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Demand for auditors rises sharply

Ernst & Young, one of the world's four biggest auditing firms, needs to hire 400 employees in mainland China every year to meet rising demand for auditors as multinational companies increase investments to take advantage of China's rapid economic growth, said a senior official of the firm.

“The bottleneck that hampers our development here is the lack of talents. Even if we hire around 400 university graduates every year, we still find that we do not have enough people to work in a colossal market,” said Anthony Wu, chairman of Ernst & Young Far East, Hong Kong and China's mainland, which now hires 1,700 employees in five cities, including Shanghai and Beijing.

Currently, China has only around 100,000 professionals who hold the Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, qualification.

China's soaring economic growth has prompted more foreign investors to set up operations here creating a huge demand for accountants.

“There are around 8 million companies operating on the mainland.

“Even if you use one auditor to audit two companies, you will still have a huge shortfall,” he said.

To attract more university graduates, Ernst & Young offers a graduate a pre-tax monthly salary of more than 8,000 yuan (US$964), which is almost equivalent to that of HK$9,000 (US$1,154) for a Hong Kong counterpart.

Wu said the auditing demand comes from not only the foreign-invested companies, but also the domestic firms.

“They are hiring more auditors than before whether they are state-owned enterprises or private companies,” Wu added.

What has impressed Wu most is the change in the attitude toward auditors by the state-owned enterprises as China opens its economy to the outside world.

When Ernst & Young was hired to audit Ma'anshan Iron & Steel Co Ltd in its first business contract with a state-owned enterprise, it encountered several obstacles such as being unable to see the documents necessary for auditing on the grounds that state secrets may be revealed.

“When we audited a state-owned enterprise in 1993, one company official even feigned to have contracted cancer to avoid meeting us,” said Wu.

But Wu is confident that such situations will not occur again.

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