23rd October 2014
The whole industry experiences cyclical shortfalls in talent. Skills gaps can become entrenched at times and it can be difficult for a country or region to fill roles. When greater technology and regulation combine to alter the accounting landscape this situation can only become more likely.
Nowhere, though, is experiencing this skills gap as much as Malaysia, which needs 60,000 accountants by 2020 to support economic growth and rising living standards.
With this in mind, big efforts are being made by the country’s government to recruit. It’s taking the fight to other countries, seeking to recruit Malaysian accountants in places like London via an agency called TalentCorp. This body works with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) to provide candidates with an internationally recognised qualification. It means university graduates can study for the ICAEW international chartered accountancy qualification without having to leave Malaysia
After years of brain drain and talent leaking out of emerging nations, with graduates looking for opportunity and higher pay abroad, the tables are beginning to turn.
Andrew Harding, managing director of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, told the Financial Times that Malaysia has been aware of the shortage in trained accountants for some time.
“Countries should realise long-term growth and prosperity is primarily secured via skills, not pay rewards,” he said.
Indeed Malaysia has been hard at work to stem the brain drain for years as it aims to become a high income nation by 2020.
But it’s a big problem that will not be easily overcome. The World Bank has estimated one-fifth of Malaysians with tertiary education have left the country.
“Bright, hardworking young people study for and obtain excellent qualifications, and then leave, never to return,” ICAEW chief executive wrote in The Accountant. “Many countries have suffered this problem over the years, but it is the scale of the problem for Malaysia that is so virulent; the number of emigrants has tripled in the last two decades.”
However, it’s not just in emerging markets where there is a gap. Developed economies are also finding it hard to recruit accountants. A report from APSCo last year noted a “major skills shortage” in accounting and finance in the UK.