Optimism continues to wane in the South African business community, dropping to 74% from last year's 80% – and from 84% in 2005. This is one of the findings from the Grant Thornton International Business Report 2007, which attributes the drop at least in part to increased crime and political uncertainty.
Although it has seen some significant drops, optimism is still high compared to the other 32 coutries surveyed, ranking seventh overall.
According to the Grant Thornton report, expectations for future growth are still high, exceeding last year in terms of turnover and profitability – plus there is a strong expectation of increased employment.
Crime has a major role to play in the lowered optimism, with 84% of the survey's respondents having been impacted by personal contact crime over the last year, with 88% of those having incurred additional costs for security. In addition, 65% of businesses affected by crime report decreased productivity and motivation of staff; with 41% reporting decreased creativity, ingenuity and resourcefulness of staff.
In a possibly-related statistic, 64% of South African businesses report an increase in stress levels.
Arguably the biggest growth inhibitor facing South African businesses is a shortage of skilled workers, with more than two-thirds of businesses expecting staff costs to hav a major impact on cost pressures in the year ahead.
On the positive side of that coin, though, businesses expect to increase employment in 2008 and many of them employed more staff in the 2007 research period than they originally anticipated.
The Employment Growth Index (EGI) for 2007 is standing at about 7%, 4% more than last year.
Red tape and regulatory issues are also seen as growth inhibitors.
An encouraging indicator is the proportion of South African companies exporting goods, which has risen from 37% last year to 42% in 2007, with the manufacturing sector recording a 54% increase in export activity.
Globalisation is viewed as an opportunity by 62% of businesses, with 24% seeing it as a threat.