Accountants looking to leave South Africa

 ·11 Mar 2024

South African accountants are looking for better-paying jobs overseas amid an international financial sector talent crunch.

This is according to the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA’s) annual Global Talent Trends Survey 2024, which surveyed nearly 10,000 professional accountants from 157 countries.

Portia Mkhabela, Market Head of ACCA Southern Africa, said the shortage of talent, the cost of meeting pay rise demands, and the many job opportunities available to professional accountants make retaining talent incredibly challenging, with 64% of African respondents looking for work external to their company.

In Africa (including South Africa), the main reason for moving was the improved opportunities abroad, at 29%.

International experience to add to a resume was second and came in at 19%.

Thus, nearly 50% of the reasons for moving company are linked to emigration in some way.

This provides another hit to the accountancy profession, which has been hit by a perception issue.

South African Institute of Professional Accountants’ Karl Smith said that many students are not pursuing careers in auditing because they perceive it as less exciting or innovative.

“Gen Z (ages between 12 and 27) value purposeful work instead of routine office tasks, and there has been significant demand for hybrid and work-from-home environments which is not offered by the industry,” Smith said.

“Young professionals want a work-life balance, flexible work hours, and to see the positive results of their work in society – and this has particularly accelerated after the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Figures from the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants showed a drop in the number of candidates writing the Test of Competence (ITC), decreasing by 24% from 3,887 in 2021 to 2,946 in 2022.

Brain regain

Despite the increased number of accountants looking to move overseas, South Africa has recently seen a “reverse emigration” trend, in which skilled South African emigrants are returning home.

The reasons for the trend include South Africa’s increased standard of living relative to other nations, missing family, sunnier weather, and the ability to leverage foreign-earned currency.

Cape Town and the Western Cape are seeing an influx of former South African emigrants, with Stephan Thomas and David Burger from Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty saying that the Southern Suburbs are an incredibly popular destination due to the good schools in the area.

Rory O’Hagan from Chas Everitt said that the northern suburbs of Johannesburg are also increasingly sought-after among returning South Africans due to their proximity to Sandton and other commercial nodes.

Read: Positive signs for domestic workers in South Africa – but there’s just one problem

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