An influx of skilled labour in construction will be needed to handle the increase in building required to address Ireland’s housing crisis, according to a report by the Central Bank. However, that same report and a separate report by the Dept. of Foreign Affairs, also suggested that Irish construction workers who had emigrated, are currently being met with too many challenges when trying to return home – the biggest of which is the high cost of motor insurance.

Insurance experts at XS Direct set out the issues and a possible solution, with David Shaw, Director at the insurer commenting,

“Reports indicate that the combination of current problems in housing, motor insurance, and banking will result in a dearth of a much-needed skilled labour force in Ireland. The property sector is continuing to pick up, and without sufficient labour, construction demand will not be met. However, the behaviour of some product and service providers does not reflect an appreciation of these national labour demands. This is particularly evident in the motor insurance sector where insurers will either not quote returning emigrants or will make it prohibitively expensive for them to take out insurance.

We have developed an insurance policy for retuning emigrants who don’t have the No-Claims Bonus (NCB) cert generally required in the market. They’ll still pay a little more than a corresponding worker who’d stayed in Ireland, but it will get them on the road and will help to rebuild their recorded NCB, so they can reprice next year.”

The latest SCSI/PwC Construction Market Monitor Report 2018 states that skills shortages remain an acute challenge for Ireland’s construction sector, with chartered surveyors and other industry experts reporting an undersupply hovering between 53% – 84%.

Mr Shaw explained the barriers returning construction workers face when returning from a country such as Australia, which was probably the most popular destination for people looking for work when the recession hit Ireland.

“While some insurers will quote for a person who has had their own policy and driving experience in Australia, their acceptance criteria are very restrictive, and do not take into account two main factors that will preclude most of the returning workers from getting insurance

  1. The Australian systems is fundamentally different to ours – many people opt for the cheaper option which is an open policy – meaning the car is insured but the driver is not named on the policy
  2. Not everyone who moved ‘down under’ to work bought a car and had their own policy – in fact, from what we have seen most did not.

XS Direct took a sample case of insurance for a construction worker aged 40 living in Blackrock with a Full Australian Licence on a 2013 Peugeot 508 1997cc. The worker would have been living in Australia for the last 5 years, returning to Ireland at the start of 2018.

Market quote responses to this sample claim would have been as follows:

Aviva – Decline

Axa – Decline

Liberty – Decline

Allianz – Decline

All of the above said they would not provide a quote as the driver did not have an actual policy in his own name in Oz (was on an open driving basis). The minimum required to quote was 1 Years NCB in his own name.

What the stats reveal…

Mr Shaw says it’s clear that we need these workers,

“Ireland will need more construction workers if our building sector is to fully recover and our housing crisis is to be solved. Earlier this year the Central Bank released a report supporting this contention, and stating that as construction output picks up, the sector is likely to require a significant inflow of labour from abroad to fill vacancies created by this renewed demand. Figures in this report demonstrate that a significant percentage of the huge numbers of construction workers who emigrated between 2008-2012 have yet to return home. In addition to this, earlier this year a 139-page independent report was commissioned by Minister of State for the Diaspora, Ciarán Cannon, to set out ways of removing barriers to returning emigrants. A resulting 30 recommendations emerged from the report that should help smooth the way for emigrants moving back to Ireland.”

In a survey of the worst problems affecting their return home, emigrants listed housing (43.4%), motor (41.4%), and finance and banking (16.3%) as “very difficult”, and the most challenging areas on their return. Indecon, the independent body that carried out the DFA report, recommended that the Government highlight and encourage companies that help return migrants with these barriers, for example motor insurance companies that accept and offer no-claims discounts, and recommend that these companies should be available on a dedicated website that will offer best in class online information to help returning Irish migrants and people moving to Ireland.

Mr Shaw continued,

“We need to entice these workers home. At the moment, at the most fundamental level, it seems we are doing the opposite. Those working in construction make up a large portion of our client base and the feedback we receive from them is two-fold:

  • If they have worked overseas in recent years, then traditional insurers either won’t quote them or will only quote them prohibitively high premiums
  • The fact that a person works in the construction sector can push up their motor insurance premiums with other insurers

These issues need to be addressed – we do not want insurance to act as a barrier that will deter our much-needed skilled construction workforce from living in Ireland. At XS Direct we have developed an affordable insurance policy with these people in mind – people that other insurers simply don’t want to deal with because they can’t show a No-Claims Bonus (NCB) cert.

The Indecon survey identified the costs involved in driving as a source of major frustration for our returning work force. One respondent actually said that the ‘cost of car insurance is going to force us back to Australia’. The onus is now on the Government and the motor insurance industry to ensure that we don’t lose our workforce for the second time in recent years.”

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