Print PDFPrevious PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

The Labour Market for Accountants and the Skilled Occupations List

Professor Phil Lewis, Professor Glenn Withers AO and Professor Peter Abelson
Applied Economics, Prepared for CPA Australia & Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, November 2016

Applied Economics

November 2016

Report Authors

The principal author of this report is Professor Phil Lewis, Director of the Centre for Labour Market Research, University of Canberra. Professors Glenn Withers AO and Peter Abelson were contributory authors and editors. Professor Withers, Professor of Economics at the Australian National University, was awarded the AO for the development of the Australian immigration points system. Professor Abelson held a Chair in Economics at Macquarie University and is Managing Director of Applied Economics.

This report provides an independent analysis of labour market conditions for accountants and the role played by skilled migrants in addressing current and emerging shortages and gaps and also the medium to long term role of such migrants. It also provides an analysis of immigration policy settings.

The report was commissioned by Certified Practicing Accountants (CPA) Australia and Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ) to provide guidance to the current round of consultations on Skilled Occupations List (SOL) being led by the Department of Education.

The report updates and integrates advice provided last year on the labour market for accountants and on the skilled migration – education nexus.

The report is in two main parts: labour market issues for accountants and issues for accounting in relation to the international and policy contexts.

The main conclusions are as follows.

The labour market for accountants

In the short run there appear to be shortages of accountants in specific cases and for specific skills especially for accountants with more experience. These shortages can be dealt with through employer nominated temporary entry 457 visas.

In the medium term of 10 or so years, total openings for accountants in accountant jobs of around 11,000 per annum appear likely.

In addition, there is significant but unquantified demand for persons with accounting qualifications and skills working in management or related financial and other services.

Turning to domestic supply, domestic completions of accounting Bachelor degrees are about 2,500 per annum and not increasing.

Domestic completions of accounting majors in all degrees are averaging about 4,700 per annum. But many of these graduates choose careers other than accounting.

Traditionally immigrants with accounting skills have been running at about 8,000 per annum, including some who do not seek work formally as accountants.

The large gap between the forecast openings for accountants as accountants and other demands for accountants and domestic supply has to be filled by international students staying in Australia and/or by new migrants. The issues are particularly acute in, though not at all limited to, regional areas. Most of those with accounting qualifications, including new graduates and migrants, find employment relatively quickly in jobs commensurate with their skills.

Policy settings

This report also emphasises that economic growth and employment in Australia is itself a function of the growth in human capital. Accountants are vital to the working of a modern and fast changing service-based economy such as Australia. The skills possessed by accounting graduates are not just valuable in accounting jobs but can be applied to a variety of occupations. People with accounting skills create economic growth through use of these skills.

Migration increases the demand for jobs as well as supply and it is crucial to consider the role of skilled migrants in growing the macro economy (as shown in Migration Council of Australia, 2015).

Currently there are an estimated almost 38 thousand international students enrolled in degrees with accounting majors (Bachelor and Masters) in Australia. They contribute over $1.6 billion to the Australian economy of which over $937 million is Australian universities’ fee income., providing much needed income to Australia’s university sector. Additional benefits include the positive contribution made directly to the economy by overseas-born but Australian-trained accountants who choose to migrate to Australia. Global integration with source countries of the skilled migrants can also be enhanced for Australia, a further important consideration with the end of the mining boom (at least for the time being).

If significant changes were to be made to eligibility of foreign accountants for migration to Australia this would have undesirable impacts on universities and the economy. These include cuts to university funding with consequent flow on effects to teaching and research and reducing the potential for the economy as a whole to meet the demands of the ‘New Economy’ based on high value adding services.

Currently, immigration policy is in a holding position. Accordingly, the present SOL is still a key factor in influencing the nature of arrivals. Detailed studies of future occupational requirements put professionals including accountants well at the top of the list for national development benefit.

Recently there have been major independent reviews of our migration settings, including by the Productivity Commission (2015) and CEDA (2016). Both reviews strongly affirm the policy conclusions of this present report. They emphasise the centrality of the SOL system for good outcomes to be obtained. They do suggest possible future refinements to these arrangements to enhance efficacy, and these may come to fruition. But either way the analysis of accounting needs remain fully pertinent, as exposited in this present report.

Future refinements and some wider reconfiguration towards a universal points scheme would, in the view of this report, nevertheless help migration even better bolster the participation and productivity needed for a stronger economic future. For the skills at the centre of this future, an SOL scheme that allows smooth transition to a sliding point scale rather than delivering an "on-off" effect will support more nuanced, reliable and well-focused policy. Such changes would not reduce but only affirm the salience of accountancy graduate reflection in the arrangements.

The structure and dynamics of the labour market for accountants can be understood only in the context of changes that are occurring in the Australian labour market. In a modern economy like Australia, technological change and globalisation lead to ongoing dynamic structural change in which both formal accountant skills and flexible business skills are key requirements. Industries have also embraced new technologies and have become increasingly involved in the global economy.

Much of the changing composition of employment can be attributed to changing industry mix. In 1975 the ‘soft’ services (such as health, finance, retail, education, restaurants etc.) accounted for just over 50 percent of all jobs. By 2016, the sector accounted for over 70 percent of all jobs (ABS, 2016). By contrast, the share of manufacturing in total employment almost halved over the same period to less than 10 percent. There were similar reductions in the relative shares of jobs in the ‘industrial’ services (such as construction, communications, electricity, gas and water). The change in distribution of jobs by occupation has also been remarkable. There has been a relative decline in employment of those with manual skills, such as tradespersons and labourers and considerable growth of occupations requiring high levels of education and ‘interactive skills’ such as professionals and associate professionals and community and personal service workers – including accountants (Lewis, 2015).

While part of this changing distribution of jobs is no doubt due to the industry changes noted above, particularly the growth in demand for services, part is also due to technological change (Kelly and Lewis, 2010). Changes in industry composition have combined with technological change to systematically change the demand for skills and technological change has been the dominant influence (Kelly and Lewis, 2010). It has allowed for, or even driven, a restructuring of occupations within industries. A combination of structural and technological change has significantly changed the demand for labour with respect to part-time employment, gender and skills. Less skilled workers are more vulnerable, as are younger and older workers. More generic and general skills rather than firm-specific skills are required. The overall outcome is a more highly skilled workforce and a more efficient economy.

For most Australians, the labour market along with the education and training system has facilitated the adjustment of labour supply to meet those changes in demand. The increased participation of women and students in the workforce has responded to the increased demand for part-time workers and those with interactive skills (Lewis, 2015). In addition, the education system has significantly increased the average cognitive and education levels (Kelly and Lewis, 2010). Labour supply has, generally, adjusted well to labour demand due to structural and technological change.

The ‘New Economy’ demands different skill sets. Structural change and technological change has reduced the demand for routine manual and clerical skills and increased demand for others, most notably cognitive and interactive skills. An accounting degree is ideally suited to providing graduates with the skills in demand in the New Economy. Accounting degrees, as well as providing the requisite occupational training, generally include education in economics, statistics, information technology and a range of other skills such as written and oral communication skills required by business and government.

In the decade leading up to the ‘Global Financial Crisis’ (GFC) in 2008, labour shortages were a significant problem for the Australian economy. This was reflected in the lowest unemployment rate in three decades and record net migration. Shortages were reported in both the private and public sectors, including for skilled and unskilled labour. Occupations affected included accountants, medical practitioners, nurses, schoolteachers, pilots, economists, tradespersons and engineers through to agricultural workers and shop assistants (Lewis, 2008).

