A lack of skilled workers, access to affordable energy, and increasing labour costs are among the main challenges facing businesses across Europe, according to the Eurochambres Economic Survey for 2022.

The European Association, of which Chambers Ireland is a member, represents over 20 million enterprises in Europe through 45 national members and a network of 1700 regional and local Chambers.

It has been conducting these surveys, the largest of its kind in Europe, since 2002.

Covid-19 continues to be a concern for Irish participants in the survey with supply chain disruption cited by 59% of respondents.

Various reports and surveys have pointed to delays in the supply of goods and raw materials as a significant issue for businesses in the manufacturing, services and construction sectors which is resulting in higher input costs.

Almost half of firms say they fear that further cycles of lockdown measures will negatively impact their growth in the coming year, while 48% of respondents have recognised that shifts in consumer behaviour have created uncertainties for their businesses.

General business confidence is high among firms here with over half expecting the business environment to be favourable in the year ahead.

Around four in ten respondents said they expected to take on more staff in the year ahead and a third said they expected to increase investment.

"The principal challenges to the Irish economy in 2022 are likely to mirror what Eurochambres has revealed is occurring at the European level," Ian Talbot, chief executive of Chambers Ireland said.

"The chief concern is labour costs with two thirds of businesses foreseeing wage pressures increasing in 2022. Next is skills, with 52% of businesses identifying shortage of skilled workers as a major challenge. The third factor which our members highlighted is the affordable access to energy and raw materials," he explained.

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Mr Talbot said the results of the survey highlighted the importance of investing in education and skills, particularly in the areas of Information and Communication Technology, digital skills and the green economy.

On the recent trajectory of Covid case numbers, Ian Talbot said businesses were not as concerned as they had been in the past about further lockdowns.

"People feel that the success of the vaccine rollout and the booster rollout will keep the doors open, but it's very important that people follow the rules," he said.

There was also a growing confidence, he said, about the capacity of businesses to survive once supports have been fully withdrawn.

"Only 12% of respondents said they were worried about debt buildup. We have to look at welcoming initiatives that the government introduced such as the warehousing of tax debt. That's an important ting to keep companies going, but it's not as big a worry as we thought it might be," he said.