Jamie Bishop, partner at McLean Delmo Bentleys, says the pressure on accounting firms’ profitability and margins is forcing firms to outsource work, reducing the number of entry-level jobs and “lower clerical” jobs in Australia.
“There [are] definitely negative implications, in that I guess to some extent you are sending work offshore that would otherwise be done by someone on the ground in Australia,” Mr Bishop said.
“Typically all this work is at the lower clerical end, but what that means is if you’re at a lower clerical end of the workforce, then possibly those jobs are numbered or [are] certainly going to become a lot scarcer.”
Mr Bishop said the people most likely to lose jobs and training opportunities are accounting graduates, as basic work such as tax returns and cash book entries for small businesses is the easiest to outsource.
“One of the big issues with outsourcing is that historically that sort of clerical work is where graduate accountants do a lot of their learning,” Mr Bishop said.
“So if you outsource all of that work, the question becomes, ‘How do you train your graduate accountants?’.”
Despite the potential detrimental effects of outsourcing, Mr Bishop said the practice will continue to increase so that firms can stay competitive and avoid being “priced out of the market”.
“The fact is you can get a fully qualified accountant in India for 15 to 20 per cent of the cost of a fully qualified accountant in Australia; those people are highly trained and highly skilled individuals,” Mr Bishop said.
“It’s not rocket science to see the opportunity there is, and particularly in this day and age of computerisation and communications, the tyranny of distance and location is not such an issue.”
Mr Bishop said outsourcing will continue to be a “huge issue for the profession” in 2017.
“Anyone that doesn't outsource is increasingly going to drop out of the market space because they just won't be able to compete,” Mr Bishop said.