5204.0 - Australian System of National Accounts, 2004-05  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/11/2005   
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Feature Article: Updated National Accounts Annual Benchmarks


Each year the annual and quarterly national accounts are revised using updated annual benchmarks from annual supply and use tables. Annual supply and use tables provide a balanced measure of GDP from the production, income and expenditure approaches. Usually, only data for the latest four years are revised, however, for this annual cycle, the complete time series has been revised. The impact of the revisions can be seen largely in changes to the levels of GDP and component series rather than in revisions to the movements in these series. Further, because revisions to annual movements are small the quarterly pattern of the time series will largely remain as currently published.

The revisions come from four sources:

  • changes to annual source data due to changes in the methods used to collect and compile the annual economic activity data that form the basis of the annual supply and use tables
  • the incorporation of updated benchmark information
  • changes arising from work on the 2002-03 Information and Communication Technology (ICT) satellite account
  • changes from improvements in methods used to estimate various components of GDP.

The purpose of this article is to inform users of the changes that underlie the estimates presented in this publication. Quarterly data consistent with these revised annual data will be released in the September quarter 2005 release of Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product (cat. no. 5206.0) on 7 December 2005. Annual state accounts data consistent with these revised annual data will be released in the 2004-05 release of Australian National Accounts: State Accounts (cat. no. 5220.0) on 9 November 2005.


Table 1 below presents a number of key current price measures published in this edition of 5204.0 and the corresponding estimates as published in the 2004 edition. The revisions shown are the differences between the respective measures. It can be seen that gross domestic product has been revised by $21.9 billion in 1999-00 and by $25.0 billion in 2003-04. Revisions to gross national income are of a similar order of magnitude. Revisions to GDP per capita, national saving and household saving are also shown.

The graphs following Table 1 show the previously published estimates of annual percentage change in GDP in volume terms compared to to the estimates published in this edition. These movements are very similar. The second graph presents the respective movements in implicit price deflators (IPD) for the same period, 1994-95 through 2003-04. Again revisions to the movement of the IPDs are minimal.

Table 1. Comparative estimates, Pre and post historical revision - Current prices


Estimates in this publication

Gross domestic product
645 153
689 340
735 783
782 798
838 251
GDP per capita
33 882
35 751
37 676
39 621
41 946
Gross national income
626 904
670 603
716 116
760 307
814 517
National saving
28 693
26 709
33 452
34 405
42 384
Household saving
7 282
10 303
5 486
-10 235
-15 329

Estimates as per 2004 edition of 5204.0

Gross domestic product
623 461
668 426
713 229
758 147
813 225
GDP per capita
32 735
34 667
36 521
38 374
40 647
Gross national income
605 205
649 724
693 929
736 678
789 980
National saving
22 447
23 230
28 165
27 006
33 198
Household saving
6 175
12 087
3 320
-12 584
-15 227


Gross domestic product
21 692
20 914
22 554
24 651
25 026
GDP per capita
1 147
1 084
1 155
1 247
1 299
Gross national income
21 699
20 879
22 187
23 629
24 537
National saving
6 246
3 479
5 287
7 399
9 186
Household saving
1 107
-1 784
2 166
2 349

Graph 1. GDP volume measure, Percentage change
Graph: Graph 1. GDP volume measure, Percentage change

Graph 2. Implicit price deflators, Percentage change
Graph: Graph 2. Implicit price deflators, Percentage change


The primary source used to compile annual benchmark estimates of gross value added by industry and the compensation of employees and gross operating surplus components of income is the information that underlies the ABS publication Australian Industry (cat. no. 8155.0). The most recent edition of this publication was released in February 2005. Those estimates incorporate the impact of a number of significant changes to the way ABS collects and compiles business and economic statistics generally. These changes have the largest impact on the annual national accounts series published in this annual cycle.

The most significant revisions to the data published in 8155.0 came from the introduction of changes associated with The New Tax System (TNTS) that had a number of significant implications for ABS business statistics. A description of the changes was initially presented in Information Paper: ABS Statistics And The New Tax System (cat. no. 1358.0) that was released on 26 April 2000. The paper foreshadowed changes in the statistical infrastructure used by the ABS to support compilation of ABS economic series. Information Paper: Improvements in ABS Economic Statistics [Arising from the New Tax System] (cat. no. 1372.0) released on 6 May 2002 provided further information about these changes and their treatment in statistical series.

