80% of accountants to be automated. So why is Australia importing them?
November 27, 2019 | 18 comments
The CEO of ASX-listed accountancy software company Xero believes 80% of accountancy jobs will be automated:
According to data from asset manager Schroders, there’s an 80 per cent probability that a given accountancy job will be automated within 20 years. So if the profession is to survive, it will have to evolve, warns Steve Vamos.
“The exact make-up of what we call accounting today in 10, 20 years might be very different,” Mr Vamos said…
In 2014, controversy arose after it was revealed that the Abbott Government had chosen to keep accountants on a list of in-demand occupations for skilled migrants.
This decision went against both the Department of Employment’s and the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency’s (AWPA) recommendations to remove accounting from this list due to significant labour surpluses and “deteriorating outcomes for graduates . . . relatively low pay rates for bachelor graduates and weak employment outcomes for masters graduates”.
*By keeping accounting on the skilled occupation list, qualified foreign workers are permitted to apply for a permanent visa into Australia without a sponsor.
Since then, accountants have dominated Australia’s skilled migration intake. In 2017-18, accountants were the biggest single source of permanent skilled migrants, with 3,505 visas granted
Accountants were also the tenth biggest source of temporary skilled migrants, with 1,730 primary visa holders in Australia in 2017-18.
The strong inflow of accountants under Australia’s skilled migration program is curious given the last time Accountants or External Auditor were deemed by the Department of Jobs and Small Business to have been in shortage was 2008.
In fact, according to the Department’s 2017-18 skills shortage report, “employers attracted an average of 14.6 qualified applicants per vacancy” for accounting positions. However, because employers preferred candidates with two or more years of experience, “a large proportion of these applicants were considered to be unsuitable”.
If there is a bonafide surplus of accountants across Australia, and this profession is facing widespread automation, why is this occupation included on Australia’s skilled occupations list?
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.