Chambers’ membership increases during global downturn
A majority of chambers registered increases in their membership during the 2009 first quarter according to a survey by the ICC World Chambers Federation (WCF).
WCF’s Chamber CEO Survey received responses from key metropolitan chambers, regional and national chambers, both public and private law structures, from 60 countries.
Membership increased by an average 5.8%, the survey said, as a result of the rise in the number of people seeking advice on starting their own business. The report linked the rise in the number of persons seeking to set out on their own to the sharp rise in unemployment resulting from the global recession.
The survey also found that 63% of the chambers responding reported an increase in the number of companies seeking assistance during the economic crisis, with only 12% of chambers reporting a decline in company requests for aid.
“In light of this crisis, companies are turning to chambers for assistance and direction,” one respondent from Serbia said.
Most of the inquiries received from companies concerned information about starting a new business, available government grants and loan programmes, educational services offered by chambers, and requests for legal advice.
“The study proves that in this time of crisis the services offered by chambers around the world are more necessary than ever,” remarked Rona Yircali, President of the World Chambers Federation. “Chambers have successfully innovated so as to better serve their clients, and this is reflected in the overall increase in membership.”
The study also indicated an important increase in their advocacy role and input in shaping government policy, during the 2009 first quarter compared with previous periods.
“In response to their business communities’ concerns, chambers have expressed that they have better, more pro-active and reciprocal relationships with their government’s policy decision makers,” the report said. “Local, regional and national policy makers are consulting chambers not only in areas such as labour, tax, education and trade policy, but also data gathering, studies and other administrative work linked to the current challenges within their economies.”
Reflecting the drop in global trade chambers reported an 18% decline in requests for trade facilitation services such as the ATA Carnet and certificates of origin. But there were also positive results in this area, with some countries, including Lebanon, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, reporting a 10% percent increase in demand for these products.
But the recession has affected some chamber operations, the survey found. Most chambers have experienced a decrease in advertising revenue for chamber magazines as well as a strong decline in corporate sponsorship. 63% of the chambers have adjusted their budgets, essentially through reductions in staff, travel and other operational expenses.
Nevertheless, some members surveyed see a silver lining amid the gloom of the current economic climate. “We think this crisis is a great opportunity to improve the chambers imager among businessmen,” a respondent from Mexico said.