Construction projects in Hong Kong have stalled and 50,000 construction workers have been laid off because of the coronavirus epidemic, according to a union and company bosses.
The problem is disruption to the flow of materials from mainland China, as Beijing locked cities down to try and contain the virus.
A further 80,000 workers have had their hours slashed to one or two days a week as contractors wait for supply chains to re-open, according to the Hong Kong Construction Industry Employees General Union.
It told the South China Morning Post that half of its 57,000 members were now unemployed.
Â Its calculation of 50,000 unemployed workers across the sector would mean a fifth of the special administrative region’s construction workforce had lost their jobs.
Â "The construction chain intertwines with one another. If we do not have some of the materials, we cannot proceed to the next step," the union’s chairman, Wong Ping, told the Post.
Â "For example, some workers can nail boards first [for shuttering], but without cement pouring in as the next step, you cannot proceed to nail boarding for the other floors."
There are hopes the sector will revive now that China has begun rebooting its manufacturing base.
Â Efforts to resume production have included arranging chartered trains to transport workers from their hometowns to manufacturing hubs such as Guangdong, Zhejiang and Shanghai.Â
Meanwhile, one Hong Kong developer, Chun Wo Construction Holdings, told the Post that its building sites were still shut.
Â Its chief executive Stephen Lee Ka-lun said: "Many of the materials have not been brought in from the mainland, such as concrete blocks, and the factories in China have not resumed totally."
Another construction company’s sites opened again yesterday. But David Kwok Chun-wai, co-managing director of New World Construction, said the firm had also suffered from supply chain disruption.
He told the Post: "we are not sure about the impact yet, it’s still too early to predict any delays in finishing time".
Image: Hong Kong’s harbour and skyline, June 2019 (Benh LIEU SONG/CC BY-SA 4.0)