Applied Economics

A major response used to alleviate skill shortage is to increase the intake of migrants and temporary residents. The net inflow of new migrants reached a peak in 2007/08 to a net inflow of 298,648 (see Figure 1) – making up over 50 per cent of Australian population growth. After three years of decline, in 2010/11 net migration began to rise again. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP, 2016) estimates net migration of 187,200 for the year ending March 2016. The Department is forecasting net migration to increase to 237,000 for the year ending June 2019.

An interesting feature of the migration data shown in Figure 1 is how large are the flows of migrants to and from Australia of which net overseas migration (NOM) is simply the residual. For instance, in 2015/16 there were almost half a million new long-term arrivals and almost 300 thousand long-term departures. The size of these flows implies an extremely dynamic and flexible labour market link between Australia and the international labour market. Clearly, international movement of labour to and from Australia is an important contributor to growth, jobs and innovation for the Australian economy.

In recent years, post-GFC, there has been more concern about unemployment as the national rate of unemployment rose slightly compared to the boom years, although it has lately shown signs of gradual decline. Unemployment has not affected all industries and occupations equally. Most vulnerable are those with low levels of education or who possess specific skills whose demand is in decline (Lewis 2015). However, shortages of skilled labour in some areas still exists. Indeed, these shortages tended to hinder economic growth and make it harder to create jobs for the unemployed. A well-functioning labour market for skilled labour, including accountants, is necessary for a prosperous low-unemployment economy.

The Accounting Profession

The accounting profession includes two related but different groups of people. These are people qualified and working as accountants and people with accounting qualifications (e.g. majors in accounting in mixed degrees) using their skills other than as an accountant. This paper focuses on the former group for whom there is most data. But we also recognise the important contribution of the latter group to the economy.

Those working as accountants are defined as those working in occupations defined within the Australia and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO, 2006) three digit groups, namely:

2210 Accountants, Auditors and Company Secretaries nfd

2211 Accountants

2212 Auditors, Company Secretaries and Corporate Treasurers

2220 Financial Brokers and Dealers, and Investment Advisers nfd

2221 Financial Brokers

2222 Financial Dealers

2223 Financial Investment Advisers and Managers

Individuals qualified as accountants are defined as those with a level of skill commensurate with an Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) Level 7 or higher qualification (AQF 2009) who nominate their highest qualification as being in the field of accounting.

The most comprehensive source of data is the Censuses of Population and Housing (Census). This provides the best data for profiling the profession, although it is of limited use for analysis of trends since it relates to five year intervals, and the latest Census with available information is for 2011. However, changes in the overall distribution of the accounting population since 2011 have most likely been quite small.

According to the 2011 Census, 196,567 people were employed as accountants while 164,613 held a bachelor degree in accounting. Of those employed as accountants almost half (49 percent) are female but women are marginally less represented (43 percent) in the more senior occupations such as Auditors, Company Secretaries and Corporate Treasurers. Clearly the accounting profession is an important source of professional jobs for women. Migration has been a major feature of the accountant’s labour market with 42 percent of the accounting profession overseas-born compared with 27 percent for the whole population of Australia.

As shown in Figure 2, most accountants work on the eastern seaboard with 80 per cent located in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. New South Wales has the largest share of accountants, with more than 38 per cent. This is to be expected given the concentration of service sector activities in New South Wales, particularly Sydney. The ACT has the highest ratio of accountants to the population of any state or territory.

Figure 2: Employed Accountants by State/Territory of Residence

Applied Economics

Source: 2011 Census of Population and Housing, unpublished.

Figure 3 shows the regional distribution of employed accountants. Over 80 percent work in the eight capital cities. The rest are divided equally between other metropolitan centres with populations over 100,000, coastal towns within 80km of the coastline and inland (non-remote) areas.

The concentration of services, particularly financial services, and the head offices of major companies in the major cities, means that most accountants live in the major cities. A significantly higher percentage of accountants live in major cities than does the population generally and even somewhat greater percentage than for all professional employees. Even in the industries where production is concentrated in rural and remote Australia, such as agriculture and mining, the accounting activities associated with these industries are mainly located in the cities. Nevertheless, accountants provide valuable services to rural communities and the provision of these services is important for the survival of rural businesses and families.

For persons qualified as accountants, the median age is 37 years (see Figure 4). From the age group 35-39 years and older we see a continuous decline of those age groups represented in the accountants’ workforce. This suggests a major influx of accountants, through expansion of student places and/or migration in the mid to late 1990s.

Figure 3: Employed Accountants by Region, percent

Applied Economics

Source: 2011 Census of Population and Housing, unpublished.

Figure 4: Persons Holding an Accounting Qualification by Age, percent

Applied Economics

Source: 2011 Census of Population and Housing, unpublished.

As shown in Figure 5, the age distribution for qualified accountants employed in more senior positions is quite different. While the percentage employed in accounting jobs decreases with age employment, in occupations such as Auditors, Company Secretaries, Corporate Treasurers and Finance Managers the percentage increases with age. This demonstrates the importance of experience for many sub-categories of occupations employing accounting graduates. Demand for qualified accountants is not uniform and for many jobs experience is very important.

Figure 6 shows qualifications. Persons employed as accountants are generally highly qualified. This is particularly so for those in the more narrowly defined accounting jobs. In the more senior sub-groups there is a greater percentage of less (formally) qualified persons suggesting some more experienced, older accountants entered the profession when a university degree was not required. Although not picked up in the data, many go on to pursue a professional designation – CPA or CA – involving a Masters equivalent program of study and practical experience.

The major industries of employment of qualified accountants are professional services and financial and insurance services (see Figure 7). Clearly, accounting and finance businesses will heavily affect the demand for accountants. These would have been expected to have been particularly hit in the wake of the GFC. However, qualified accountants can be found in all industries and their demand is determined by the general state of the Australian economy and changes to employment mix due to structural and technological change.

Figure 5: Employed Persons by Age, percent

Applied Economics

Source: 2011 Census of Population and Housing, unpublished.

Figure 6: Employed Accountants by Highest Level of Qualification

Applied Economics

Source: 2011 Census of Population and Housing, unpublished.

Figure 7: Persons Holding an Accountancy Qualification by Industry, percent

Applied Economics

Source: 2011 Census of Population and Housing, unpublished.

Another way of looking at employment of accountants is to examine their share of total employment in each industry (see Figure 8). The data are illuminating. While Professional, Scientific and Technical Services and Financial and Insurance Services are the biggest employers of qualified accountants, accountants make up only 4.0 percent and 5.6 percent respectively of total employment in those industries. Every industry employs qualified accountants and they make up above average shares of total employment in industries as varied as manufacturing and mining.

In addition, as noted at the outset, most people holding an accounting qualification are employed in professional or managerial occupations (see Figure 9). Evidently accounting qualifications generally lead to responsible and skilled jobs. Accountants have skill resilience. Their skills are widely useful in roles such as managers and administrators, not just accounting.

Figure 8: Accountants as a Percentage of Industry Employment

Applied Economics

Source: 2011 Census of Population and Housing, unpublished.

Figure 9: Occupation of Accounting Degree holders, percent

Applied Economics

Source: 2011 Census of Population and Housing, unpublished.

We begin this section by providing estimates of the stock of accountants by occupation of employment broadly defined and estimates of changes in the size of this stock over time. We will then examine employment flows and their sources.

