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5363.0 - Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, 1995-96  
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  • Developments in Measuring Australia's International Trade in Services (1995-1996) (Feature Article)

Feature Article - Developments in Measuring Australia's International Trade in Services (1995-1996)


This article was published in the 1995-1996 issue of Balance of Payments and International Investment Position (ABS Cat NO. 5363.0, p8-11)

Introduction
In response to the increasing importance of the services sector in the Australian economy, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has established a services statistics strategy that is reviewed by both ABS management and the Australian Statistics Advisory Council as part of the annual ABS planning processes. One aim of that strategy is to satisfy a growing user requirement for comprehensive and timely information concerning international trade in services. That aim is being pursued by the ABS through the implementation of an enhanced quarterly program of trade in services statistics, targeted at the main user needs in terms of both availability (range, frequency, and detail) and quality.

Availability of services exports statistics

Current data availability
Statistics on services exports and imports are, for the most part, compiled and disseminated as part of the various ABS publications and associated, more detailed, releases on request. The main publications are the monthly International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia (Cat no. 5368.0), the quarterly Balance of Payments, Australia (Cat no. 5302.0), and this annual Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia (Cat no. 5363.0). There are also various ABS electronic releases, such as PC AUSSTATS, that provide longer-term time series for much of the published
detail.

Currently, monthly international trade in services data are published one month after the reference month for very broad services groupings; quarterly data, with more services commodity detail, are published two months after the reference quarter; and the more detailed annual commodity and country information is published within the year following
the reference year.
The level of detail available about Australia's international trade in service varies according to the frequency with which the data are produced. In short, annual data are currently much more detailed than those available quarterly, which in turn are much more detailed than those available monthly. The following Table A indicates the extent of commodity detail available annually in this publication for services exports, and compares this with the availability of more timely commodity detail, noting whether that detail is published or otherwise released.



TABLE A: AVAILABILITY OF EXPORTS OF SERVICES STATISTICS, by commodity

MonthlyQuarterlyAnnual (Cat no. 5363.0)

Shipment
Freight*
Insurance*
Shipment
Freight
Insurance
Shipment
Freight
Insurance
Other transportation
Passenger services*
Port services*
Other transportation
Passenger services
Port services
Other transportation
Passenger services
Port services
Travel
Students' expenditure*











Other*
Travel
Students' expenditure











Other
Travel
Students' expenditure
Education services
Sponsored students
Subsidised students
Full fee students
Other goods and services
Sponsored students
Subsidised students
Full fee students
Total students' expenditure
Of which:
Long term/Short term stay
Other
Other Services
Official services*
Expenditure of foreign
governments
*
Expenditure of foreign
government employees*
Expenditure of resident
entity employees*
Financial services*
Insurance services nec
*
Miscellaneous services*
Other Services
Official services
Expenditure of foreign
governments

Expenditure of foreign
government employees
Expenditure of resident
entity employees
Financial services
Insurance services nec
Miscellaneous services
Communications services*
Construction services*
Computer & information services*






Royalties and licence fees
Other business services:
Merchanting and trade related
services
*




Rental & operational leasing *
Other Services
Official services
Expenditure of foreign
governments

Expenditure of foreign
government employees
Expenditure of resident
entity employees
Financial services
Insurance services nec
Miscellaneous services
Communications services
Construction services
Computer & information services:
- Computer consultancy, software
implementation & data
processing services

- Database services
- Newsagency services
- Computer & informat'n services nei
Royalties and licence fees
Other business services:
Merchanting and trade related
services

- Merchanting services
- Commission agents' services
related to trade in goods & services

- other trade related services
Rental & operational leasing
Miscellaneous business,
professional & technical services:

Legal, accounting, management
consulting & public relations*



Advertising, market research &
public opinion polling services*
Research & develop. services*
Architectural, engineering & other
technical services
*




Agricultural, mining & on-site
processing services
*




Other miscellaneous business,
professional & technical services

- Repairs & processing *
- Other*


Services between affiliated
enterprises*
Miscellaneous business,
professional & technical services:

