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Ivana Vuletić, Secretary Of The Construction Industry Association Of The Chamber Of Commerce & Industry Of Serbia

Volume Of Works And New Jobs Growing Constantly

The construction sector is recording constant growth year on year. We will continue promoting these trends in the period ahead by connecting relevant participants

If we listed all the areas of activity within the scope of the construction sector, as well as other economic activities that are connected, directly or indirectly, with this industry, this whole page wouldn’t be enough to present them in the proper way. It would be enough to mention roads alone for there to be no end to the list. Serbia’s construction industry today comprises more than 11,000 companies employing in excess of 100,000 workers.

The value of construction works implemented in 2021 had real growth of 17 per cent. It’s worth reminding readers that, in the first quarter of 2021, the construction sector achieved the highest year-on-year growth in gross value added of any economic activity, totalling 19.6% compared to the same quarter of the previous year.

A total of 2,916 construction permits were issued in December 2021 alone, which is up 34.3% compared to December 2020.

Works on newbuild construction projects conducted in December 2021 had an estimated value of 72.6% of the total estimated value of works. The highest concentration of construction activity is expected in Belgrade’s districts, representing 18.9% of the projected value of newbuild construction works, followed by the Kolubara District (15.9%), the South Bačka District (12.4%), the Srem District (10.3%) and the Šumadija region (9.1%), while the participation of the country’s remaining regions reaches up to six per cent.

Given announcements of the continuation of investments in Serbia in the period ahead, particularly investments in infrastructure, we expect these kinds of positive construction trends to continue.

The construction sector’s influence over the country’s overall economic growth, through many factors, is immeasurable, whether that relates to the construction stage or the stage of the exploitation of facilities through the engaging of domestic operatives and the local workforce, and the use of materials sourced domestically, while, for example, following the completion of construction, better infrastructure eases the economy’s operations.

When it comes to presenting us to the world, it is particularly important to mention Expo 2020 Dubai, during the course of which it has been planned for the Republic of Serbia to have business delegations participating in nine thematic weeks. The Republic of Serbia’s attendance of the expo has been jointly organised by the Cabinet of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia – Platform Serbia, the Development Agency of Serbia (RAS) and the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Serbia (CCIS).

A total of 77 companies and 158 businesspeople applied for inclusion in the business delegation to participate in the Third Thematic Week, “Urban and Rural Development”. The 77 companies included in this business delegation employ a combined total of 4,546 workers, while financial statements for 2019 show that they generated total business revenues exceeding 50 billion RSD.

According to data from the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, 167,687 construction sector employees were recorded in Q4 2021, which is up 4.1% on the number of workers in 2018. According to SORS data for the construction sector, 161,136 employees were registered in Q4 2021, which is seven per cent more than in the same period of the previous year

Over the course of their time at Expo 2020 Dubai for the “Urban and Rural Development” Thematic Week, businesspeople from Serbia were introduced to the CCIS Business Hub, located in the South Dubai industrial zone, and given opportunities to use it free of charge to hold meetings, give presentations etc.

These companies established more than 2,000 contacts, 275 of which were utilised to establish potential cooperation, while five business contracts were concluded, as well as around ten preliminary contracts for works that will be implemented in the near future. These companies expect to sign contracts with values ranging from 10,000 to three million euros.

Serbian construction firms have traditionally had a presence on the markets of Africa, Asia, South America, the Middle East etc. Our construction specialists are still engaged on these markets today, albeit in a slightly altered format. Specifically, the presence of Serbian companies engaged in project design and project management is constantly on the rise, while there are ever fewer Serbian companies engaged in the execution of works on the ground.

Moreover, a large volume of works are currently underway in Serbia, which makes our market very interesting and challenging for construction companies, especially in the field of executing works.

The construction sector accounts for 7.5% of total employment in the Republic of Serbia. Shortages and outflows of qualified and skilled workers is a problem that has long since confronted the construction industry as a whole, across the entire region. This problem is apparent in Serbia, particularly given the intensification of investment activity in the country’s construction sector during the previous period, which has a direct impact on increasing demand for workers to implement construction works.

Apart from a pronounced shortage of skilled labour, the construction worker market also faces the problem of an insufficient number of schoolchildren enrolled in vocational secondary schools specialising in construction. With the inclusion of as many companies as possible in the dual education system, work experience placements and internships would prepare pupils to begin working in construction immediately upon graduation. And, considering the increased labour market demand, there is certainly work to be had in construction. Likewise, there is also an initiative among construction companies to establish – with certain benefits, i.e., subsidies – training and retraining centres for construction workers within the scope of companies.

With the objective of implementing digitalisation within the framework of the construction industry, we launched an initiative to introduce possibilities to manage construction site diaries and construction books electronically, while our communication with NALED, related to the project to introduce benefits for registering seasonal construction workers, resulted in the Law on Employment Due to Increased Volumes of Work In Certain Activities, with the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veterans’ Affairs and Social Affairs.

Our Association, together with company PlanRadar, last year organised a presentation of the Report on the Level of Digitalisation in the Construction Sector. Likewise, we are this year collaborating with company Orook, which is preparing a report on digitalisation in the scope of the construction industry.

When it comes to incentivising domestic production companies, we consider the CCIS’s “Created in Serbia” campaign as being extremely important. This is all about supporting domestic producers, the products of which will bear the “Čuvarkuća” [Housekeeper] brand as a way of confirming that the product was made in Serbia. The right to use this brand has to date been taken on by brick and tile producing companies AD Polet and Wienerberger, as well as cement manufacturer Moravacem. All three companies have a long tradition on the Serbian market, while foreign investment has resulted in the further advancement of their operations.

Considering the fact that global trends across all industries are focused on sustainable development, in the construction sector the “green building” approach is something that’s expected to experience its full expansion in the period ahead. Serbian companies have the potential to support this type of construction. I’m certain that possible subsidies encouraging this type of construction would lead to a further increase in the number of companies interested in such investments. Green building is a preventative approach for preserving the environment that provides benefits to the surrounding area, but also to the users of such buildings.