The 2014 Pulse CEO Survey by PwC Ireland finds that CEO confidence in a positive future outcome for the recently troubled Irish economy is brightening, 86% of business leaders see light at the end of the tunnel, up from a mere 3% in 2009. The Irish economy grew by 2.7% in the first quarter 2014 and presided over a 15% increase in exports in the same period, exhibiting factors that have influenced business confidence to surpass even the 2007 pre-recession height.
Growth in the Green
The survey of 250 CEOs in a range of business sectors found that there is strong confidence in the state of business affairs, both in their own business and that of the Irish economy as a whole. Three quarters (77%) of CEOs stating confidence in the growth of their own business up from 44% in 2013, a firmness which translates to more than half (58%) of CEOs seeking to expand their workforce compared to around a third (34%) in 2013.
Besides the CEOs confidence in the prospects of the Irish economy, the survey found that 92% of Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) held their investments in Ireland to be successful. Their success means that 88% of MNCs expect to stay the course, or increase, their investment in the Irish economy. This success can be partly attributed to around a third (30%) of respondents indicated that doing business in Ireland has become easier compared to three years hence. Which itself may be explained by an increase in Irish business’ leaders having increased voice in the US boardroom, where their local knowledge of the Irish business environment is critical in investment decisions.
Investment by MNCs have directly affected the Irish employment market in 2013, with the creation of 13,000 positions being attributed to foreign investment. One estimate found that for every 10 positions created by foreign capital, another 7 subsidiary positions are created in the economy. Ireland’s office for Foreign Direct Investment, the IDA, has had 100 investments in 2014, up from 70 in 2013. Those investments have bolstered Ireland’s troubled employment market (unemployment is presently at 11.6%) directly with up to 8,000 more positions so far in 2014.
While the will to invest in the Irish economy by MNCs is strong, the survey too identified limiting factors on investment by MNCs. The biggest concern put forward by CEOs is access to highly skilled employees, with access constricted. However, recent changes in Ireland’s visa system are expected to make access to foreign workers suppler. CEOs also indicated a possible mode of increasing Ireland’s competitiveness for skilled workers, is to increase the benefits they offer. Another avenue to improve Ireland’s access to skilled workers, favoured by a third of CEOs and up from 8% in 2013, is investment in education.
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