Legal, accounting, management
consultancy & public relations
- Legal services
- Accounting & auditing services
- Management consultancy
Advertising, market research &
public opinion polling services
Research & development services
Architectural, engineering & other
technical services:

- Architectural services
- Surveying services
- Engineering services
- Technical services nei
Agricultural, mining & on-site
processing services

- Agricultural services
- Mining services
- Waste treatment & depollution
- Other on-site processing services
Other miscellaneous business,
professional & technical services

- Manufacturing services
- Other professional services nei
- Repairs & processing services
- Other services nei
Services between affiliated
enterprises
Personal, cultural & recreational
services:
- Audio-visual & related services*
- Other personal, cultural &
recreational services
*
Personal, cultural & recreational
services:
- Audio-visual & related services
- Other personal, cultural &
recreational services

- Education services
- Health & medical services
- Sporting, entertainment & cultural
services

* Unpublished data available on request.



Similar levels of commodity detail are available for imports of services (see Tables 12, 13 and 15 in this issue for the annual details). Exports and imports of services by partner country are also published annually, and more detailed cross-classifications of international trade in services by commodity, country and industry are also available on request, subject to the constraints of protecting the confidentiality of data providers.

Future availability of Australian level data
From the September quarter 1997 the ABS will be including more detailed international trade in services statistics in its quarterly balance of payments publication (5302.0). From that date, the detail shown above as currently available quarterly will be published.

Much of the additional detail currently released quarterly has been based on estimation of quarterly commodity shares from a sample of 800 businesses, and applying these shares to the annual estimates from a much larger sample. From the September quarter 1996 the ABS has been collecting data from 3,000 business quarterly to support the future publication of much more detailed estimates. In addition to the publication of more detail quarterly, the extra level of detail currently available only annually, will also be available on request, subject to confidentiality constraints.

Commencing with the September quarter 1997 the ABS will also be publishing quarterly (in 5302.0) total services exports by country/region of trading partner. The financial year services data cross-classified by commodity and country will be complemented with calendar year cross-classifications, and some details will be available quarterly.

Availability of international trade in services by State
The ABS has released certain international trade in services data cross-classified by State. These data are only available annually, and confidentiality severely restricts the detail that can be provided for some States and Territories. Table B below presents the currently available information at the State/Territory level for 1995-96.


TABLE B: INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN SERVICES BY STATE - 1995-96

New South
Wales
Victoria
Queensland
South Australia
Western Australia
Tasmania
Australian Capital Territory
Northern Territory & Unallocated
Australia

Credits
Debits
Credits
Debits
Credits
Debits
Credits
Debits
Credits
Debits
Credits
Debits
Credits
Debits
Credits
Debits
Credits
Debits

Transportation
}
7124
-10038
7124
-10038
Travel
}
11007
-6434
11007
-6434
Other services -
}
Official services
}
300
-447
300
-447
Non-official services -
}
Expend of foreign governments
}
171
..
171
..
Expend of employees
}
State dissections not yet available
455
-676
455
-676
Financial services
}
411
-276
411
-276
Insurance services
}
618
-896
618
-896
Miscellaneous services-
}
Repairs and processing
}
31
-35
31
-35
Merchanting
}
166
..
166
..
Communication services
}
861
-1040
861
-1040
Rental and operational leasing
np
np
np
np
np
np
np
np
np
np
--
--
--
--
np
np
7
-58
Agric, mining & on-site processing
np
np
np
np
np
np
np
np
np
np
--
--
--
--
np
np
49
-17
Manufacturing services
np
np
np
np
np
np
np
np
np
np
--
--
--
--
np
np
3
-6
Computer & information services
149
-131
41
np
np
-5
5
np
np
-2
--
np
--
--
np
np
218
-204
Professional services
208
-126
88
-141
24
-6
np
-24
9
-16
np
np
--
--
np
np
345
-317
Technical services
151
-87
41
-117
np
np
np
-10
52
-26
--
--
--
--
np
np
316
-245
M'ment fees between related cos
339
-328
39
-95
12
-11
np
np
11
-30
np
np
--
--
np
np
457
-499
Construction services
31
np
np
np
np
-
3
--
28
np
--
--
--
--
np
np
67
-28
Research and development
56
-79
34
-57
np
np
5
-1
np
--
--
--
--
np
np
105
-169
Other trade related services
87
-32
33
-142
2
-44
2
-11
--
-43
--
--
--
--
np
np
124
-273
Personal, cultural & recreational
67
-37
21
-24
6
np
19
np
8
np
np
--
--
--
np
np
128
-65
Royalties and copyrights
334
-1319
67
-366
22
-16
np
-58
15
-13
--
--
--
--
np
-59
454
-1830
Confidential items
5
-37
32
-94
50
-9
72
-21
20
-46
4
-5
--
--
81
-44
..
..
Total
1427
-2176
396
-1036
116
-91
106
-125
143
-176
4
-5
--
--
21225
-19945
23417
-23553



