Construction workers tell how poor wages and conditions at home prompted them to seek jobs abroad

Irish construction workers and craftsmen who have left their homes to pursue careers abroad cite the housing crisis, poor work-life balance and difficulty in getting paid for jobs as some of the reasons for moving.

he new figures showing a shortage of construction workers by 50,000 have raised concerns about the ability to meet demand.

However, the industry has shown how poor pay and conditions have prompted them to seek jobs in the UK, Europe and Australia.

Civil engineer Barry McGleenon (48) moved to London in 2014 after being offered a job on a major development project.

Originally from Armagh, Mr McGleenon found he had a better quality of life in England and has lived there ever since.

“Some jobs didn’t really work out between 2010 and 2014 after the crash,” he said.

“We weren’t going anywhere, we weren’t making any money and it was hard to get paid and hard to get jobs. We got a good offer to build a huge project and it was an offer we couldn’t refuse.

“It’s great work. I’m not concerned with Irish work but the quality of the work here is very good. The working hours are sociable, you don’t work nights, there is no problem getting paid and the pay is very good.”

Mr McGleenon’s partner lives in Birr, Co Offaly and he plans to move home at some point, but the short distance between Ireland and the UK makes traveling there and back easy.

“In eight years since I came here, I’ve probably only worked about 10 Saturdays. It’s not necessary,” he said.

“Five days is enough if you have the right job – you have a better quality of life. The hustle and bustle of London is well known and there is, but you are only an hour from home.”

Other people have taken jobs abroad to climb the real estate ladder back home.

Plumber Ian McGill relocated to East Germany from Dublin on a six-month contract.

In recent years he has also worked in Sweden, Denmark and Israel.

“It’s a financial thing,” he said. “The pay at home is not that good. I want to buy a house, but I rented an apartment for €2,000 a month and found it impossible to save.

“You have to work a lot of overtime to get a little bit further in Ireland, which affects your social and family life.”

Mr McGill has an eight-month-old son and he and his partner will soon have to pay for childcare too.

They decided last year to stop renting together and move back in with her parents to try to save, and this influenced his decision to work abroad.

In Germany, the company he works for pays for his accommodation and transport.

“I guess the money just isn’t good enough at home,” Mr. McGill said.

“You have to work 60-hour weeks just to get a few extra pounds in the bank and some money to enjoy yourself. That’s not a work-life balance.” Construction workers tell how poor wages and conditions at home prompted them to seek jobs abroad

Fry Electronics Team

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