. His son is now 3 months and because there was not enough stone related work here to keep him busy he had to go.

This is why we all have a good order book of work.

There are a great many Portuguese building companies which have gone bust. Then there are the smaller companies who have just packed up and gone abroad to work.

To reinforce my comment about the skills drain – I saw this in the British Daily Mail.

“Now we’re importing brickies on £1,000 per week! Builders hiring Portuguese labourers because there aren’t enough British staff

Portugal is hot spot for builders as energy firms hire Spanish engineers

Recruiters say there is a ‘severe shortage of skilled tradespeople’ in UK

Half of annual recruits at one bricklaying firm come from abroad

Shortage of workers means they can insist on earning £200 a day”

Read more:

The article is sensational in style and it is not just the UK that is causing the drain. It is France, Germany and most of the wealthy European countries exerting a pull on Portuguese people struggling to make a living.

Here in Portugal we are seeing more people from Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Eastern Europe and Russia working on the few larger construction sites. The Brazilians and Africans are often treated appallingly by Portuguese business owners. Paid below the basic rate or often not paid at all. Not given any proper accommodation they just sleep inside part constructed buildings.

I regularly eat in low cost workers restaurants and it is common to see the African workers sitting outside waiting for their colleagues/bosses to have lunch. They dont eat inside because they cant afford too.

The skill shortage may force a change but I think it will be slow because many of these people are illegal so have no access to their rights.

It will be interesting to see what kind of  Portugal emerges from these dire times.