Employment

The most accurate measure of the employment of accountants is from the Census. Although limited to every 5 years, it provides a benchmark for other measures. As noted, the Census indicates that 196,567 people were employed as accountants in 2011. Given a rise of 7.5 percent over the period to 2016 (as indicated by the Labour Force Survey), this would put the current employment at about 211 thousand.

The Department of Employment (DoE, 2016a) draws on quarterly estimates from the Labour Force Survey to analyse the demand and supply of accountants and any shortages of accountants. Estimates based on the Labour Force Survey estimates are unlikely to be very accurate. This survey is a sample of 0.33 percent of households and is suitable for estimating employment of broadly defined groups such as total employment of professionals but not for more detailed occupations such as accountants. This is evident in the volatility of many of the estimates measures derived from it, such as employment.

Figure 10: Employment of Accountants,’000s

Applied Economics
Source: ABS Labour Force, Department of Employment (2016a).

Estimated historical data on employment from DoE (2016a) are shown in Figure 10. The estimate for 2011 is about 30,000 persons less than the Census. Nevertheless, the DoE estimates indicate strong growth in employment of accountants since 2013.

At any point in time employment is driven by demand and supply. In the short run, employment may fall below full potential demand due to shortages in supply. The Labour Force Survey data suggests high growth in employment during the pre-GFC boom, further but slower growth post-GFC, and the level of employment falling then levelling off after 2011. The growth in employment actually occurred when the number of domestic students completing bachelor degrees in accounting was falling and there was little change in completions of degrees specialising in accounting. The DoE estimates for 2014 and 2015 suggest unprecedented growth in employment. The consistent upward trend also reflects a lagged post-GFC pickup in employment and expectations of improving conditions. However, there was a slight fall-off in employment of accountants in 2016.

The DoE also produces projections of employment for occupations, including accounting occupations. Figure 11 gives the DoE (2016b) projections for several accounting sub-categories and for professionals in general and all business professionals.

Figure 11 shows that the DoE expects that employment for all accountants will grow at a higher rate than for business professionals and for all professionals collectively, which is indicative of accountants being in demand. For specific sub-groups of accountants, namely auditors, company secretaries, financial brokers and investment advisors and managers, growth is expected to be particularly strong. These sub-groups usually comprise specialist and experienced accountants and these positions cannot be filled by new graduates.

Applied Economics

Figure 11: Projected % Growth in Employment by Occupation, 2015-2020.

Source: Department of Employment (2016b)

Demand for people to work as accountants will depend largely on the state of the economy, generally, the changing structure of the economy towards services and innovation, and on the economic health of those industries employing accountants.

Given this largely market-driven demand for accountants, most concern regarding the accountants’ labour market has been how the supply side of the market can increase to match the demand.

New graduates

New university graduates are the main source of new entrants into accounting. However, identifying the numbers of new graduates is not simple. The most straightforward measure is those with a bachelor degree in accounting.

However, many degree courses can be described as ‘degrees specialising in accounting’. These include degrees such as Bachelor of Commerce with a major in accounting. Although graduates with these degrees have accounting skills, they may not intend to pursue a career in accounting but have chosen a degree offering a broader range of options. Many commerce students chose two majors, one of which is accounting, and it is not clear which they consider to be primary career-oriented focus. However, although these commerce students may not intend to become accountants they may do so if the salaries and job openings in accounting increase significantly relative to alternative occupations.

An undergraduate degree is not the only route into the profession. People with an undergraduate qualification in another discipline can become a qualified accountant through a postgraduate degree such as the Master of Professional Accounting (MPA) or by sitting CPA Australia’s Foundation Exams. The MPA route is popular with overseas students, particularly given the immigration policy favouring those with Australian qualifications and other measures that were introduced (Rafi and Lewis 2013). While international students taking a master’s route would appear to be motivated by the intention of becoming a qualified accountant, domestic students may be accountants seeking to upgrade their qualifications to a postgraduate degree.

Evidently, accurately projecting new entrants into accounting is not easy. Figures 12 (a) and (b) below, provided by the Department of Education and Training, show smaller numbers of domestic students compared to those from overseas and some interesting changing patterns.

The number of domestic students enrolled in bachelor degrees in accounting in 2015 has fallen by more than 35 percent since the peak of nearly 3,500 domestic students in 2002. In this period, enrolments in all undergraduate degrees increased by over 50 percent. This suggests that narrowly defined accounting degrees have become less attractive to Australian students. On the other hand, international students numbers in accounting increased dramatically to reach a peak in 2010 before declining somewhat. International student enrolments significantly exceed those of domestic students.

Completions in accounting degrees reflect enrolments with a lag. The decline in domestic graduates is accompanied by a large rise in overseas student completions. Now international student completions make up over 60 percent of all completions. Overseas students clearly are attracted to degrees specifically identified as being accounting.

In short, potential new entrants from Australia are constant or in decline and any new supply of accountants will have to come from overseas.

As shown in Figure 13, the numbers completing the more broadly defined undergraduate accounting degrees, rather than Bachelor of Accounting degrees are similar to those for the narrowly defined Bachelor of Accounting degrees. This number has been in decline since 2009. The number of overseas students completing degrees with accounting majors has far exceeded the number of domestic students in recent years but has exhibited a noticeable decline since 2011.

The decline in clearly identifiable accounting graduates has implications for estimating potential supply and shortages of accountants and makes workforce planning and occupationally targeted migration more difficult. It is not clear for example whether a graduate with a Bachelor of Commerce degree with majors in accounting and marketing may wish to pursue a career in marketing, accounting or some other career in, say, administration.

In practice people choose jobs according to a range of job characteristics, including salaries. If accounting jobs become more readily available and better paid people who might otherwise choose jobs in, say, marketing will instead choose to enter accounting.

Figure 12: Enrolments (a) and Completions (b) in Accounting Bachelor Degrees.

(a) Enrolments

(b) Completions

Source: Dept. of Education (2016), Higher Education Statistics, unpublished.

Figure 13: Completions of Bachelor Degrees with an Accounting Major

Source: Dept. of Education (2015) Higher Education Statistics, unpublished.

The labour market is characterised by considerable substitution between occupations and mobility of people between jobs which makes trying to precisely match people with qualifications to jobs in demand difficult.

Another source of accounting graduates is the Masters of Professional Accounting (MPA) degree. From Figure 14 the MPA clearly attracts mostly overseas students. Completions increased rapidly until 2011. The effect of the changes to visa policy clearly had a major negative impact on completions but there appears to have been a recovery recently, again partly because of changes in visa policy. The issue of overseas student demand and the impact of migration policy will be examined further in this report.

The above again suggests that the potential new entrants from Australian domestic students are constant or in decline and any new demand for accountants will have to be supplied from overseas.

An issue with respect to university education generally which may have implications for accounting, are the possible partial deregulation of fees for undergraduate degrees. Although there are as yet no concrete proposals, there has been much speculation in the media and among academics of the likely impact. If fees for some or all degrees are likely to rise (by, as yet, unknown amounts) this could reduce demand for university education. However, in commerce degrees, including accounting, domestic students already pay a relatively large proportion of the total cost of their degrees so their fee may rise by less and thus demand for these subjects could increase. The return to an accounting degree has been found to be high (Corliss et al., 2013) but further analysis needs to be conducted on the impact of any fee increase on enrolments in degrees.

Figure 14: Completions in Masters of Professional Accounting Degrees

Applied Economics

Source: Department of Education (2015), Higher Education Statistics, unpublished.

