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October 2, 2023

Someone Tell Hong Kong There Is Not an Unlimited Supply of Offshore Accountants and Auditors

empty audit room

Hong Kong is suffering from “a serious talent shortage” according to an article today in South China Morning Post and The Hong Kong Association of Registered Public Interest Entity Auditors (PIEAA) says accounting firms should start looking overseas. Who knows, maybe they’ll find a hidden cache of accountants and auditors stashed away on North Sentinel Island.


The Hong Kong Association of Registered Public Interest Entity Auditors (PIEAA) said on Wednesday that a survey it had conducted between October 2022 and February 2023 of 313 Hong Kong-based accounting firms and students found that one in three accounting firms currently lacks 20 per cent of the needed manpower, and more than half are actively recruiting.

The association’s members employ a combined 16,000 people that handle the audit of all of Hong Kong’s more than 2,600 listed companies.
“The survey has made it clear that Hong Kong is facing a serious talent shortage in the accounting industry,” said Clement Chan Kam-wing, PIEAA’s chairman. “If the problem is not solved, it will mean some firms might not have enough manpower to do complex audit work, and this will affect Hong Kong’s position as a fundraising centre for listed companies.”

“The shortage of professional accountants in Hong Kong poses a significant challenge for both the industry, the audit profession and the overall economic landscape,” said Clement Chan Kam-wing, chairman of the PIEAA.

Because the shortage is greatest at the three-to-five years’ experience level, he also suggests that firms should maybe consider paying people better to attract talent. What a novel idea! We should try that here in the US. “It is time for accounting firms to review their remuneration package, for example giving young practitioners a realistic expectation of accounting work, flexible employment models such as part time or project-based employment contract,” he said. Auditors in Hong Kong often work all night during busy season and have to deal with psychotic managers like this.


Interestingly, student respondents to the PIEAA survey did not rank high pay as the most important factor to them (firms are so gonna run with that). 61 percent of them said work-life balance is very important, career development and reasonable work hours came in next at 58 percent each. Only a little more than half of respondents said pay and bonuses are very important.

And now for the offshore part. “The Hong Kong government should recruit talent from overseas markets to help solve [the shortage],” Chan said. “It is disappointing that the government has not added accountants to its list of imported labour recently.”

Deloitte and EY have already started doing this in Australia where the talent shortage was exacerbated by the country closing its borders in the early days of the pandemic. The US, UK, and Australia called dibs on talent in India (and they’re expanding) and the Philippines is beginning to experience their own accountant shortage. So I feel compelled to ask once more: where are they going to get this talent from??

Shortage of audit professionals will ‘affect Hong Kong’s position as a fundraising centre’, industry body says, asks government to recruit overseas auditors [South China Morning Post]

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