We are all aware that accountants are in great demand on the Belgian labour market. Yet, in the past year, barely 31% of the advertised accounting jobs were filled. How come?

It is not because they are not optimistic, according to a recent survey conducted by staffing specialist Walters People. "The role of the accountant is changing, but not everyone is on board yet," says Antje Mentens, Manager and specialist in the recruitment of accountants and finance specialists. She tells us what the job market for accountants currently looks like and where there are great opportunities for ambitious finance professionals.

More jobs than a year ago

The first quarter of 2020 started well, with a high demand for accountants at all levels. At the end of March we saw a setback due to the first lockdown, but the labour market recovered very quickly, and the number of vacancies for accountants increased again. By October 2020, the demand for accountants had even peaked.

Antje: "2021 also started very strongly. In February, the demand for accounting professionals was even higher than in the same period last year. That demand comes mainly from government, the banking sector, the consulting world and the medical sector."

Starters and managers

Newly graduated accountants (12%) are very popular. "We notice this particularly in accountancy firms. Fiduciaries who have a lot of hospitality businesses in their client portfolio are now preparing for the heavy workload that is coming as soon as the entertainment sector is allowed to relaunch their activities. They are now looking to recruit new talent, so it’s an excellent opportunity for graduates who will soon be entering the labour market.

Last year, barely 31% of the advertised accounting vacancies were filled. This is both for general management positions within accounting and for specialists in VAT, for example.

Group Accounting Managers appear to be the most sought after, representing 17% of the advertised accounting jobs. They are an important link in the financial health of an organisation, and management expects them to take on an advisory role as well.

Accountants are optimistic

The corona pandemic has left many professionals uncertain about the current labour market. However, Walters People’s recent Salary Survey reveals that accountants are optimistic about career opportunities in their field: no less than 70% of accounting professionals indicated that they are positive about their chances in the job market. What's more: 40% even claimed to be planning to change jobs this year.

8 months to 3 years

How long someone stays in their current job depends of course on several factors, including the level of experience. LinkedIn statistics show that accountants with limited experience stay in their job less long than someone at management level. An Assistant Accountant stays in the job for 8 months on average. An Accountant 1.4 years, a Senior Accountant 2.4 years and an Accounting Manager 3.1 years. "This does not necessarily mean that someone changes employer," says Antje. "It’s possible, but these figures could also mean that someone receives s a promotion with their current employer and thus only changes their job title. From Assistant Accountant to Accountant, for example.”

Specialist and advisor

Remember the days where accountants were nearly drown in piles of invoices? Digitalisation did not only mean less paper, but also less repetitive work such as scanning and archiving invoices, etc. "Organisations save a lot of time and money by doing this, and productivity in the team improves because information can be shared more easily and quickly. This also means that more time is freed up for accountants to dig into the numbers and draw conclusions. What do these figures say and what does this mean for my organisation? And what can we learn from this?

So here lies a great opportunity for ambitious accountants. After all, their insight into these numbers also enables them to make recommendations, and to think and grow along with the organisation. Doing so, the accountant evolves into a true advisor.

Very often we notice accountants specialise into a specific theme, such as VAT for instance. This means they can evolve into a true VAT specialist, which can only benefit the organisation."

Great career prospects

The jobs are there and so is the will to change. So the future looks very bright for accountants. Yet 31% of the vacancies remain unfilled. And that is a problem. Organisations really need finance specialists. Think for example of tax specialists. Due to increasing internationalisation and e-commerce activities, it is important for organisations to count on specialists in their team who know everything about transfer pricing and taxation.

"We can't stress it enough, but accountants who are ready for a new challenge or accounting graduates are advised to keep learning and specialising. That will open the door to a great career in what excites them most," concludes Antje.

Want to know more about the latest trends in the job market for accountants?

Watch our webinar "The future role of the Accountant: trends & insights in Belgium". Looking for a new challenge? Take a look at our accounting jobs.

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