Most of the business leaders surveyed across the world sounded optimistic about growth prospects and are planning to raise headcounts this year, indicating that the worst of the global meltdown has passed, said a survey.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 13th Annual Global CEO Survey, released at the ongoing World Economic Forum meet here, “CEOs’ confidence for future growth has bounced back from the gloomy prospects of a year ago and are planning to boost their head-count”.

The confidence level of CEOs in emerging markets are much better than those in the developed nations, with 97 per cent CEOs in India alone saying that they are confident of growth in the next year.

“In North America and Western Europe, for example, about 80 per cent of CEOs said they were confident of growth in the next year. That compared with 91 per cent in Latin America and in China/Hong Kong, and 97 per cent in India,” PwC said.

Commenting on the report, PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Chairman Dennis M. Nally said: “The fears of a global economic meltdown have receded and CEOs are more upbeat about their prospects. Emerging economies are clearly recovering at a faster pace than those that are more developed.”

Overall, the survey found that 81 per cent of CEOs worldwide are confident of their prospects for the next 12 months, while only 18 per cent said they remained pessimistic.

Globally, nearly 40 per cent of CEOs are planning to increase headcounts this year. Only 25 per cent of top bosses surveyed intend to reduce the manpower, it added.

As much as 31 per cent of CEOs surveyed said they were now “very confident” of their short-term prospects, up 10 percentage points from last year.

In Asia-Pacific and Canada, about half of the CEOs are looking to increase employment in 2010, while in Brazil the figure stood at 60 per cent.

Meanwhile, nearly a fifth of CEOs in the U.K. say they expect headcounts to rise by more than 8 per cent in 2010.

The survey further said a total of 60 per cent of CEOs expect recovery in their national economies only in the second half of 2010 or later, while 13 per cent said recovery was already underway, and 21 per cent said it would set in during the first half of this year.

“The timing of the recovery will vary depending on geography and industry. In some fast-growing economies, the turnaround is well under way; but CEOs in the countries hardest hit by the crisis see its effects remaining through 2010 and beyond,” Mr. Nally added.

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