Australian businesses see hope for 2016

Australia’s CEOs are more optimistic now about business conditions than at any time in the past three years, according to a survey by the latest Australian Industry Group (Ai Group).

The National CEO Survey Business Prospects in 2016 – Cautious New Hope surveyed 250 CEOs about how they are approaching the New Year.

Among its findings the survey reported that 63 per cent of businesses expect their annual sales to improve in 2016, while 21 per cent expect no change and 16 per cent expect a decrease.

In addition, 26 per cent of exporters expect their overseas sales to rise in 2016 with just 6 per cent expecting their export income to fall.

There are mixed plans for business growth with employment numbers expected to increase in 36 per cent of businesses; and training expenditure expected to grow in 47 per cent of businesses. This figure is up slightly from the 44 per cent of businesses who increased their spending on staff training in 2015. 

Weak customer demand ranked as the single most common concern, with 27 per cent of CEOs ranking weak customer demand as one of their three main concerns (up from 25 per cent for 2015 and 21 per cent for 2014).

8 per cent of CEOs ranked the flexibility of industrial relations as one of the three leading impediments to their business growth in 2016.

“There are clear messages for policy-makers from CEOs in this Ai Group 2016 Business Prospects report,” commented Australian Industry Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox.

“Local conditions have improved for the non-mining industries since last year, primarily due to the lower dollar. But we are still struggling to establish and sustain significant new sources of growth. 

“Businesses are working hard to eke out much-needed productivity gains, but government also has critical roles in supporting confidence, competitiveness, investment and innovation.”

Willox nominated tax reform, investment in education and training, workplace relations reform, and increased business/research collaboration as key focus areas for this Federal election year.