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 overall confidence increased to 59%, up three percent from the previous quarter and the same as a year earlier.
Gerhard Joubert, head of group marketing and stakeholder relations at PPS, said past PCI stats revealed that graduate professionals tend to be most confident at the start of the year but said 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,” said Joubert.
The survey also showed 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.
But Paul Roelofse, consumer advocate at the Financial Planning Institute of Southern Africa, said that that despite SA equity markets being at an all-time high it is an inflated figure based on foreign currency.
Greatest concerns amongst graduates
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. According to Adcorp’s Employment Index
, March was a bad month for 12 000 highly skilled South Africans who lost their jobs in the economy’s biggest employment downscale in 15 years. The PCI showed that graduates’ confidence in the future of their profession fell one percentage to 77% from the last quarter.
“Many graduates are disillusioned because they are encouraged to get a good education but with South Africa’s employment rate, many have to take a job that they are overqualified for or end up having to start their own business,” said Roelofse.