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HKICPA announces findings from survey on accounting talent supply. Advocates the inclusion of accounting profession in the “Talent List” to alleviate talent shortage and promote economic development

16 January 2024

The Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA) conducted a survey to gain insights from members into the current state of talent supply within the accounting profession in Hong Kong and formulate feasible measures for facilitating talent attraction for the profession. Based on the findings of the survey, the HKICPA proposes several recommendations to address the current staffing shortage in the accounting profession and promote economic development in Hong Kong. One key suggestion is to include the accounting profession in the Government's Talent List, which would highlight the strategic importance of accounting expertise and attract talented individuals to the industry.


The survey was conducted from late November to early December 2023. The HKICPA issued online questionnaires to all members, which include both Professional Accountants in Practice (PAIPs) members and Professional Accountants in Business (PAIBs) members, to gain insights into the current state of staffing shortage within the accounting profession in Hong Kong, understand the challenges faced in attracting and retaining accounting professionals, as well as explore potential solutions and support measures to attract talent.


According to the survey result, 61% of the respondents ranked the extent of talent shortage impact at 7 or above (where 1 represents no impact and 10 indicates severe adverse effects); with 25% of them indicating a rating of 9 or above. Approximately one third (32%) of the respondents stated that their companies or organizations currently have a vacancy rate of over 10% for accounting and finance-related positions. Among PAIPs, 10% of them have a vacancy rate of over 50%, highlighting the magnitude of the talent shortage challenge.


Around 23% of the respondents took at least 7 months or above to fill the accounting and finance-related positions. Among PAIPs, 28% took over 1 year to fill the positions, indicating the difficulties in recruitment. Meanwhile, over 60% (62%) of PAIPs indicated that “Junior Level” job positions were the most difficult to recruit, when compared to “Supervisory Level” (22%) and “Management Level” (16%) positions.


To help address the staffing shortage issue in the industry, the respondents suggested to provide funding support to employers, increase investment in education and training to develop local talents, introduce incentives and subsidies to attract overseas professionals, etc.


Mr. Roy Leung, President of the HKICPA, said, “Different industries in Hong Kong are facing a certain level of talent shortage. There is no exception for the accounting profession. In view of this, the Institute and the industry have been dedicated to developing and attracting local talents. With the prerequisite of securing development opportunities for local accounting talents, we suggest the Government to further roll out measures to attract accounting talents from overseas as well as Mainland China to work in Hong Kong. The accounting profession is an important cornerstone for the financial and economic development of Hong Kong. The relevant measures will contribute to expanding a local talent pool of professionals and promoting overall economic development.”


Nowadays, multiple schemes have been set up by the Government to attract non-local talents to reside in Hong Kong for work. For instance, the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP), Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (IANG), Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS) and Top Talent Pass Scheme (TTPS), etc. However, the HKICPA’s survey found that 81% respondents have not applied for any of the aforementioned talent admission scheme to recruit talent, generally due to lacking awareness of the talent admission schemes or not finding them appealing. Some also found the application processes overly complicated.


The Hon. Edmund Wong, Legislative Council member (Accountancy) said: “The profession has been expecting the Government to address the staffing shortage issue, through implementing measures to increase talent supplies, such as including accounting profession into the ‘Talent List’, to fill the gap of talent shortfall nowadays, which helps uphold the service standard of the profession and solidify Hong Kong’s status as international financial centre.”


The HKICPA survey also found that 66% of respondents agreed that the accounting profession should be included in the Government’s Talent List, and believe this initiative could assist Hong Kong in terms of attracting accounting related professionals. About 90% (89%) respondents agreed with the following requirements if the accounting profession were to be included in the Talent List: 1) Obtained a degree in accounting / business major from a recognized university or a tertiary educational institution, with accounting-related work experience; 2) Proficient in written and spoken Chinese (Putonghua or Cantonese) or English; 3) Obtaining full membership of HKICPA or equivalent qualifications is preferable. Also, about 40% of respondents prefer non-local accounting talents having at least 3 years of working experience.


Summarizing from the survey findings above, HKICPA proposed the Government to include the accounting profession in the “Talent List” to speed job vacancies filling process up through recruiting non-local accounting talents. To ensure recruiting competent talents, HKICPA proposed that the talents should have obtained a degree in accounting / business major from a recognized university or a tertiary educational institution, proficient in relevant language, and having at least 3 years of accounting-related working experience.


On the other hand, over 70% (73%) of survey respondents agreed that students from the Greater Bay Area (GBA) represent one of the most readily accessible talent pools. To attract more accounting talents from the GBA to work in Hong Kong, the HKICPA invites the Government to expand the scope of IANG to cover the Institute’s accredited programmes offered by Mainland China and Macau universities, thereby increasing the included number of higher education institutions from two to five.   


The HKICPA also proposes that the Government should offer subsidies to members of the Chinese Institute of Certified Public Accountants (CICPA) and non-local students members graduated from universities in the Mainland China, to support their pursuit of completing the Qualification Programme (QP) offered by the Institute. The HKICPA believes this initiative would provide aspiring accounting professionals the opportunity to obtain an internationally recognized accounting qualification while gaining valuable exposure to the Hong Kong business environment. 


HKICPA shoulders the statutory responsibility of developing the accounting profession of Hong Kong and has undertaken various initiatives to support talent attraction within the accounting industry. For instance, the Institute has set up “HKICPA Source”, an online recruitment portal which features recent accounting job postings; the “Experiential Business Learning Programme” was also launched to provide job placement opportunities for students of tertiary institutions, and for small and medium practices to develop a talent pipeline to meet their manpower needs; collaboration with secondary schools and tertiary institutions is also enhanced to promote the important role of the accounting profession for Hong Kong economy and its development as an international financial centre. The Institute recently launched the “Employer Tool Kit” designed to assist employers and relevant stakeholders in effectively communicating the characteristics, advantages and development prospects of a career in accounting to attract talent.


For detailed findings from HKICPA’s survey on accounting talent supply, please visit the website.