80% of accountants to be automated. So why is Australia importing them?

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?

Unconventional Economist
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  1. errmmm,,,,,what’s more wait until you see the amount of private Higher Education provider’s offering courses in Accounting…..

    • No no no, Uber needs more drives, it’s a win win, not only do you get a cheaper taxi experience, you will be able to use UBER TAXi accounts for your returns in future. Just imagine, driving to the supermarket and by the time you got there you have received all your tax advice.

      • exactly, by all intents and purposes services such as Uber would be priced out of the range for working and middle class income earners.

    • Agreed. It seems that people (including many accountants getting kickbacks from Xero) seem to think what goes in to Xero must come out as good accounting records financial statements etc. It is horrendous to try and do journals in Xero it is glorified bookkeeping software (PS we use it) the problem is that the tout is completely misleading IMHO and that as in the past it provides the data which the accountant should then work from and on to create suitable accounting records and fin statements not the general garbage Xero often spews out when GIGO is the the norm.

      Rather as in yonks gone past all accountants should be required to do a number of years or hours of auditing prior to getting their ticket this would bring back some measure of understanding to the profession and understanding of what needs to be done.

    • Stewie GriffinMEMBER

      Bingo – that is the EXACT reason why Aust is being flooded with Accountants.

      The so called Institute of Chartered Accountants of Australia and NZ is acting only in the interests of itself and those who OWN the accounting bodies.

      Try calling the CAANZ contact line – THE FIRST selection that you are offered, BEFORE any other service, is to ‘speak with someone from our migration assistance team’.

      1300 137 322

      If I had any political or election skills I’d consider running as a candidate purely to stink up the board.

      • The90kwbeastMEMBER

        CPA Australia toppled Alex Malley for similar reasons, growing the membership base at the expense of screwing over existing members…

    • One day, Australia will learn what the concept of perverse incentives is. And then they will double down on it.

    • I cancelled my Engineers Australia membership for exactly this reason.

      Why pay massive membership fees to a bumch of slimeballs that are devoted to importing cheap foreigners to replace me so that they can line their own pockets?

      I recall the CEO of EA was on over $1M, in an organisation with a staff of about 150. Scum.

  2. “So why is Australia importing them?” – lol – genuine lol.

    and then again is Scumo calls elections tomorrow he will win with even bigger majority – we are stupid nation that is why.

  3. ChristopherMEMBER

    20 years left? Just in time to meet my retirement goals… maybe I can walk out of the business with a redundancy package.

    • hard to imagine its 20years, maybe totally eliminated within 20years. But drastically tailing off across that time horizon. Say 1-5years until there’s viable options, then the rest is adoption on say an industry segment basis, then business by business implementation, if not alternatively sourced/serviced anyway. 10years until the “value” is realised. Because it’s not about cost, it’s about value didn’t you know.

  4. The90kwbeastMEMBER

    80% sounds like a lot… I could understand maybe 30-50%. Perhaps they are including all of the roles already outsourced to India, who will face waves of redundancies over the next 15-20 years from greater use of API and systems/data overall.

    • Yeah, just because components of a job are automated doesn’t make it redundant. I see them spending less time trying to reconcile P&L’s and more time creatively accounting.

  5. Every Uber driver I’ve ever had has been a vibrant recent immigrant. Every second one is an accountant.

    • darklydrawlMEMBER

      In my experience and conversations with Uber drivers, many have studied IT or engineering, but now work at a bakery / cafe / hospitality and drive Ubers to make ends meet. You can swap out ‘bakery’ for any number of menial part time gigs, but in the underlying story is usually the same.

  6. Best news I’ve heard all week. The sooner 80% of these shonky cvnts are put to the sword, the better.