Accountants beat the pay freeze

Pay freeze

March 07, 2013

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As if everyone wasn’t already depressed enough in February, the Office for National Statistics picked the 13th day of the month to release some unlucky data.

According to the ONS, UK workers have seen their earnings decline in real terms over the past four years because inflation has outstripped wage increases since 2009. So in real terms, we’re no better off than we were in 2003. Indeed, we’ve effectively worked close to a decade without getting a pay rise. And men who hold full-time jobs in the private sector have come off worst of all since their earnings are now worth even less in real terms than a decade ago. Ouch.

Once upon a time, people who worked 10 years for a company without getting a pay rise would have been tempted to hand in their notice. But resigning from UK plc is not an option that most of us have. So we will have to accept that our declining living standards will be a fact of life for the foreseeable future and hope that somehow or other we still end up with a decent pension at the end of the maelstrom.

Is any industry bucking the World Wage War during this time? The simple answer is ‘yes’. Research published by recruiter Marks Sattin shortly before the ONS statistics came out found that in 2012/13 UK accountants’ total pay climbed an inflation-busting 7% over the previous year. Average basic salaries were up 5% to £64,022 from £60,788 while their average bonus was £11,012. The figures represent the third year in a row of solid, above-inflation, pay growth.

Separate research by another recruiter, Ranstad Financial and Professional, has predicted that the UK is set to suffer an accountant shortage by 2050. After analysing EU data, Ranstad concluded that we can expect a shortfall of some 10,200 qualified accountants by midway through the century, mainly due to an ageing population. If this forecast turns out to be true, accountants should find that their skills are in high demand.

Of course, no one is suggesting that accountants are immune from the general economic malaise (plenty have still been made redundant and seen pay increases of far less than 7%). Nevertheless, Marks Sattin managing director Dave Way is right to declare that the findings are “a huge boost for accountants and offer proof of the resilience of accountancy as a profession”.

Sally Percy is a leading journalist and commentator on the accountancy profession. She is editor of The Treasurer and is a former editor of Accountancy magazine.