Balancing the books: New partnership aims to safeguard careers in changing accountancy sector

Office workers along Singapore River walking towards the central business district, on April 25, 2017.
Office workers along Singapore River walking towards the central business district, on April 25, 2017.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - With accountancy jobs increasingly under threat from technology and global competition, a new partnership has been set up to identify positions in the sector that are at risk and ways in which workers can retrain for other roles.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Singapore Accountancy Commission (SAC) are working together to manage disruption in the sector, which has seen the number of residents in accounting and book-keeping positions fall by 4,900 - 15 per cent - between 2012 and 2017, NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay revealed in a blog post on Tuesday (Aug 7).

The impact of technology can take around five years to be felt, and such roles may become obsolete in 10 to 20 years, Mr Tay believes.

"We must use this time, while our workers are still employed, to upskill and prepare our workforce for the higher-value jobs of the future, so that when their current jobs are eliminated, they can still remain employed and employable," he wrote.

The NTUC and SAC will develop tailored programmes for accountancy and book-keeping clerks, so they can "take charge of their career progression", he added.

More than 40 chief financial officers and chief human resource officers held a meeting in April on managing disruption.

It followed a move last December to have some 160 member banks under the Association of Banks in Singapore adhere to human resource practices in which they should actively assess the impact of technology on their workforce.

According to the HR tripartite advisory, banks here would have to retrain and redeploy staff to areas of job growth through professional conversion programmes.

Changes are afoot in the accountancy sector, with 76 per cent of participants in the April meeting agreeing that technology will be a key driver of disruption.

They also agreed that there is a need to train at-risk workers and boost their communication, analytical, digital and change management skills.

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants will also encourage small- and medium-sized businesses as well as such professional services firms to use technology to transform their businesses while taking steps to develop their workers' skills.

Mr Tay added: "There is a need to raise workers' awareness of the changes that are coming and the urgent need for them to accept and embrace change."