One of the sessions that I attended at the Health & Safety Conference in Canada was on safety in the Construction industry. These workers include site preparers, masons, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, tilers, joiners, equipment renters and operators. It was the only industry specifically discussed. Then on my return home, I received a telephone call from a lady who was concerned about her husband – a contractor – who hasn’t worked for a while and the status of his Social Security coverage. These two events set me thinking: what does the Construction Industry mean to our economy? An internet search revealed that the Construction industry is “one of the most booming industries in the world, contributing 10% of world GDP and employs 7% of the global workforce”. The search also stated that it suffers the highest rate of fatal injuries worldwide – 29.4% of all injuries proved fatal. What are the characteristics of the industry here in St Kitts-Nevis? In 2008, 205 persons (13.2% of all registrants) registered within the industry, making it the 3rd largest employer after the Wholesale/Retail trades and Hotels & Restaurants. Naturally, the vast majority of these new construction workers (178 or 86.8%) were males. Furthermore, each island had almost equal numbers 101 in Nevis and 104 in St. Kitts. The Planning Unit reported that construction accounted for 15.8% of our GDP at constant prices in 2008 and experienced a 6% growth relative to 2007. According to our records, and using 2008 data, employment in the industry was fairly constant except for January (1,776 persons), August (1,897 persons) and December (1,854 persons). I have already explained the implications of the December -January situation in the article entitled Learning Trade, where By workers may temporary lose their short term coverage. The sector employed between 5.5% and 9% of the labour force, a figure that is consistent with the world standards. In the said year, of the 275 brand new businesses that registered, the largest number – 81 (29.5%) – was in construction. There are also businesses that re-started; 22 (41.5%) of the 53 were in construction. And 32 of the 89 (36%) ceased operations were in construction. Forty-eight of the 261 self employed registrations (18.4%) was in Construction (there was 1 female). There is a Social Security term used to describe such fluidity: fractional. Our records also show that 516 employers were active in the construction field in 2008; and from them EC$5,918,220 was collected. This collection was the 4th largest block of receipts. It was slightly inconsistent with the total wages reported of EC$57,342,928. For that wage level, receipts should have been in the EC$6.3million range. On the benefits side, again for 2008, only 4.4% of sickness claims were generated within the construction sector. However, 19% of employment injury claims, and 21% of medical expenses and 4.5% of travelling expenses related to injury on the job were from the construction sector. In all three cases, the claims were the second largest, beaten into second place By those from the Hotel & Restaurant sector. (The sector also enjoyed approx 4% of maternity benefits too). Back to where I started. The woman was right to be concerned for her husband. Fortunately, all he would have lost when he files his NIL report is perhaps the sickness benefit. He also would be well advised to properly register his business as a company and becomes an employee of that company in order to protect his rights to Employment Injury benefits. As a self employed contractor, he would not be entitled. The Planning Unit has put the construction sector into perspective in 2008 compared to 2007 By indicating how much of our GDP it accounted for. It is indeed a very important part of the economy of St Kitts & Nevis. But it needs more building!