Instead of rushing to join a construction boom, the smart move is to spot one before it starts. With the Global Construction 2020 report in hand, Emily Wright checks out the next four big things. Illustration by Astrid Kogler

Forging a successful international career requires a degree of foresight. If the last five years has taught us anything, it’s that booming construction markets full of promise can fall flat very quickly - just look at Dubai.

This is why staying ahead of the curve and spotting countries on the up is a far safer option than following the exodus to boom countries that are about to start their downward trajectory, and one more likely to deliver job opportunities and long-term benefits .

Of course, the difficulty with identifying emerging markets is that, as the title suggests, they are still relatively under the radar. Luckily, a report published last year by economic consultancies Global Construction Perspectives and Oxford Economics has done the investigative leg work for you.

Global Construction 2020 predicts where the fastest emerging construction markets are likely to be over the next three years and 10 years based on data about demographics and the need for infrastructure and housing. And some of the results may come as a bit of a surprise.

At the top of the list is Nigeria. It’s oil rich and has the world’s fastest urbanising population of 150 million people, in desperate need of a new infrastructure system. Following closely behind come India, China, Poland and Vietnam, mostly newcomers to the list of construction hot spots. But these destinations are already starting to garner interest, with new projects cropping up and international recruitment consultants placing more applicants in more jobs than ever before.

“Work in these areas is already starting to stir,” says Stuart Hackett, a recruitment consultant at Maxim Recruitment. “We have made a fair few placements in Poland recently and at least one in Vietnam. And there was a job that came up in Nigeria and I got over 200 applications for it, so construction industry professionals are obviously catching on to the benefits on offer in some of these up-and-coming areas.”

Those benefits are not to be sniffed at. Some parts of the world, such as Nigeria, offer tax-free pay for the hard-working construction employee. And if you’re thinking about long-term security, the work is likely to keep on coming, too. These new kids on the block have escaped the economic meltdown relatively intact and are continuing to grow. That growth, in turn, must be supported by infrastructure. So, as Global Construction 2020 points out, these countries’ “ability to invest, together with the strains placed on existing infrastructure by rapid economic growth, means major infrastructure projects will be concentrated in emerging markets.”

Here Building looks in more depth at four of the next three years’ predicted fastest emerging markets to find out what work is up for grabs and weigh the benefits of working in each with the potential hurdles, challenges and, in some cases, dangers.


Why Nigeria?
Nigeria’s fast-urbanising population is struggling with a terrible infrastructure system - in the latest World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index it ranks 126th, among the orld’s worst. So there will be plenty of work in this country as it becomes the fastest-emerging construction market in the world.

According to Global Construction 2020, Nigeria is set to hold this top spot not just between 2009 and 2014, but right up until 2020. It has plenty of growing to do. The fact construction output in Nigeria was only 3.2% of GDP in 2008 is another driving force behind the predicted accelerated growth of the sector over the next 10 years.

Work up for grabs
In July this year the Nigerian government announced it was investing in over 900km of road, bridges, drainage, shore protection and maintenance. There are also plans to build three new oil refineries, worth $25m (£16.4m).

The expert opinion
“Different parts of Nigeria have different levels of risk attached,” says Neil Morris, managing director of international recruitment consultant, Digby Morris. “Lagos, the capital, and Abuja, the former capital, are reasonably safe, whereas the Delta region is known for being very dangerous.

“UK construction workers can make an awful lot more money working somewhere like Nigeria where they can expect a 30-40% salary uplift. I have known some firms to offer an uplift of 90-100%. UK expertise is sought after, too.”

Essential information

Business is formal and business suits are the norm. Be aware that things can be slow due to the bureaucracy involved. Business hours are usually Monday to Friday from 8am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 4.30pm.

Prospective expats should be warned that there has been an increase in kidnapping of British nationals over the last few years - three incidents have been reported already this year. iolent street crime, armed robberies, muggings and car-jackings in Lagos are also increasing. The Niger Delta region is particularly dangerous.

Avoid public transport. Most expats working in Nigeria have secure vehicles and a driver. Avoid being out after dark.

Culture and customs
Dress in Nigeria is fairly formal and foreigners should address Nigerians by their surnames. Women who have moved to Nigeria to work should dress conservatively and avoid wearing trousers.

You should also be aware that photography in airports may lead to arrest and that homosexuality in this country
is illegal.


Why India?
According to the Global Construction 2020 report, India will be the second fastest-growing construction market in 2009-14 out of the 35 countries examined.

Under the Indian government’s current five-year spending plan, investment in infrastructure is likely to more than double in volume between 2007-08 and 2011-12, increasing from 6% to 9.3% of the country’s GDP. The programme totals $514m (£336.7m) over the five-year period, 30% directly from government funds, 40% from public sector organisations and 30% from private investment.

Work up for grabs
Apart from commercial and retail construction opportunities in India, as well as hotel and leisure developments, there is the chance for UK firms to get involved in the country’s massive national infrastructure plan. Under the plan, the government has divided infrastructure into 10 sectors. The largest, accounting for 32% of the total planned investment, is electricity. This is followed by roads and bridges, telecommunications, railways and irrigation, which together make up more than 85% of the planned investment.

The residential market is also a significant growth area, with Global Construction 2020 forecasting a return to a double-digit percentage annual growth rate between 2011 and 2014. It says: “The country currently has a significant shortage of affordable housing. Its population is expected to grow by an average of 1.2% a year between 2010 and 2020. The process of urbanisation also has further to go. The United Nations report, State of World Population 2007, estimated that the percentage of India’s population living in urban areas would increase from less than 30% in 2007 to 40.7% by 2030.”