There are a range of options being investigated to enable the development of State based estimates for the transportation and travel commodities, and for the attribution of communications services by State. Some of the options will produce quite good State estimates (such as allocating travel services debits to the State of residence of Australian's travelling overseas). Other attributions will necessarily be less direct.

Quality of international trade in services statistics
Some of the initial estimates of international trade in services published in monthly, quarterly, and annual ABS publications are extrapolations which are progressively replaced as data from administrative sources and quarterly, annual and less frequent surveys become available. Obviously, data quality improves as one moves from initial estimates to more
comprehensive data sources.

As many of the surveys used to produce these estimates obtain information from a sample of enterprises the estimates are subject to sampling error. The relative standard errors are low for the broad aggregates but can be quite high at the detailed commodity level and where classified by country. Care should therefore be exercised when using this information.

The ABS also pays close attention to non-sample errors. These can arise as a result of undercoverage of relevant transactors and/or transactions, misreporting by respondents, errors in the processing of the data or incompatibility in data sources combined to compile estimates. Overall, the ABS assesses total monthly services debits and credits
totals to have a margin of error of between 10 and 15 per cent. The corresponding margins of error for quarterly and annual totals are assessed to be between 5 and 10 per cent.

Particular quality concerns apply to the way that both State and country estimates are currently being compiled. State data are estimated from the location of the management unit that is responding to the survey, regardless of whether that unit operates across more than one State. In addition, the sample is not currently designed for State estimates, and the sample error for some commodities is very high. The ABS is reviewing options for improving the State estimates as they emerge from the redeveloped quarterly survey over 1996-97 and considering design options for the 1997-98 quarterly survey cycle.

The country estimates are considered to be quite good for transportation and travel credits. In other services exports categories, however, the "unallocated" country code is often the second largest trading partner identified on the survey forms. Estimation methodologies, and collection approaches are being reviewed to see whether more meaningful
country data can be generated.

Future developments
In addition to the ABS surveys used to measure international trade in services, where significant steps have already been taken to improve the range, frequency and detail available, the ABS is investigating the use of data collected by other agencies in improving its estimates of international trade in services. In the December quarter 1996 issue of the Balance of Payments (5302.0), the use of revised data from the Australian International Education Research Foundation (which is part of the Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs) for the measurement of foreign student expenditure in Australia was explained, and the revised estimates are also included in this issue. As also noted in the December quarter 1996 issue of 5302.0, further research is underway to refine the use of both the new and existing information to improve estimates of travel services credits and related items within the balance of payments.

More generally, the ABS is pursuing improvements in the use of a range of other external data sources, and methodological improvements in the measurement of international trade in services will continue to be noted in the relevant monthly or quarterly publications.

Another possible future development is in regard to foreign affiliates trade in services data. This concept extends the balance of payments measures of trade in services to incorporate service delivery through the establishment of a commercial presence in foreign markets. The ABS is currently preparing an information paper which will explore this area of user demand, as well as the wider issue of globalisation statistics. However, in the short term it is not envisaged that data collections will be initiated or extended to include foreign affiliates trade as part of the statistical framework.

Further information
For further information about ABS international trade in services statistics, or to access more detailed data services, please contact Patricia Mahony on (06) 252 6012.


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