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10 key countries for accounting careers

Where in the world can you find the warmest welcome for accountancy skills? Amy Duff takes a look

As economies such as China, India and the Middle East grow, so too does the demand for qualified accountants. Tougher trading climates also make the financial insight provided by chartered accountants even more valuable. As the adoption and updating of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) gathers speed, qualified accountants will be needed in increasing numbers to help organisations interpret and apply these complex standards. ICAEW’s ACA qualification is recognized in 170 countries in the world. So if you’re contemplating broadening your horizons and working in pastures new, here are 10 to whet your whistle.


Since the fall of communism in December 1989, Romania has undergone dynamic changes. The country experienced a boom on the back of accession to the EU in 2007 and, according to the World Bank, the last eight years have seen rapid economic growth. Despite the problems in the eurozone, the former finance minister says Romania has a "very comfortable" financing buffer amounting to €5bn.

In 2005 it adopted IFRS and in 2008 ICAEW launched its ACA qualification in Romania. Former ICAEW president Martin Hagen described accountants and auditors as "crucial for the continuing growth of the Romanian economy."

The cost of living is currently very low in Romania. Bucharest, its lively capital, is packed with restaurants, cafes, bars, museums and parks. Companies including all of the Big Four, Citibank, Renault and Visa have offices there and most expats in Bucharest work for major European corporations with smaller operations in Romania.

United Arab Emirates

The vibrant UAE is a federation of seven Emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain. With its liberal business environment, high standard of living, sunny climate, affordable housing and hospitable locals, the UAE continues to attract expats from around the world. The region experienced strong economic growth until the global economic downturn – in 2009, Abu Dhabi had to bail out Dubai to the tune of US$10bn. But its free zones remain attractive to business and companies including Rolls-Royce, BAe Systems and Deloitte have a presence in the UAE.

Companies generally follow IFRS and best industry practices for financial reporting. In terms of job opportunities the emirate is refocusing on its traditional strengths: trade, logistics and tourism. But professional services and advice is also sought by other sectors including banking and financial services, real estate, leisure and hospitality, retail construction, telecoms and energy.


Consistently ranked as either the best, cleanest, easiest, efficient or most competitive country in which to work, Singapore’s open immigration policy makes it easy for foreigners to enter the city-state. Its pro-business attitude means that government agencies work closely with the business sector to promote economic growth.

It slipped into recession in 2009 and the forecast for GDP growth stands between 1% and 3%. But compared with Western economies, growth is robust. Singapore’s vision is to be a leading global accountancy hub for the Asia-Pacific region. The Singapore Financial Reporting Standards are closely modelled after the IFRS. Major industries include manufacturing (particularly electronics, engineering, biomedical sciences and chemicals) and commerce. Many of the major long-term British investors have increased their footprint in Singapore recently, including Barclays, Dyson, HSBC, Rolls-Royce, Shell and Standard Chartered. Development of the IT, bio-medical and tourism sectors are the government’s next priority. 


A multi-ethnic, multicultural and multilingual society, Malaysia has become one of the world’s top locations for offshore manufacturing and service-based operations. The capital, Kuala Lumpur, is home to the Bank Negara Malaysia and a hub for finance, real estate, business, arts and media companies. There’s a diverse expat community and lots of expat jobs.

Already a "tiger" economy, Malaysia aims to become a developed country by 2020. In 2010 the country recorded a GDP growth of 7% – one of the strongest showings in the region. However, foreigners are encouraged to take up employment only in areas where there is a shortage of suitably trained Malaysians. CFOs, partners and senior accountants are predicting buoyant demand for qualified accountants over the next five years. Expats speaking a second language will have an advantage, particularly if it is Mandarin or another Asian language.

China and Hong Kong

No longer an emerging market, Greater China has transformed itself into a global superpower. According to ICAEW’s 2012 Economic insight: Greater China report, average annual growth of 10% for the past three decades means its output has roughly doubled every seven years. Hong Kong’s top spot on the World Economic Forum’s ranking of financial development and Shanghai’s fast growth as an important financial centre in its own right is attracting global corporations to the East. But as James Lee, ICAEW’s representative in Beijing says, there is still an acute shortage of qualified accountants in China. The Ministry of Finance and the Chinese Institute of Certified Public Accountants (CICPA) are working with ICAEW to attract top talent into the accountancy profession. "ICAEW actively encourages contact between Chinese and UK accountancy practice firms," says Lee. "We promote our members’ expertise to business and ICAEW has a reciprocal recognition agreement with the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA)."