The expert opinion
Bob Hewitt, a director at Turner & Townsend, moved out to Mumbai in June 2008 to head up the firm’s India office: “There are plenty of opportunities out in India at the moment but it’s worth keeping a few things in mind.

“There has been an increase in interest in relocating to India and we get around three or four CVs a day from British candidates, from T&T and rival firms. We are looking for both local and expat staff with particular interest in people of Indian origin in the UK.”

Essential information

Business in India is formal and punctuality is seen as a sign of respect. Typical businesswear is a suit and tie for men and modest, smart dress for women. Business cards are usually exchanged at the start of every meeting.

A handshake is a common greeting, though sometimes people may bow. The safest thing to do is to wait to be greeted and respond accordingly.

Standard working hours are Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 5.30pm and Saturdays from 9.30am to 1pm.


Why Poland?
Poland is one of the larger Eastern European markets, with a population of 38.5 million.

It has the 18th-highest GDP globally with construction accounting for almost 15% of GDP.

Despite its high global GDP, Poland’s infrastructure was only ranked 121st in the World Economic Forum’s 2009-10 Global Competitiveness Index. Its road system was ranked particularly poorly at 127th.

This all means that investment in infrastructure projects is likely over the next 5-10 years and, according to Global Construction 2020, the construction market here has already begun to show some signs of growth in recent months.

Work up for grabs
While Poland is well known for having a plethora of skilled construction workers of its own, the country respects UK expertise and there will be opportunities for British workers who want to work abroad, without going as far afield as India or China.

The Global Construction 2020 report says:
“The growth that we are forecasting in the infrastructure sector in Poland is driven by the country’s receipt of increased EU structural funds. Poland joined the EU on 1 May 2004. It was awarded EU structural funds for 2004-06 of €14.9bn (£12.6bn), €5.6bn (£4.7bn) a year. Under the new 2007-13 programme, its funding increases to €59.7bn (£50.5bn, 2004 prices), which equates to around €8.5bn (£7.2bn) a year.”

The expert opinion
Neil Morris of Digby Morris says: “Poland is a great place for British workers. There is a great expat community in Warsaw where the majority of the work is.

“I would say that when you first arrive it could all strike you as being quite dour. It looks pretty communist still with those big, Stalinist buildings. But for people who don’t want to be too far away from home it’s a great option and we are seeing opportunities coming up here more and more regularly.”

Essential information

Greetings are a standard handshake and first names are rarely used in a business context. Address people with Pan (Mr) or Pani (Mrs) plus the surname.

Relationship building is often done over food and a shot of vodka is often offered to kick off proceedings. Note that it is considered rude not to partake!

Working hours are generally 8am-4pm, Monday to Friday with no official lunch break. It is not uncommon for business lunches to take place around 4pm and continue till late.


Why Vietnam?
Only 28% of the Vietnamese population currently lives in a city, but that percentage is fast increasing, which the Global Construction 2020 report predicts will become a major driver of future construction.

Further investment in the country’s infrastructure also remains a government priority. For example, Vietnam is planning to increase its electricity output from 88-93 billion kWh in 2010 to 201-250 billion kWh by 2020. And last year Davis Langdon ranked Vietnam as the world’s fourth-fastest growing construction market.

Spending on construction is expected to hit $1.4bn (£0.9bn) in 2015 and Qatar’s state-owned developer, Qatari Diar, is in talks to invest there.

Work up for grabs
Apart from interest in UK firms’ expertise in infrastructure construction, the Vietnamese are particularly looking for UK firms with an expertise in port projects. Last year, some 90% of the cargo in Vietnam was transported by sea - nearly 200 million tons. About 14 new berths will be built in the port of Lach Huyen in Hai Phong alone to handle 180-200 million tons of cargo a year. The first two are scheduled to be built in 2010-2015. Another 36-42 berths will be developed in Van Phong Bay.

UK port operators and developers, as well as suppliers of marine equipment and services, have been invited to various conferences and meetings in Vietnam over the past year to discuss the possibility of joint ventures with local firms.

The expert opinion
“Vietnam is an interesting one,” says an international recruitment consultant. “There are more and more UK firms looking over there. Architects in particular
are worth keeping an eye on. Archial’s international brand, Sparch, is looking to set up an office in Vietnam after winning some major projects out there and I think others
will follow.

“The growth expected in this part of the world will result in plenty of opportunities and if UK firms continue to be welcomed by the Vietnamese people, government and business world then the country will certainly be one to watch.”

Essential information

Handshakes are used on meeting and departing but will only usually take place between members of the same sex.

Some Vietnamese people use a two-handed shake, with the left hand on top of the right wrist.

Business cards are exchanged on initial meetings and should be presented with both hands. When receiving a business card, look at it properly. Don’t just glance at it briefly as this could be seen to be dismissive.

Silence is common in meetings where one person disagrees with another.

Gift giving is quite common at the end of a meeting or during a meal - something small and inexpensive like an item with your company logo on or something typical from your country would be appropriate.

Culture and customs
You should avoid public displays of affection with a member of the opposite sex. When passing an item to someone else, you should hold it with both hands.

At meals, wait to be shown where to sit and for the oldest person to sit first. Pass dishes with both hands and when you have finished eating, rest your chopsticks on top of your
rice bowl.