Migration

Migration has long been a major feature of the Australian labour market both to seek to meet short term needs and to enhance economic growth through increasing the quantity and quality of human resources. These two issues require quite different consideration.

Figure 15 shows the number of accountants migrating to Australia over the five years to 2012/13 by visa category. The average number of accountants migrating to Australia was 9,380 per year of which, on average, 6,500 were skilled independent migrants to which the SOL applies. However, these averages were boosted by the unusually high intake in 2010/11. This appears to have been due to the expected introduction of a new migration policy on 1 July 2011 that changed migration rules.

Qualified accountants who migrate to Australia are generally well matched to jobs. This is demonstrated by Census data which show the occupations of those with accounting qualifications at intervals since they migrated to Australia. Figure 16 indicates that most migrants with accounting qualifications find employment in highly skilled occupations and this is particularly so for more recent migrants.

Only among more recent migrants is the percentage of those in unskilled labouring jobs greater than 10 percent. This might be attributable to recently qualified overseas students finding it difficult to get employment commensurate with their qualifications. However, most migrants appear to have successful labour market outcomes.

Figure 15: Skilled Migration to Australia of Accountants

Applied Economics

Source: reproduced from Australian Workforce Productivity Agency (2014).

Figure 16: Occupation of Qualified Accountants in 2011 by Year of Entry into Australia

Applied Economics
Source: Derived from 2011 Census of Population and Housing, unpublished These conclusions are supported by recent work by Rafi (2015) for recent Indian migrants (a large component of Australian- trained accountants from overseas). This shows that, contrary to popular myth, most former Australia-trained students who migrate have occupations which match their formal qualifications such as taxi drivers..

In recent years, Australian skilled migration policy appears to have influenced the choices of some international students, particularly from India (Rafi and Lewis, 2013). This issue is discussed in Section 6.

Importantly, many migrant accountants are not fresh out of university and crowding out roles that would otherwise be available to Australian graduates. Consultations with employers indicate that employers often struggle to fill mid to senior roles, given the propensity of bright young accountants to move on. Many employers look explicitly to skilled migrants in their recruitment strategies.

Also, relevant here, although not so great in magnitude is the departure of accountants overseas, either permanently or on long term temporary visits. Highly skilled professionals, such as accountants, are in demand internationally and their movements would be expected to respond to employment opportunities not just in Australia but throughout the World. The most recent example of this was the flow of professionals to Australia following the fallout from the GFC in the UK.

Retirees

In addition, persons retiring represent an important flow out of the stock of accountants. While most attention has focussed on new graduates and migration the retirement of accountants is emerging as an issue with respect to meeting gaps in the market.

There has been much discussion in recent years regarding the implications of population ageing (Treasury 2014) and this will affect the accounting profession. The 2011 Census provides the distribution of accountants by age.

Given the current age distribution the number of retirees is estimated to be about 1,900 in 2015 and on conservative assumptions expected to rise each year to reach about 3,600 per year by 2025. This is further discussed below.

Identifying a labour market shortage or surplus for a particular occupation is not straightforward. While high unemployment suggests an oversupply, for skilled professionals widespread unemployment is rare. With respect to accountants, particularly with respect to migration policy, the concern is usually with shortages.

Richardson (2007) suggests four forms of labour-related shortages.

Skill shortages exist when employers are unable to fill or have considerable difficulty in filling vacancies for an occupation, or specialised skill needs within that occupation, at current levels of remuneration and conditions of employment, and reasonably accessible location.

Skill gaps occur where existing employees do not have the required qualifications, experience and/or specialised skills to meet the firm’s skill needs for an occupation. Workers may not be adequately trained or qualified to perform tasks, or may not have upskilled to emerging skill requirements.

Labour shortages occur when there are not enough appropriately qualified candidates (employees) to fill needed jobs.

Recruitment difficulties may be due to characteristics of the industry, occupation or employer, such as: relatively low remuneration, poor working conditions, poor image of the industry, unsatisfactory working hours, location hard to commute to, inadequate recruitment or firm-specific and highly specialised skill needs. They can also be due to a lack of appropriately qualified people (i.e. labour shortages or skills gaps).

Employers are likely to be well aware when they are experiencing any of the above. And meeting these shortages by temporary migration based on employer nomination might well be the best way to adjust to these shortages. However, these shortages cannot be readily estimated from generally available data.

Firms can, and do use, other adjustment mechanisms to cope with skill shortages by rearranging the work within the firm. For instance, work which might normally be done by a qualified professional is done by less qualified persons under supervision. Larger firms might invest in training to get inexperienced graduates up to scratch. These alternative adjustment mechanisms are costly, involve delays and reduce efficiency in production of services.

There has been some attention recently to the use of strategies of offshoring and outsourcing as an adjustment mechanism. Some studies identify book-keepers and accounting and auditing clerks as the jobs most at risk of being automated (see, for example, DIIS 2016).

However, what is important is what lies behind these studies, as they single out roles that are assessed as not overly manual in nature, not requiring abstract thinking, as highly repetitive and routine. The wrong conclusion to draw is that this will spell the demise of professional accountants. While computers can perform complex calculations with ease, they cannot handle abstract thinking, are unable to rely on intuition, and they do not improvise spontaneously or act creatively. These are the comparative advantages of being human that allow us to adapt to the changing labour market for accountants.

In a paper prepared for AWPA, Mavromaras et al (2013), suggested using a range of indicators to identify labour shortages. These involve analysis of data on a whole set of variables, including employment, vacancies, salaries, unemployment and student outcomes. However, the data on many of these variables are unreliable at the four-digit level required for this analysis. Other variables are not reliable because they do not measure what they are supposed to. For instance, the DoE vacancy series is based on internet vacancies whereas most graduate accountants are directly recruited by employers. Vacancies advertised over the internet are at best a secondary means of recruitment. In any case, the data only provides mainly a retrospective view of the accountant labour market. We can make a judgement on whether there was a surplus or shortage last year but not whether there will be in two years’ time, although the data might alert us to trends which are developing.

Much media attention focuses on the labour market for new graduates and particularly on the difficulties that new graduates face in getting their first job. While oversupply may manifest itself in employment of recent graduates it provides a distorted view of supply and demand in what is a segmented labour market. For many tasks new graduates are poor substitutes for those with specialised skills and experience. Basing labour market policy on new graduate employment/unemployment is fraught with problems. For instance, migrants are most likely to be to be those with skills and experience and will fill jobs for which new graduates are not a very good match. They do not take jobs which would go to new graduates but allow firms to reach their full potential and thus create jobs.

Despite these concerns regarding the use of graduate outcomes, indicators on new graduates are still used to identify general labour market imbalances. The major source of data on graduate outcomes is the Graduate Destination Survey. The survey data are based on two reference dates: 31 October for graduates completing in the first half of the preceding year, and 30 April for graduates completing in the second half of the preceding year.

The survey results have been subject to criticisms, the major ones being the short length of time after graduation (about four months), the small sample size and limited coverage of students who are overseas at the time of the survey. Higher education providers are required to conduct this survey on behalf of the government and to meet certain response rates for domestic students. However, there is no required response rate for international students. There is no incentive for higher education providers to ‘chase’ these students and, as a consequence, their response rates are low (CPA Australia /ICAA, 2014). There is thus minimal data available on the graduate outcomes of the international students who make up the majority of the cohort for accounting students.

