SA outlook

Confidence among professionals hits 12-month high

Confidence among professionals hits 12-month high
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Confidence levels among South Africa’s graduate professionals climbed to a 12-month high in the first quarter of the year, following a period of extended concern over the political climate, ongoing wildcat strikes and downgrades to the country’s sovereign credit rating.

This is according to the latest results of the PPS Graduate Professionals Confidence Index (PCI) – which tracks the confidence levels of over 5 000 of South Africa’s graduate professionals – for the first quarter of 2013 that revealed overall confidence climbed to 59%, up three percentage points from the previous quarter and the same as a year earlier.

Gerhard Joubert, head of Group Marketing and Stakeholder Relations at PPS, notes that historically the PCI has shown that graduate professionals tend to be most confident at the start of the year but says it is welcome to see an increase. “All South Africans, not just professionals, have had much to contend with over the last year, so the decline in confidence levels was not a surprise. However, it is very welcome to note that some optimism is also now creeping in.”

The survey revealed that confidence on a range of economic factors has increased from the previous quarter, with respondents recording a two percentage point rise on the economic outlook for South Africa over the next 12 months and on the outlook for equity markets over the same period to 57% and 63% respectively.

Joubert notes that in line with the greater sense of optimism, professionals are also more confident that they will remain in South Africa for the foreseeable future with a confidence level of 77% for the first quarter compared with 75% for the previous three months. “This measure has continually declined since recording a high of 84% in the first quarter of 2011 but it is pleasing to note that we are seeing a rise in optimism now – and 77% is still a very positive result.”

Joubert notes, however, that the survey also revealed a decline in confidence for a number of critical socio-economic issues in the country.

Confidence in the standard of education in South Africa improving over the next five years fell by one percentage point to 43% from the previous quarter, while 96% said they remain concerned about the lack of mathematics and science graduates in South Africa.

Unemployment remains the biggest area of concern for graduate professionals, with a 38% confidence level when asked about their optimism about the standard of unemployment improving over the next five years, the lowest reading in the PCI in the first quarter.

Joubert says this is to be expected given recent news from Statistics SA that unemployment in the country worsened in the first three months of the year. South Africa’s official unemployment rate declined to 25.2% in the first quarter of 2013 from 24.9% in the previous quarter, with the number of unemployed rising by 100 000 to 4.6-million.

Confidence in the improvement of crime rates also revealed a one percentage point drop from the previous three months to 39%.

There was some respite as confidence over the future of the healthcare system increased by one percentage point to 43%. “51% of respondents said they agree with the principle behind the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme, up two percentage points from last time, while 17% said NHI is the solution to fix the ailing health system, also up two percentage points.

“Clearly there is still widespread concern about the implementation of NHI; but it appears the initiative is definitely going ahead, so it seems professionals are slowly beginning to accept the scheme.”

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