The COVID-19 pandemic has by now touched nearly every aspect of human life, stirring fears of both-economic instability and the outside world more generally. It is the most challenging and uncertain time for real estate as the pandemic is reshaping not only the macro-level market forces but also the ground-level process of buying and selling property.
As the COVID-19 outbreak has affected the trade and industries worldwide, demand for commercial as well as residential spaces in the Indian real estate market is definite to experience disruptions. Amid such distress, traditional real estate practices have become a difficult balancing act for realtors as they are trying hard to manage their businesses as well as implement precautionary measures to protect their staff and themselves. They are not only maintaining hygiene within the premises but also informing people about social distancing. Many developers are even cancelling events and face-to-face meetings, wherever possible. However, the crisis has shown the importance of the often-ignored working class in India, as the labour-intensive businesses in the country are the worst-hit in the last few days.
The construction industry in India is a labour-intensive sector. However, the safety and health regulations are incredibly lax, if not non-existent. The life of a real estate worker has never been easy in India, with a significant majority of the manual labourers being migrants from different parts of the country. Most of the construction workers are still unskilled poor people who struggle to access the necessities of food, shelter and clothing. Earning measly wages, these workmen do not have the liberty to take days off. They live a life where food and accommodation are not always guaranteed, which leads to healthcare being a non-priority thing for them. Moreover, they cannot afford to get bog down by fever, flu or any other disease, as their daily earning is utmost essential for their families. This leads to construction sites being extremely susceptible to contagious disease and germs. Sanitation and cleanliness are still secondary concerns, with situations improving only in recent years from being horrible to now simply passable.
The unprecedented epidemic, COVID-19 has put into perspective a lot of things we take for granted in our lives. From this contagious disease, we have got the opportunity to relook at the health and sanitation norms in the real estate sector.
Unlike the western countries, real estate sector in India demands on-site presence of workforce whether it’s construction, management or sales staff. No ‘work from home’ profile is acceptable here as there is no virtual or online platform to seal businesses. Office work related to this industry is highly collaborative, thus making group interactions inevitable.
Overall, new measures such as sanitisation booths are essential for the safety of the construction workers.The government should also provide a long term solution to protect the physical and mental well-being of workers at site. The real estate industry needs to evaluate and regulate their safety standards and empathise with those working in the sector.