There are also concerns in relation to the survey methodology. The survey requires students to self-select their profession. The difference between the number of students who are known to have graduated as accountants from a given institution and the number who identify themselves as accountants in the survey responses varies by up to 100% from year to year.

The limited evidence suggests that the proportion of accounting students obtaining full-time employment within the first four months after graduation has declined since 2009. However, it has remained in the higher 70 percentage range (see Table 1). It is not known whether graduates do get jobs but after longer job search. Also, new graduates may take more time off between graduating and entering an accounting career. The downwards trend for accounting graduates is no different to that all graduates from all fields. Also, the outcomes for accounting graduates over time have been consistently better than for all graduates. For instance, the full-time employment rate in 2015 was 76.9 percent for new accounting graduates compared to 68.8 percent for all new graduates There does not appear to have been a decline in salaries relative to all graduates. Accounting graduates are ranked 14th in terms of graduate starting salaries, equal with other disciplines in economics and business.

Table 1: Selected Indicators for New Accounting Graduates

Indicator & Year

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Per cent employed FT

86.4

88.6

85.1

79.2

78.3

79.9

77.4

73.9

76.9

Per cent employed PT or casual

8.2

5.7

7.0

10.4

11.3

10.5

10.4

13.6

12.2

Per cent not employed

5.4

5.7

7.9

10.6

10.4

9.6

12.2

12.5

10.8

All grads- mean FT salary ($’000s)

43

45

48

49

50

52

52.5

52.5

54

Accounting - mean FT salary ($’000s)

40

44

45

45

47

49

50

50

50

Ratio accounting salary/all grads

0.93

0.98

0.94

0.92

0.94

0.94

0.95

0.95

0.93

Sources: Graduate Careers Council, http://www.graduatecareers.com.au/; CPA Australia.

The data above identify only where, at a national and general level, conditions are relatively soft or whether there are general shortages or oversupply of new entrants, and not where particular difficulties are being encountered.

A measure of imbalances in the labour market is employers’ experiences with filling vacancies. When there is excess supply of labour, employers will be easily able to fill vacancies. I there is excess demand, then we will observe employers finding it more difficult to fill vacancies with suitable applicants. The Department of Employment surveys employers of accountants as to the number of vacancies, applicants and suitability of applicants.

Figure 17 indicates that there have always been far more applicants than vacancies for accounting jobs (though of course people can apply to several jobs). The number of applicants per vacancy had risen up to 2012/13 but since then has declined, indicative of a tightening of the labour market for accountants. Currently the average number of applicants regarded by employers as suitable is estimated to be 2.8 per vacancy (close to the pre-GFC average). This compares to 29.4 applicants per vacancy. The proportion of vacancies filled is 67 percent, the lowest since 2008/09, and falling – again indicative of a tightening labour market. There were, on average, around 22 applicants per vacancy (this may include double counting) who had a relevant qualification (bachelor degree or higher), but just 2.8 per vacancy were assessed as being suitable (DoE 2016).

The report of the survey (DoE, 2016a) concludes that there a tightening labour market for accountants. However, just as importantly, these data suggest that, while the aggregate number with accounting qualifications may exceed the number of jobs, it can be inferred from the data in Figure 17 that there are considerable shortages of people with the right mix of skills and experience that employers require.

Figure 17: Vacancies for Accountants

Applied Economics

Source: reproduced from Department of Employment (2016a) Labour Market Research – Accountants, Australia

The survey asked employers about the unsuitability of applicants. Key reasons applicants were not considered by employers to be suitable were:

● insufficient experience (employers reported that they often attracted large numbers of graduates for positions which required significant years of experience)

● lack of specific experience (such as in the provision of strategic taxation advice, commercial or business or in a particular sector)

● inadequate knowledge of Australian accounting (some were overseas qualified and had little Australian experience)

● inadequate written and oral communication skills

● not being CA or CPA accredited

● inability to liaise face-to-face with a diverse client base

● lack of understanding of the employers’ business needs.

Department of Employment (2016a)

This view of the labour market for accountants is supported by a recent report by Hays (2015) which found that:

‘Australia’s professional practice market remains incredibly candidate short, which has led to greater flexibility from employers. The best example of this is the willingness of employers to consider candidates with not only differing levels of experience, but also qualifications.’

Hays (2015) also reported that good quality business services and intermediate accountants are in greatest demand, particularly candidates who can engage and communicate confidently with clients. There is high demand for senior accountants with strong technical skills and good knowledge of technologies. Many practices are also looking for high quality intermediate accountants with experience. Again, the focus is on excellent communication skills so that they can interact directly with clients. Firms are reporting a shortage of suitable candidates.

While recently arrived migrants (from Figure 16) are highly successful in fitting into the Australian labour market, many recently qualified former overseas students and domestic students are not fully suitable immediately for jobs available. The employer responses point to inadequacies in Australian new graduates for jobs requiring experience or specific skills. This suggests that overseas trained experienced accountants with specific skills fill a very important gap in the Australian labour market.

Turning to the medium to long term demand, most of the discussion on forecasting demand for accountants is based on the growth of economy requirements for accountants. In other words, analysts forecast the growth of the Australian economy by industry and the implications for occupations including accountants. It is also possible to view causation in reverse, namely that the growth of the economy is a function of the growth in qualified and educated labour.

Based mainly on the former approach, various forecasts and projections have been carried out for accountants. For example, the Department of Employment (2016b) forecast that demand for accountants would increase by 16.6 percent between 2015 and 2020 while the demand for more specialised and experienced accountants was forecast to rise by over 20 percent. IBISWorld (2016) has projected growth in employment of 8915 in the accounting services industry between 2015/16 and 2020/21 (though this is not quite the same as the market for accountants). Both estimates imply a significant role for migration in the accounting labour market.

The Australian economy has proved quite resilient during the upheaval in the World economy following the GFC, the aftermath of which is still being felt among the economies of North America and Europe. Nevertheless, economic commentators are divided on the prospects for the economy. Some point to the strength of the Chinese economy, the low level of government debt, low inflation and relatively low unemployment. Others point to Australia’s reliance on China as a major risk, the need adjustment post mining boom, uncertainty in the export and import competing sector regarding the value of the Australian dollar) and fragile consumer confidence. Strong doubts also remain regarding the ability of the Eurozone to solve its financial problems and the consequent international implications of failure. Brexit has added to these concerns.

Notwithstanding these international issues, as shown in Table 2, the Australian Treasury (2016) remains confident in the continued growth of the Australian economy around 3% per annum and employment growth of around 1.5% per annum.

Applied Economics

The World Economic Forum (2016) and CEDA (2016) predict that future growth areas worldwide are Business and Financial Operations and Management i.e., roles that persons trained in accounting are well suited for.

Deloitte Access Economics (DAE, 2011) produced a major report for AWPA with projections of demand for the major industry and occupation groupings. The projections are based on four economic scenarios which reflect the range of uncertainty among economic commentators.

The ‘long boom’ scenario is based on a steady growth view of the Australian economy. Under this scenario China’s growth rate falls somewhat over time, the terms of trade decline moderately but are still high in historic terms and there are no shocks to the World economy arising from another crisis in, say, Europe. Under this scenario Australia’s economic and employment growth continues steadily over the forecast horizon to 2025.

In the ‘smart recovery’ scenario, Australia’s low growth continues to 2015, but then the global economy improves and Australia’s growth returns to its potential growth rate. New technology adoption and productivity improvements occur after a period of relative contraction in growth.

