• Restrictive immigration policy driving down size of qualified workforce
The UK needs to recruit an additional 80,000 accountants by 2050 in order to satisfy the long-term demand for qualified finance professionals, according to specialist recruiter Randstad Financial & Professional.
Previous research from Randstad Financial & Professional forecast that in order to support the predicted UK population, the accountancy workforce would need to be 101,000 strong by 2013 if it were to meet the long term requirement of employing 156,000 accountants by 2050.
But the accountancy profession is now less likely to meet long-term demand than it was five years ago, following a 19% decrease in the number of qualified accountants. There are now just 76,000 qualified accountancy professionals in the UK compared to 94,000 in 2008. Randstad says the sector will find it increasingly difficult to meet long term demand following historic changes to visa rules which are restricting the sector’s available pool of skilled talent.
Tara Ricks, managing director of Randstad Financial & Professional, said: “In a complex global economy, talented, ethical and committed professionals have never been more highly valued. But you’d never guess that from the changes that have been made to our immigration laws over the years. The UK has shut the door on the skill-sets that the financial and professional services sectors need and a key part of people’s professional fulfilment– the opportunity to work abroad is starting to become a thing of the past. The South Africans were the first to be hit but as visa restrictions have kicked in, the number of employees from Australia and New Zealand has plummeted, too. Add to that the drain on the sector’s indigenous workforce as emerging markets in Singapore and Shanghai suck talent out of London and you have a brewing skills shortage in a key sector for the UK economy.”
In the wake of the visa changes, membership of NZICA UK, the UK branch of the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants, has shrunk 12% over the last five years – from 2,304 in September 2008 to 2,023 in September 2013. The number of South African accountants working here has fallen more dramatically – from roughly 4,880 in 2013 to just 2,760 today.
Tara Ricks said: “For many people part of their career development and professional fulfilment is the opportunity to work across the globe. In 2002, we were running highly successful recruitment schemes in Australia, attracting hundreds of candidates who often jumped on a plane the following month. Employees from Australia and New Zealand were particularly highly sought after on account of their similar academic path and excellent team player work ethic. Typically, they also had broader experience than their English counterparts. For instance, while newly qualified accountants in London often focus on a small number of very large transactions, their peers from Australia and New Zealand came to London having worked on a much wider spectrum of smaller clients – and that added a valuable dimension. The City used to be a mini Sydney full of Aussies pursuing their dream of working in London, sadly because mass immigration is a political football, I rarely hear the accent in our reception anymore.”
Accountants from New Zealand are currently battling changes to immigration laws:
“One of the most vexed issues for our members has been the limitation of immigration opportunities with the changes in UK legislation of recent years. A dedicated working group has been pursuing a relaxation of these rules in partnership with… the NZ High Commission and has taken the case for this to the highest government levels.”
Chairman of the UK local leadership team of the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants – Nov 2013
THE UK AS A WHOLE
The number of skilled immigrants arriving in the UK as a whole is a third (34%) lower than before the financial crisis (2007), while the number of workers leaving the UK is 15% higher compared to pre-crisis levels.
The UK workforce as a whole is currently 268,000 employees short of the number required across key sectors to satisfy the long term demand of the country.
Despite strong recent employment growth figures, the current workforce needs to be 29,352,000 strong – 0.9% higher than the number of people currently employed in the UK – for the country to be on track to achieve the necessary workforce size by 2050.
Previous research from Randstad Financial & Professional showed that with the UK population forecast to be 74.5m in 2050, the number of people employed across the country would need to be 34,772,085 in order to support demand. To reach this level of employment, the number of people in work in the UK would need to grow by 146,502 per year on average from its pre financial crisis level of 28,619,000 in 2008.
Migration will have to play an increasingly important role in bridging the shortfall of skilled workers in the UK as the growing population is expected to age significantly over the coming decades.
“In an international economy you simply can’t ban all forms of immigration. British people have been leaving Britain for centuries, just as people have been coming here for just as long a period. But we have to make immigration work for us.”
Kwasi Kwarteng, Conservative MP for Spelthorne – Feb 2014
COMPARISON WITH LEGAL PROFESSION
Like accountancy, the UK’s pool of legal professionals has also shrunk over the last five years and is significantly behind target to reach the required level by 2050. The number of legal professionals in the UK has actually fallen by 18,000 since 2008, meaning that the profession is 25% smaller than it should be in 2013, to meet demand in 2050.
The analysis showed that with a projected population of 74.5m, the UK will require a legal profession that is 156,000 strong by 2050 in order to meet demand. In 2013, the number of legal professional was just 69,000 – just 47% of the volume required by 2050