Technical Papers

An Exploratory Study to Identify Key Stressors of Ethnic Minority Workers in the Construction Industry

Abstract

Construction is a dangerous industry for both individuals and organizations; however, construction workers are more likely to die from suicide than from falling from a height due to mental health issues. A shortage of available labor has led to an increase in ethnic minority construction workers (EM-CWs) in the industry, who may be exposed to various stressors and experience a higher level of stress while working in the unfamiliar environment of a foreign country compared to their counterparts. To manage the stress levels of EM-CWs and improve project outcomes, it is critical to explore the key sources of their stress. Therefore, this study seeks to identify the key stressors faced by EM-CWs and propose practical solutions to manage these stressors in the industry. Six standardized focus groups of EM-CWs were conducted, comprising three general worker groups from Nepal, Pakistan, and India, two skilled worker groups from Nepal and Pakistan, and one multinational group of foremen. Based on the contextual analysis results of focus group discussions, the findings explored nine key stressors from four major aspects: (1) personal (migration, language barriers, and discrimination); (2) task (long working hours and time pressure); (3) organizational (employment issues, job insecurity and pay difference); and (4) physical (poor working environment). The findings of the current study can be used to understand the key issues (i.e., stressors) in their assimilation into mainstream culture, mitigate the main causes of poor performance, improve stress management strategies for EM-CWs, and optimize industry outcomes. Most importantly, the findings can be used to design various programs including safety, language, trade work, and multicultural training, as well as to manage ethnic diversity and improve multicultural integration in industry and society. Based on the findings, the study recommends that organizations introduce Chinese language courses, provide bilingual translators, offer job training in native languages, discourage the use of the existing job supplier pipeline, redesign working hours, replace cash payment with advance methods, and provide organizational support to minimize the impact of all stressors.