The ‘terms of trade shock’ scenario, assumes good growth in the World economy, as with the long boom, but there is a substantial reduction in Australia’s terms of trade.

Under the ‘ring of fire’ scenario, the rate of growth in the World economy is low and subject to significant volatility. In Australia low trend growth rates are accompanied by cycles around this trend. Terms of trade are lower due to increased protection which also lowers productivity.

Projections are made of employment by occupation, among other variables, and the highly aggregate level, under each scenario. In addition, detailed projections of demand for those employed as accountants have been calculated under each of the above scenarios. The patterns of employment growth are quite different under the different scenarios. However, the DAE estimates for total job openings by 2025 are very similar, ranging from 9,054 to 10,926. The estimates of job openings by 2020 have greater variability ranging from 9,054 to 11,850.

Job openings equate to net replacement demand. This equals jobs made available through growth in demand and from workers leaving an occupation (e.g. via retirement or accountants emigrating) after accounting for those re-entering the occupation. Thus, net replacement demand can be taken to be the number of new entrants (new graduates or new migrants) needed to meet demand.

Whatever scenario is chosen, they all suggest significant potential shortages. The projections also do not take account of the differences in demand for new graduates and for those with experience. Given the importance experience to employers of accountants, identified in this report, ageing and retirement of accountants is a major issue.

As part of this report we separately estimated the number of retirees given the current age distribution of accountants (see Figure 18). As noted above, using conservative assumptions that all those currently employed who are under the age of 65 will retire at age 65, we estimate the number of retirees to be about 1,900 in 2015 rising each year to reach about 3,600 per year by 2025. This is consistent with the Deloitte estimates.

Figure 18: Projected, Retirements per year, 2016-2025

Applied Economics

Source: Authors’ estimates based on Census of Population and Housing unpublished

Retirements are expected to rise because, although accounting is generally a young profession there are increasing numbers of older accountants approaching retirement age. Importantly also, these retirees are the most experienced accountants and, therefore, in high demand.

The above scenarios suggest that the medium to long term outlook for the accounting labour market is for shortages. The identification of the particular need for senior and experienced accountants with particular skills, suggests that migration will continue to be vitally important in meeting demand in the labour market for accountants.

Moreover, skilled people wishing to migrate permanently to Australia, with recognised qualifications and English language competency, usually have good career prospects in Australia even if they do not achieve exactly the work that they wish for on arrival. There is not a one-to-one matching between qualifications, skills and occupations, apart from certain exceptions such as medicine. In most of the skilled occupations many do not pursue a lengthy career in their field of qualification. The labour market is characterised by a great deal of substitution between occupations and mobility of people between jobs which makes trying to match people with qualifications to jobs in demand difficult even if the projections of demand are right. This analysis suggests that policy with respect to permanent migration should move away from concern with meeting short term cyclical labour market conditions.

It is also relevant to consider that supply creates its own demand for employment, both local and immigrant. That is migrants who arrive and fill jobs create over time demand for more through the spending they undertake or induce. Permanent skill entry allows for wider human capital development of the workforce which raises productivity and medium and long-term employment.

In recent years, there has been a strong relationship between Australian skilled migration policy and the choices made by a significant number of international students. The principal Key Message found by the then Department of Immigration and Citizenship in research it commissioned from the University of Queensland was that:

More than half of the surveyed Student visa holders planned to stay in Australia at the conclusion of their studies and almost all Skilled-Graduate (Temporary) visa (Subclass 485) holders planned to seek permanent residency’ (Institute for Social Science Research, 2010).

So, the two are closely interconnected and this applies even more for some countries of origin than others, as with the case of India (Rafi and Lewis, 2013).

At the same time, there is also a preference for some education courses over others. In the case of university students, there has long been a strong preference for commerce and computer science courses, especially accounting and information technology (IT). This was no doubt partly due to priority processing and preferential treatment of immigration applicants graduating from Australian universities with qualifications in these fields.

Immigration policy pre-2008 awarded extra points to accounting and IT graduates and other professions that were on the then Migration Occupation in Demand List (MODL). This made it relatively easier to cross the threshold of 120 points required at that time for a permanent residency visa. As advised then by Skills Australia, accounting skills were deemed critical to the Australian economy and were in short supply (DIAC 2010a).

According to Birrell and Healy (2010), however, a new surge of international students occurred in 2008 and this was principally due to immigration changes implemented between 1999 and 2001 by the Howard government. These especially reflected a broadening of the skills and associated occupations considered important for migration. Revisions to skilled migration policy were announced in 2008 and the repercussions from this continued to shape Australia’s skilled migrant intake, for some time.

In particular, there was realisation that there was a mismatch between the skills and competencies of graduating international students and the skills and competencies demanded by Australian employers. To respond to this, changes included a refined points test that emphasised strong English language skills and relevant work experience, rather than the possession of a particular qualification (DIAC, 2010b). At the same time the more frequently revised and narrower skilled occupation list (SOL) replaced the much wider and generic MODL. These revisions together sought to ensure that no one factor alone would determine the migration outcome but rather a combination of skills, qualifications and work experience would be required to clear the new pass mark (DIAC, 2010a).

Figure 19: Overseas Student Visa Applications by Sector

Applied Economics

Source: Department of Immigration and Border Protection (2015), Student visa and Temporary Graduate visa programme trends 2006-07 to 2013-14, http://www.border.gov.au/ReportsandPublications/Documents/statistics/student-visa-programme-trends-2013-14.pdf#search=%20Student%20Visa%20Program%20Trends

In reaction to the sequence of revisions, the course preference of Indian students, for example, had begun to exhibit a trend towards VET courses in lieu of higher education courses. Post 2007/08 the popularity of vocational courses such as hairdressing and cookery spiked dramatically with many overseas students enrolling in a vocational course rather than commerce or an IT degree) as this became the most cost effective and assured pathway to permanent residency (Rafi and Lewis, 2013). This explains the dramatic surge in applications for subclass 572 VET study visas in Figure 19. The total number of subclass 572 VET visas granted increased dramatically while subclass 573 higher education visas levelled or fell around the same time. However, due to quality concerns regarding the provision of VET services in some jurisdictions, and the realisation that the VET sector was being utilised as a migration loophole to access unrelated occupations post-residency, the link between vocational training and migration was promptly de-emphasised as well.

The patterns identified by Rafi and Lewis (2013) for Indian students are also observed in the data for all international accounting students in Figure 20.

Figure 20: Overseas Accounting Student Commencements and Visa Regulation

Applied Economics

Source: Australia Education International, unpublished

The figure is best seen alongside the following summary of visa regulations (Thomason 2016):

● 2001, overseas graduates of Australian programs with skills needed in the economy, who met other general eligibility requirements, were able to make an onshore application for permanent residency through the skilled independent visa categories.

● 2003, greater flexibility in financial requirements and English language proficiency was allowed for.

2006, the subsequent tightening of English language proficiency requirements.

● 2008, the introduction of student work rights.

● 2009, the shift to a ‘demand’ driven model of skilled migration commenced. The focus was on employer and government sponsored migration to meet the specific skill needs of the economy. The level of permanent skilled migration was reduced by a 20 percent

● 2010, the introduction of the SOL. There was a significant decline in accounting student commencements.

● 2011/12, Knight review recommendations:

the ‘genuine temporary entrant’ requirement that students were here for the genuine purpose of studying not migration

extension of post study work rights

streamlined visa processing

more flexible work conditions

abolition of automatic visa cancellations for students in breach of visa conditions

It is clear from the above that international accounting student enrolments are now at record levels and that there is an undeniable link between skilled migration and international education.

