Date posted: 06/10/2022

Accountants: "Today's National Skills Commission list does not reflect reality"

Chartered Accountants ANZ (CA ANZ) has today expressed concern with a report from the National Skills Commission which claims there is no labour market shortage of accountants in Australia.

“The accounting industry estimates there are 9,000 accounting vacancies in Australia right now,” said CA ANZ Group Executive Advocacy Simon Grant.

“We are concerned it does not reflect what we are hearing and seeing on the ground.”

The Skills Priority List claims that General Accountants, Management Accountants and Taxation Accountants are all experiencing ‘no shortage’ but are forecast to experience ‘moderate’ future demand.

“This does not reflect the experience from our Members, where everyone from the large firms through to small practices and the micro and small business clients they have struggling to recruit and retain people with accounting skills.

“A key issue here is not just the accounting profession head count – it the lack of people with accounting skills that are vital to enabling businesses to embrace productivity, the digital economy and climate change mitigation.

“We must tap into global markets to fill these current gaps, otherwise there could be major implications for the proper functioning of Australia’s taxation system and the part Accountants play facilitating the smooth collection of revenue for the commonwealth.

“It’s really important that the Federal Government consider industry numbers and experience, and don’t let this new report reduce or misguide Visa pathways for qualified accountants from overseas.”

When participating in the recent Jobs and Skills Summit, CA ANZ commended the Government for its swift action on migration and skills issues and encouraged further discussion around the implications on accountants. 

“The Albanese Government has moved quickly on the skills and workforce issues and that’s to be commended,” Mr Grant said.

“In particular, the immediate increase to the migration cap was warmly welcomed and the new resources to speed the visa processing backlog left by the last government.”

While there are significant concerns about the classification of accountants on the Skills Priority List, Mr Grant said industry was pleased to see the list acknowledge a shortage of both external and internal auditors. 

“Most auditors are Chartered Accountants, and the finding in today’s report does reflect what we have been advocating for the past few months in respect to the workforce shortages for auditors in Australia,” Mr Grant said. 

“In July this year we surveyed 18 Australian professional services and audit firms and found almost 1,000 audit job vacancies, up from 888 in 2021, and almost 2,000 non-audit/consulting vacancies across the 18 firms.”

Staffing shortages were causing a range of significant issues for the firms, including: 

  • 61 per cent citing staff are over-worked
  • 61 per cent citing they are unable to service existing clients 
  • 56 per cent citing inability to meet reporting deadlines 
  • 44 per cent citing damage to the reputation of the profession 

“The workforce shortages are not just a blue-collar issue – and we need to address them now or face potentially significant consequences for Australian businesses.” 

CA ANZ CEO, Ainslie van Onselen, attended the Jobs and Skills Summit to advocate on these issues facing the profession. 

In addition to visa pathways, another solution put forward by CA ANZ to address the accounting shortage was to make it more attractive to increase enrolment of students wanting to pursue business and commerce related degrees.

“The accounting industry right now needs another 9,000 people,” Mr Grant said. 

“But the ticking timebomb is in our university campuses, because in about three years time the number of qualified graduates coming through is going to taper off at a time we need them most."

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