Poll: Global CEOs more upbeat about economy

Sectors with the highest demand for staff include healthcare, technology, business services, communications, and hospitality and leisure, the survey found.
Sectors with the highest demand for staff include healthcare, technology, business services, communications, and hospitality and leisure, the survey found.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

PwC survey finds biggest rise in optimism since 2012

Bosses across the world are more confident than ever about the global economy, although they acknowledge that there are plenty of risks as well.

That's the outcome from a survey of around 1,300 chief executives that has been released during the World Economic Forum in Davos.

It found that 57 per cent believe global growth will improve in the next 12 months.

That's well up on the 29 per cent in last year's poll and the biggest year-on-year rise since the survey began asking this question in 2012.

Optimism in the United States regarding global growth shot up from 24 per cent last year to 59 per cent after some uncertainty surrounding the presidential election.

Even among more pessimistic nations such as Japan and Britain, confidence in worldwide growth has more than doubled since last year.

The feel-good mood is evident here as well, according to accounting firm PwC, which conducted the annual poll between August and November last year.

"In Singapore, we are also seeing more positive business sentiment," said PwC Singapore executive chairman Yeoh Oon Jin.

  • 57%

  • Percentage of chief executives, in a survey involving 1,300 CEOs, who believe global growth will improve in the next 12 months.

"However, with the increasingly complex landscape, business leaders will need to find a way to leverage the upturn in the global economy and expand internationally."

The optimism in the economy is lifting spirits among CEOs about their own firms' prospects.

The poll noted that 42 per cent of bosses across the world say they are "very confident" about growth over the next 12 months, up from 38 per cent last year.

Results by countries, however, are mixed. In Britain, there has been a drop in confidence, from 41 per cent to 34 per cent - an unsurprising result given difficult Brexit talks.

But American CEOs are full of good cheer again following election nerves last year. Tax reform has helped confidence for the year ahead surge from 39 per cent last year to 52 per cent.

Confidence in key markets is most buoyant in the technology, business services, and pharmaceutical and life science sectors.

The buoyant mood on the corporate floor is likely to lead to more jobs, with 54 per cent of CEOs expecting to increase headcount this year while only 18 per cent anticipate cutting staff.

Sectors with the highest demand for staff include healthcare, technology, business services, communications, and hospitality and leisure.

But there are some dark clouds: 28 per cent of CEOs, including some here, are extremely concerned about the availability of workers with digital skills.

There is also concern about how firms are preparing their staff for tech-based upheaval.

Mr Yeoh noted: "Singapore's workforce must recognise that disruption is not just a buzzword, and that the way we operate and do business will change drastically.

"More companies are implementing technologies and adopting systems that pose a real threat to jobs.

"As the Singapore Government pushes the workforce to upskill, individuals must also take responsibility for their own continuous learning to stay relevant in this technology-enabled job market."

PwC said disruption is particularly acute in the financial services sector, with 24 per cent of CEOs in banking and capital markets and insurance planning staff cuts, much due to technology and automation.

There are concerns about other factors as well, with around 40 per cent of bosses anxious about geopolitical uncertainty, cyberthreats, terrorism, availability of key skills and populism.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2018, with the headline 'Poll: Global CEOs more upbeat about economy'. Print Edition | Subscribe