European Private Business Survey 2019

Time to act: moving from good to great in times of uncertainty and digital transformation

After several years of robust growth, leaders of private businesses in Europe are facing a potential economic slowdown. While the 2,443 key decision makers from 31 countries who responded to our European Private Business Survey 2019 expect revenue growth in the next 12 months, their outlook is somewhat less rosy than when surveyed last year. Data shows that profitability levels are already cooling off.

Across the entire sample, eight percent fewer respondents believe business will improve compared to last year.

Exhibit 1: State of business 2018/2019
Figure 2: demand for skills

Seeking the right skills

Companies today are having difficulty finding staff with the right skill sets. However, Belgian entrepreneurs are less concerned about this; just 23% of the 90 Belgian respondents said this is a problem for them, compared to 47% for Western Europe on the whole. Their optimism is also illustrated by the fact that the economic losses due to skills shortages are projected to be significantly less in 2019, falling to EUR 1.9 - an improvement of 1.2 billion compared to the previous year.

On the whole, 41% of private businesses in Europe said that technicians are top of the list of the profiles they need, followed by engineers and support staff.

Mixed feelings about digital transformation

64% of Belgian private businesses say digitalisation is key for long-term viability of the business, which is in line with the Western European average (65%) but considerably lower than in the Netherlands or the UK (both 85%). Yet many private businesses seem to be just at the initial stages of digitalisation, a fact confirmed by the results of the survey.

Overall, 77% of private businesses indeed said they didn’t find the impact of artificial intelligence very relevant, and 79% did not find 3D printing relevant. Only 33% find robotics a relevant technology, and internet of things did slightly better at 46%.

Relevance and usage of Essential Eight technologies


"Digital transformation is disrupting every corner of the economy and private businesses are no exception,"

comments Philippe VynckeEntrepreneurial and Private Business Leader at PwC Belgium.


Conflicting investment priorities comments Philippe Vyncke, Entrepreneurial and Private Business Leader at PwC Belgium

Philippe Vyncke, Entrepreneurial and Private Business Leader at PwC Belgium

Conflicting investment priorities

Despite an increasing awareness of the need to embrace digital transformation, private business leaders in Western Europe list a series of concerns regarding the implementation of new technologies: cost constraints (47%), staff workload (40%), lack of relevant expertise (36%), culture/resistance to change (33%) and risks associated with technology/cyber (31%).

At the same time, 58% of private businesses plan to allocate less than three percent of their overall investments to digitalisation over the next five years - a striking contradiction. In Belgium, almost one quarter of respondents (23%) intend to allocate more than five percent of their investments to digitalisation.

Contact us

Philippe Vyncke

Philippe Vyncke

Partner, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 475 56 13 06

Follow PwC Belgium