An evaluation of the contextual factors that affect labour productivity in the South African Construction Industry

Master Thesis


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Poor labour productivity is an endemic global problem in the construction industry. In the past two decades, it has been observed over the different sectors of the construction industry that the labour productivity expended on projects has reported a decline, particularly in the building and civil sectors. This research explores the variables that affect labour productivity on construction sites and whether the estimation practices used considers the various circumstances in which buildings and infrastructure are produced. Literature review aided in the identification of contextual factors classified in four categories that affect labour productivity on construction projects. These categories were; site environment factors, organisational factors, technical factors and social factors. These factors were used in the development and design of the questionnaire to analyse the impact of these factors on construction labour productivity. The population of the study comprised of directors, contracts managers, project and construction managers, quantity surveyors and estimators who are employees of construction firms listed in Grades 2-9 of the Construction Industry Development Board (cidb) Register of Contractors in South Africa. The study area covered nine provinces of South Africa. At the end of the survey period, 117 valid responses were received and analysed. The findings of the study revealed that at the pre-construction phase of a construction project, social factors, complexity of the project and organisational factors are not considered in the estimation practices and techniques. Results further revealed that four core factors that affect productivity of labour are; lack of experience amongst workers, delays in the wages of labourers, change orders from designers/consultants and the relationships between labourers and their supervisors. The study established a relationship between the contextual factors and labour productivity on construction projects. Motivation and training emerged as significant changes needed to improve labour productivity on projects. Based on these findings, the study concludes that labour productivity is impacted by contextual site factors such as lack of experience, delays in labour payment and that these are not considered by estimators at the project pre-construction phase. The study recommends that these site factors need to be considered during the preconstruction phase of a project in order to allow for their impact on labour productivity during construction. Furthermore, a benchmark and standard of what constitutes effective labour productivity needs to be developed on construction sites, especially one that is project specific and considering all the four categories of contextual factors and their probable impacts.