Accountants Under Present Policies

It is clear from the evidence made available in the earlier parts of this report that accountants must be a core part of the skilled migration program of Australia. The profession has very important characteristics that justify completely such a position.

The first and most important is its flexibility. On a spectrum from the rigidity of extreme technical education specialization through to general capacities for deployment of generic skills and capabilities, medicine would be at one end and a humanities graduate at the other. Doctors are doctors and humanities graduates are public servants is one illustrative generalisation.

Accountancy as a field of study and work is firmly in the middle of the flexibility spectrum, possessing both technical professional expertise and generic and adaptable skills. In an era where change, resilience and adaptability are said to be essential, then accountants fit this requirement well. Even if the relevant analysts predict labour markets poorly, since it is an uncertain exercise, accounting graduates can adjust flexibly. They can both meet technical requirements for accountancy practice and meet general requirements for management and administration.

A SOL system should recognize adaptability of qualified occupations alongside the distinctive specialization skills that underpin much of the classifications adopted for statistical convenience as well as content elements. If the SOL approach continues to be used as a core factor in permanent entry selection this should receive appropriate recognition.

Similarly, as documented above, accountants are used across every industry in the economy, so that the outcomes for the profession are not dependent on the rise and decline of particular industries, but robust to patterns of industrial change. This augments the resilience of this occupation and hence its desirability as a core component of immigration.

Moreover, it is an occupation that is exceptionally well balanced in gender participation with half the workforce is female – and, obviously therefore, half is male. This enhances the national policy objective of equity in labour force participation and supports increased total workforce participation, where Australia has been shown to be substantially behind best practice in this area compared with developed mid-size nations such as Canada or Sweden (Withers et al., 2015).

Moving beyond occupational characteristics to occupational aggregates, the Department of Employment (2016b) projections indicate very strong and sustained growth in demand for accountants well into the future. This is confirmed by outside estimation, such as Ruthven in CEDA (2015) which shows how professional services have continued to grow (see Figure 21).

Figure 21 Changes in Australian Jobs by Industry 2009-14

Applied Economics

Source: Phil Ruthven, 2015 p.182.

Yet the domestic supply of new accountants has been constant or declining even though past levels were well short of demand. Worse, the domestic stock of existing accountants has one of the higher age profiles, with substantial retirements coming, as also documented above.

Migrants have filled this gap handsomely and must continue to do so if Australian growth is not be circumscribed unduly by a lack of these business skills. The price would be a rise in the costs of business as resort to less effective substitutes takes place. The past migrant inclusion on the SOL list has been accompanied by significant migrant supply, but strong relative salary outcomes continue for all accountants and strong employment rates too for graduates, as shown. The migrant supply moreover distinctively supplies a high leavening of experienced accountants, and is not only the prerogative of recent graduates.

The problem is that one major component of the current bifurcated Australian skilled immigration selection system has been progressively undermined in its ability to contribute fully to national development. With nominated entry being demand-driven for a mix of short and long term benefits, the long-term oriented independent migration becomes a residual with only loose linkage to the nominated stream. In recent years this has come to the detriment of independent accountant entry and thereby at the expense of national benefit therefrom (Table 3).

Table 3. Occupational Ceilings for Independent Skilled Migration: Accountants, 2013-17.

Year

Occupational Ceiling

2012-13

10,440

2013-14

9720

2014-15

5478

2015-16

2525

2016-17

2500

Source: Department of Immigration and Border Protection 2016, personal communication with CPA.

The requirement for present SOL listing for accountants is very strong indeed and, we predict, will be picking up even further into the medium and longer term future. There are other mechanisms that can assist in meeting needs, such as improved attraction strategies for domestic students into accounting studies. But this would defy longer term trend and will not happen quickly, particularly as this is a matter especially for autonomous universities and for earlier schooling and therefore it is either not easily susceptible to government policy leverage or it takes a very long gestation period to have its effect.

Nevertheless, as this report mentions earlier, more general policies such as undergraduate fee deregulation, if and when adopted, may have particular consequences for a field such as accounting. This is because current fees to domestic students are closer to full cost than in other fields. Hence fees elsewhere can be predicted to rise relative to accounting, inducing some students to switch into accounting studies to avoid the cost increases elsewhere that would be made possible by deregulation of undergraduate fees.

Such policies have not yet been adopted by government. The SOL determination therefore must for the present assume given or known education policies in Australia. This means that, as seen in all major projections and across a robust array of scenarios, there are both short-term shortages and mid- to long-term needs for advancing migration of accountants into Australia. For the short-term needs this can be accommodated by temporary entry. But the basic nation-building that the SOL should reflect also requires this, as shown in detailed evidence.

Implications of New Policies

In a previous report commissioned by CPA-CAANZ, it was concluded that there were opportunities for improving the immigration selection arrangements relevant to skilled immigration (CPA Australia and Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand 2015). This was for consideration by a DIBP Review of Skilled Migration and Temporary Activity Visa programs.

The CPA-CAANZ report suggested that simple “on-off” specifications in SOL should be avoided. The present approach was felt to have disproportionate consequences for what could often be fine or marginal changes in circumstances or judgement. A more graduated approach was instead suggested in the form of a sliding points scale. This could allow for averaging across past, present and future assessments.

It was also suggested that all permanent skill migration programs be subsumed in a re-invigorated universal point scheme, as is the case in Canada. SOL would then apply for all skilled entry. In this process, greater sophistication such as previously suggested here over matters such as occupational flexibility could be pursued.

Such recommendations have in turn benefitted from the major report from the Migration Council of Australia (2015) which used superior modelling to demonstrate the major economic benefits from sustaining and enhancing the nation’s migration settings. The advantages of this modelling over previous analyses are seen in Figure 22.

Since 2015 two further major reports have been released pertinent to the future settings for Australian immigration. These are important to mention here as both embed a continued SOL component, so that the 2016 SOL process is still pertinent both immediately and, if the reports have influence, further into the future. What is decided in the current SOL constitutes an important precedent.

The first of the two new major 2016 reports is that of the Productivity Commission, which inquired into Australia’s Migrant Intake (Productivity Commission 2016). The Commission was asked especially to look at full-pricing schemes for visa entry and it also looked at hybrid versions of these schemes. It rejected the utility of such approaches as potentially de-skilling and also as possessing likely adverse social costs.

Figure 22 Model Attributes in Major Australian Reports

Applied Economics

Source: Migration Council of Australia (2015), p.7.

Instead, in recognition also of some deskilling already taking place in the present selection system (as seen in the declining share of points based entry in Figure 23), the Commission commended the SOL as the appropriate sole basis for determining skills requirements for the different streams of the permanent skilled migration program, including for those using the Temporary Residence Transition visa.

Figure 23: Permanent Skill Stream Visas 1998-2015

Applied Economics

Source: Productivity Commission, 2016, p.23.

The Commission saw value though in a more “granular” treatment of occupations that cannot easily be allocated between different skill levels and in incorporating skill sets that are not occupationally specific.

Equally it recommended the adoption of a common points system for the entire permanent skill stream, including points for employer nomination within this scheme.

These Productivity Commission recommendations were consistent with the CPA- CAANZ approach. They are also consistent with the approach recommended in the recently released CEDA report on Migration: the Economic Debate (CEDA 2016).

This CEDA report recommends:

Reducing separate pathways and administered queues by integrating these through a refreshed Australian points system.

