Hungarian CEOs are markedly more concerned about the labor shortage than their global peers (95% and 79%, respectively) according to the seventh PwC Hungarian CEO survey. But this year the tone of the survey was more upbeat than 12 months earlier.
Nick Kós, PwC Hungary’s country managing partner, noted in a press release issued to accompany the survey: “While last year expectations were driven by risks, this year CEOs, both in Hungary and worldwide, are rightfully optimistic in their outlook for the global economy. I expect CEOs’ optimism to continue, as we look forward to a more peaceful and predictable year.”
Speaking exclusively to the Budapest Business Journal after the release of the survey results, Kós reflected further on the positive impression given. “It is definitely more optimistic than last year, and it is not just in terms of business questions, but also for the future of the human race, and the direction in which we, as senior managers, think we are moving in the next two or three or five years.”
The fears connected to automatization and digitization and robots taking our jobs have softened, Kós believes. “I think CEOs have realized they will need to adapt and embrace a future that will be different.”
That may also hold a better future for younger workers. Speaking last year, the PwC boss said he feared for a “lost generation” of talents who would not or could not stick around long enough to build up experience. Whatever the future does hold, it will involve new technologies.
“That ‘lost generation’ are among the most avid users of that technology, so perhaps there is some hope there. The roles may be different, but still something productive and worthwhile.”
When asked where government priorities should lie, the 165 Hungarian CEOs participating in the survey, questioned against the backdrop of the run up to the 2018 general elections, focused on their employees. They selected the availability of qualified staff; a clearly understood, stable and effective tax system; and the good health and well-being of their workforce.
One area of marked difference between Hungarian and global CEOs comes in the area of external threats. Globally, the percentage of respondents citing either terrorism or climate change as the chief threat to their growth prospects increased by 20 percentage points compared to last year.
In Hungary, the availability of key skills, changing workforce demographics, and an increasing tax burden on labor are the greatest challenges to chief executives, who seem much less troubled by global problems.
The global reaction puzzled Kós, who told the BBJ that CEOs worrying about terrorism was exactly what the terrorists wanted.
For Hungarian companies, Germany remains the most important target for market growth, while Romania has climbed to second place, displacing the United States.
Eighty-nine percent of Hungarian CEOs are confident about their own revenue growth (the same as last year); their outlook for the Hungarian economy has not changed significantly, while the percentage of CEOs confident about global economic growth has increased to 47% (up from 39% last year).
“For Hungarian companies, Germany has traditionally been the most important target for market growth. Romania now ranks as the second most important country…. In addition to geographical proximity, the key drivers here are easier networking among the Hungarian minority, and a market twice the size of the Hungarian market,” commented economist László Urbán.
The PwC survey was conducted in cooperation with the Confederation of Hungarian Employers and Industrialists (MGYOSZ). In parallel to the Hungarian survey, PwC also conducted nearly 1,300 interviews for its 21st Annual Global CEO Survey.