The Australian economy has been ranked as the world’s most resilient for six out of the last eight years and is currently one of the best performing economies in the OECD. But the laid-back lifestyle is also a big draw. With the low cost of living, affordable quality housing, extensive healthcare benefits and one of the best education and social systems in the world, Australia has much to offer.

Key business centres in Australia include Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Australia is a leading financial centre in the Asia Pacific region and its alliance with markets throughout the region provides business people with a comprehensive range of financial services. As Richard Stokes, contact member for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia says: "Our members continue to find good career challenges and opportunities in Australia as well as enjoying the lifestyle. We have around 3,500 members here and we are ICAEW’s largest group of UK-qualified members based outside the UK. The local economy continues to expand while many other world economies struggle."


"With its warm and sunny climate, beautiful beaches and great golf courses, Mauritius is a nice place to live… and to work as a chartered accountant," says Jacques Pougnet, international liaison partner at BDO in Port Louis. It enjoys a long-established democratic tradition and political stability, while the people are friendly and bilingual (English and French). "Its economy (mainly financial services, tourism, ICT, sugar, textiles) has so far withstood the financial crisis and growth is currently estimated at slightly less than 4%", adds Pougnet. International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) have been adopted since 2001.

"The ACA qualification is prestigious and always in demand," says Pougnet. "There are over 10 organisations that are ICAEW authorised training employers. Mauritius is one of the countries with the highest number of ICAEW members in relation to its population."

Professional accountants must be registered with MIPA (Mauritius Institute of Professional Accountants) and non citizens must obtain a work permit.


PwC recently listed Vietnam as the fastest-growing economy among emerging markets. In 2011 the Vietnamese economy recorded an annual growth rate of 5.89%. With an increasing number of Vietnamese companies looking to trade internationally, and multinationals setting up base in Vietnam, there has been a private sector boom in recent years. The changes in Enterprise and Investment Law in 2005 also created new opportunities for foreign investors in Vietnam by establishing partnerships with local private firms. The major goal of Vietnam’s foreign direct investment (FDI) policy is to attract capital but also management skills in order to exploit the country’s potential and improve living standards.

The capital of Vietnam is Hanoi, which lies in the north of the country, but other major cities include Ho Chi Minh City (the primary economic hub), Can Tho, Hai Phong, Hue, Da Nang, Nha Trang and Da Lat. Over half of the US Fortune 100 companies have operations in Vietnam and it will only become more attractive with its continuing tax incentives, long coastline, low cost of living, increasingly modern and sophisticated port infrastructure and very friendly locals.

Vietnamese Accounting Standards are followed and ICAEW works closely with the Vietnam Association of Certified Public Accountants (VACPA) to advance the accountancy profession in Vietnam and South East Asia.


It manages around a third of all private and institutional offshore funds, but Switzerland is also renowned for its high-quality precision engineering industry. Other key sectors include pharmaceuticals, chemicals, telecoms, food processing and packaging, graphics and electrical and mechanical engineering.

The Swiss economy did relatively well during the global financial turmoil but is now struggling with the knock-on effects of the sovereign debt crisis in the neighbouring eurozone. Its largest banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, suffered significant losses in 2008-09 and the EU, the US and international institutions have increasingly put pressure on Switzerland to reform its banking secrecy laws.

But business expectations for revenue, profitability and employment are positive and Switzerland offers ideal operating conditions for foreign companies, including liberal and business-friendly legislation, political and financial stability and first-class infrastructure. According to expatfocus.com, a large percentage of Switzerland’s population consists of foreign nationals who move there for employment. Professionals working for large multinationals or in financial services tend to be found in Zurich.


Pakistan’s economy has fared much better than other developed economies during the financial crisis. The UK business community already has a significant presence in Pakistan, with investments in oil and gas, IT and telecoms, education, pharmaceuticals, and the financial services sector. Major British companies include HSBC, Barclays, GlaxoSmithKline, Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Chartered.

Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Gujranwala and Sialkot are the country’s key business centres and, according to expat Heather Carreiro, there is a big market in Lahore for qualified professionals. Many educated Pakistanis leave their country to settle in the West, which leaves a lot of room in the market for those with experience and education. "You may find yourself with several job offers within a short period of time," she says, adding: "Qualified foreigners can afford a higher standard of living in Lahore than in many North American or European cities."

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Originally published in Economia on 6 July 2012.