Building a common points system for all skilled permanent migration with additional points available within this system for employer nomination.

Incorporating and enhancing regional location points backed by temporary to permanent visa provisions for such location.

These are consistent with the direction of CPA-CAANZ and the Productivity Commission, with the addition of a particular concern for regional enhancement. This latter is also conducive to accountant entry as it is an occupation which does permit some significant dispersion which could reasonably be increased, as documented in part 1 of this report. The need to offset recent decline in regional migration is seen in Figure 24.

Figure 24 Migration Outcomes in Australia 2005-15

Applied Economics

Source: Department of Immigration and Border Protection (2016), p.15.

The broader point though for new policy is that the SOL decisions being made now are indeed likely to be crucially important for the future reconstruction of the Australian selection system, and accountancy is definitely an occupation and skill that will be at the core of present need and future arrangements.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS 2016), The Labour Force, Cat No 6202.0.

Access Economics (2009), The Australian Education Sector and the Economic Contribution of International Students, Report to the Australian Council on Private Education and Training, April

Australian Qualification Framework (AQF 2009), viewed, 13th October 2014 at http://www.aqf.edu.au/aqfqual.htm

Australian Treasury, 2016, Budget Strategy and Outlook 2016-17, Budget Paper No. 1

Australian Workforce Productivity Agency (2014), ‘The Demand and Supply of Accountants’, 2014.

Barnes, K. and Spearritt, P. 2014 (eds), Drivers of Change for the Australian Labour Market to 2030, Canberra, Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia

Birrell, B., and Healy, E. (2010). ‘The February 2010 reforms and the international student industry’, People and Place, 18, 65–80.

Booth, A., Leigh, A. and Varganova, E. (2012), “Does Ethnic Composition Vary Across Minority Groups? Evidence from a Field Experiment”, Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, 74(4), 547-561

CEDA (2016), Migration: the Economic Debate, Melbourne: Committee for the Economic Development of Australia

CPA Australia and Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia (CPA/ICAA 2014), Submission on the Skilled Occupation List for 2014, http://www.awpa.gov.au/our-work/labour-market-information/skilled-occupation-list/Documents/2014%20SOL%20Submissions/81%20-%20CPA%20and%20CA.pdf

CPA Australia and Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand 2015, Submission on the Simplification of the Skilled Migration and Temporary Activity Visa Programs, February

Corliss, M., Daly, A and Lewis, P. (2013), ‘The Rate of Return to Higher Education Over the Business Cycle’, Australian Journal of Labour Economics, 16(2), 219-236.

Deloitte Access Economics (2012), Economic Modelling of Skills Demand and Supply, report for the Australian Workforce Productivity Agency.

Department of Employment (2016a), Labour Market Research – Accountants, Australia, 2015-16.

Department of Employment (2016b), Employment Projections, http://lmip.gov.au/default.aspx?LMIP/EmploymentProjections

Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC 2010a) Introduction of New Points Test.

Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC 2010b) Frequently Asked Questions – New Points Test. Commonwealth of Australia. http://www.immi.gov.au/skilled/general-skilled-migration/pdf/points-testfaq.pdf

Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC 2010c) New Points Test. Commonwealth of Australia.

Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP 2014a), ‘The Outlook for Overseas Migration, June 2014’, https://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/statistics

Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP 2014b), Discussion Paper-Reviewing the Skilled Migration and 400 Series Visa Programs, Canberra, September

Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP 2014c), Outlook for Net Overseas Migration, Canberra, September.

Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP 2014d), Proposal Paper-Simplification of the Skilled Migration and Temporary Activity Visa Programs, Canberra, December

Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP 2014e), Student Visa and Temporary Graduate Visa Programme Trends 2013-14, Canberra.

Department of Immigration and Border Protection (2016), State-specific Regional Migration, Fact Sheet 26. http://www.border.gov.au./about/corporate/information/fact-sheet/26state.

Department of Industry Innovation and Science (DIIS 2016), http://www.industry.gov.au/Office-of-the-Chief-Economist/Publications/Documents/Australian-Industry-Report.pdf).

Foged, M. and G. Peri, 2013, Immigrants and Native Workers: New Analysis Using Longitudinal Employer-Employee Data, National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Papers, Vol. 14, No. 93.

Gribble, C., Blackmore, J., and Rahimi, M. (2015), “Challenges to Providing Work Integrated Learning to International Business Students at Australian Universities”, Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, 5(4), 410-416.

Gruen, D. (2014), “The Implications of Economic and Financial Trends and Globalisation for the Demand for and Supply of Skills” in Barnes and Spearitt, 43-54.

Hays (2015), Accountancy and finance- professional practice, October-December 2015, http://www.hays.com.au/report/accountancy-finance---professional-practice-931.

HSBC (2015), International Education, http://www.hsbc.com/news-and-insight/2014/international-education.

IBISWorld (2016), Accounting Services in Australia, IBISWorld Industry Report M6932.

Islam, A and Fausten, D 2008, “Skilled Immigration and Wages in Australia”, Economic Record, 84, S66-82.

Institute for Social Science Research (2010), Obtaining a Better Understanding of the Student and Skilled Graduate Visa Programs, Canberra: Department of Immigration and Citizenship,

Jocquier, F., Ozden, G. and Peri, C. (2010), The Wage Effects of Immigration and Emigration, NBER Working Paper No. 16646, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Kelly, R. and Lewis, P. (2010), ‘The Change in Labour Skills Over the Business Cycle’, Australian Bulletin of Labour, 36(3), 260- 77.

Knight Review, (2011), Student Visa Program Review, prepared for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

Lewis, P. (2008), The Labour Market, Skills Demand and Skills Formation, Research Report No 6, The Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, Canberra.

Lewis, P. (2015) ‘Technological and structural change in Australia’s labour market’, Ch 2.2 in Committee for the Economic Development of Australia, Australia’s Future Workforce, Melbourne.

Mavromaras, K., Healy, J., Richardson, S. Sloane, P., Wei Z. and Rong Zhu (2013), A System for Monitoring Shortages and Surpluses in the Market for Skills, report to the Australian

Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA).

Migration Council of Australia, (2015), The Economic Impact of Migration, Canberra.

Productivity Commission (2015), The Migrant Intake into Australia: Issues Paper, Canberra, May.

Rafi, B. and Lewis, P. (2013), ‘Indian Higher Education Students in Australia: Their Patterns and Motivations’, Australian Journal of Education, 57(2), 157–173.

Rafi, B. (2015), ‘The Employment and Occupational Outcomes of Indian Male Migrants in the Australian Labour Market’, Australian Journal of Labour Economics,18(1), 113-132.

Richardson, S. (2007), What is a Skill Shortage?, Report for the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, Adelaide.

Ruthven, P. (2015), "Where the jobs are" in CEDA, Australia's Future Workforce, Melbourne: CEDA.

Thomason, R. (2016), ‘The Skilled Migration / International Education Nexus: accountants case study’, paper presented at the Australian International Education Conference (AIEC), 18-21 October 2016.

Treasury (2014), Australia's Demographic Challenges – the economic implications of an ageing population, http://demographics.treasury.gov.au/content/_download/australias_demographic_challenges/html/adc-04.asp

Withers, G. Gupta, N. Curtis, L. and Larkins, N. (2015), Australia’s Comparative Advantage, Report for the Australian Council of Learned Academies: Melbourne

World Economic Forum (2016) The Future of Jobs: http://reports.weforum.org/future-of-jobs-2016/ .

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page