Date posted: 27/11/2023 5 min read

Advocacy to build a sustainable profession

CA ANZ’s recent advocacy to address the skills shortage, promote the attractiveness of the profession and build the talent pipeline in Australia.

Quick take

  • Ongoing critical skills shortages and a diminishing talent pipeline highlight the urgent need to increase the attractiveness, diversity and accessibility of the accounting profession.
  • CA ANZ is taking a multifaceted approach and has put forward a 10-point policy plan for governments to address the talent shortfall and help build a sustainable profession.

In FY24, CA ANZ is continuing its advocacy work to address the shortage of accountants and auditors in Australia, promote the attractiveness of the profession, and build the talent pipeline. Here’s an outline of the core issues and actions taken to date.

Situation critical

Accounting, audit and finance professionals continue to be in shortage nationally. Future supply is expected to fall well short of the estimated demand for an additional 6000 professionals per year.

Australian members surveyed by CA ANZ between November and December 2022, found shortages and increasing demand over the next five years for all accounting occupations surveyed, particularly for tax accountants and external auditors, with the greatest shortages in regional areas.

Between December 2022 and August 2023, Jobs and Skills Australia observed that advertised job vacancies increased by 29% for accountants and 21% for auditors and finance managers.

Recruiters in Australia tell a similar story, saying demand remains high and filling vacancies has not become any easier. Research from Hays found 47% of accountancy employers plan to increase headcount and 96% plan to increase salaries in FY23-24 in a tight jobs market. People2people found almost half (46%) of accounting teams had a shortage of accountants

Where have all the accountants and auditors gone?

There are many reasons for the talent shortfall including growing numbers of retirees and high reliance on migration which is still catching up following border closures.

There’s also increased competition for skilled professionals domestically and globally which is creating more opportunities for Australian trained accountants to move to higher paying roles, into other industries or overseas.

The dwindling talent pipeline is another reason. Student enrolments in accounting in high schools, and the numbers of high schools offering accounting have been declining for many years in most states and territories. Also, the accounting curriculum differs from state to state. Few schools in the ACT offer accounting and accounting is not offered at all in schools in NSW.

The situation is similar for domestic student commencements and completions of higher education programs in accounting have been declining nationally for more than a decade. Department of Education figures in March 2023 show undergraduate and postgraduate enrolments in accounting higher education programs have almost halved: from 57,410 students in 2018 to 29,264 students in 2021.

This highlights the need to increase the attractiveness, diversity and accessibility of the profession.

What is CA ANZ doing about it?

CA ANZ is taking a multi-pronged approach:

Policy recommendations

CA ANZ has also developed a 10-point policy plan for governments to address the ongoing shortage of accountants and auditors, and build the talent pipeline in Australia:

  • Recognise accountants and auditors on the Skills Priority List and consider this need in policy decisions. CA ANZ was pleased to see its advocacy recognised in the 2023 Skills Priority List, which found a national shortage of tax accountants, external auditors and internal auditors.
  • Shift the focus of skilled migration from occupations to skills, by transitioning from occupation lists to a core skills list.
  • Feature accounting and audit professionals prominently in the skilled migrant intake.
  • Reform the migration system to make better use of migrant and international student talent.
  • Extend post-study work rights to graduates of accounting and extend the list of eligible occupations to include accounting and audit.
  • Don’t introduce a levy on international student fees.
  • Recognise accounting and audit as national priorities for education, skills and migration.
  • Reform higher education funding and financing.
  • Introduce a national senior secondary accounting curriculum, which is more outcomes-focused and improves students’ financial literacy.
  • Have a stronger focus on financial literacy in the early and pre-senior years in high schools, introduce accounting as a senior secondary school elective in NSW and offer accounting as an elective for senior secondary students in government schools.

Submissions

CA ANZ produced seven major education, skills, migration and employment submissions in Australia in FY23, and will build on this work in FY24.

These submissions included:


Keep up to date with advocacy

Look out for another update on CA ANZ’s advocacy work in the Feb/Mar 2024 issue of Acuity, or access our policy submissions at charteredaccountantsanz.com/advocacy


Simon Grant FCA
Group executive, advocacy and international development, CA ANZ

Simon Grant FCA


Sarah Davidson
Policy, thought leadership, education, skills and migration leader, CA ANZ

Sarah Davidson