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ACCA: Public sector accountants more likely from disadvantaged backgrounds

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) has found public sector accountants are more likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds than their private sector peers.

ACCA’s Purpose and the Profession: Social Mobility and the Public Sector report found accountants working in the public sector were more likely to come from backgrounds where their parents had lower educational attainment and did not work as professionals or managers.

Head of ACCA’s public sector policy Alex Metcalfe said: “These results suggest that, globally, the public sector finance function is providing a more effective route into the profession for those from comparatively lower socio-economic backgrounds.

“This could be the result of better diversity and open access initiatives in the public sector or it could be led by an organisational culture that is more aware of biases, where some of these issues are overcome through additional processes such as name-blind application assessment.”

ACCA’s research showed that certain individuals benefited from an ‘entrenched advantage’ from early childhood through to school years which enabled them to present themselves as more work-ready than their peers.

In response to the ‘entrenched advantage’ some public sector employers have taken action to remedy this by offering guaranteed interviews to applicants from disadvantaged groups and by selecting candidates from more diverse backgrounds for hiring or promotion.

The report also found that two thirds of ACCA students and members in the public sector started their qualification when they were 26 or older compared to respondents in non-public sectors which were more likely to begin between 18 and 22.

ACCA vice president Mark Miller said: “My own observation is that many who join the public sector do so with a sense of service for their community and in many cases it is not until they have been there some years that they see the possibilities for advancement that come with a professional qualification.

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