Most of these changes directly impacted on the ABS Business Register (ABSBR), which contains a list of businesses from which samples are selected to collect data for ABS economic series, including the annual Economic Activity Survey (EAS). The series have been impacted by the changes in the following ways:

  • the population of businesses has increased
  • the statistical units model, i.e. the way in which business structures are represented on the ABSBR, is more closely aligned with taxation reporting requirements
  • the industry classification of some businesses has changed.

Annual benchmark information for the annual supply and use (SU) tables comes from a data set that is a combination of directly collected data from EAS and annual Business Income Tax (BIT) data. This combination creates the 'EASTax' data set. The changes to the ABSBR listed above impact on both elements of the EASTax data, and hence the aggregate impact of the changes have fed directly into the annual supply and use benchmarks leading to an overall increase in the level of output, intermediate consumption and GDP, as shown in Table 1 above.

In addition, because the industry code being used for the majority of units is now sourced directly from the Australian Business Register, there have been shifts in the allocation of output and intermediate consumption, hence value added across industries. The main industries affected by this change are Manufacturing, Property and business services and Retail trade. The revisions to gross value added by industry, in respect of 2002-03, are shown in Table 2 below.

Overall GDP has been revised upwards by 3.1% for 2002-03. Although somewhat smaller in dollar terms, a number of industries have been revised significantly in relation to the previous estimate. For example, both Cultural and recreational services and Personal and other services have new estimates that are over 20% lower than previously published.

In order to implement the revised level in the time series of national accounts, EASTax data were compiled on both the new and old basis for 2000-01. Data on the new basis were also available for 2001-02 and 2002-03. This enabled a good understanding of the changes in levels and the impact on movements from the changes to be assessed. The general strategy for backcasting prior to 2000-01 has been to preserve the existing movements by industry but to shift the level of the series to the new basis. Care has been taken to ensure that the revised time series are economically meaningful by using all available information.

The updated information from the annual EASTax data source provides a comprehensive measure of the Australian economy. In the past the annual SU benchmarks were compiled using more industry specific information (for example, using annual manufacturing survey information for the manufacturing industry estimates). While these industry specific data were not inconsistent with the broader EASTax dataset there were some concerns about possible overlaps and gaps between the different surveys in terms of complete coverage of the economy. The application of the updated EASTax data in this round of annual SU tables has been completed in a far more comprehensive fashion. While there have been some shifts in the relative size of different industries, the overall basis for the measurement of macroeconomic activity has been improved. Work is currently underway to further improve the integration of the range of economic surveys with a particular interest in better aligning product and industry level source data and quarterly and annual source data.


In addition to incorporation of updated benchmark information from the EASTax data source, a range of other updated benchmarks have been incorporated.

Capital formation on alterations and additions to dwellings

Estimates of capital formation on alterations and additions to dwellings are based on the compilation of benchmarks that use a variety of source data. A new benchmark for 2002-03 has been compiled by combining data from the ABS Construction Industry Survey 2002-03, the ABS Household Expenditure Survey 2003-04 and the 2003 BIS Schrapnel survey on the Home Improvements Market in Australia. The 2002-03 estimate of alterations and additions based on these new benchmarks is $22.9 billion, a revision of $3.2 billion on the previously published estimate. Interpolation between benchmarks and extrapolation from the latest benchmarks are based on quarterly building activity survey data for alterations and additions.

Output of financial intermediaries

Estimates of the output of financial intermediaries such as banks and credit unions are based on data on the balances of deposits and loans held by these institutions and the counterparties to those balances. This information is published quarterly in Australian National Accounts: Financial Accounts (cat. no. 5232.0). In 2003 the balances data in the financial accounts were revised to incorporate changes required to record the data on the conceptual basis presented in the international standards for national accounts, System of National Accounts 1993 (SNA93). This updated balances information has now been incorporated in the estimation system for measuring the output of financial intermediaries. The 2002-03 estimate of FISIM based on these revised balances is $1.2 billion lower than the previous estimate. Consequently estimates of financial sector gross operating surplus and consumption of financial services by using industries and by the household and general government sectors have been revised downward.

Taxes on production

A number of changes to the aggregate taxes on production have been made. First, in the course of introducing the goods and services tax (GST) into the national accounts, data relating to collections of wholesale sales tax (WST) were removed from the accounts from the September quarter 2001 and later quarters. This was done to more accurately record the taxes on an accruals basis, as these transactions where considered to relate to production in previous periods. In the course of making these adjustments, the wine equalisation tax (WET) and the luxury car tax (LCT) were also inadvertently excluded. These ongoing sales taxes have now been included in the estimates resulting in an increase in the level of taxes on production for 2000-01 and later years. Second, taxes paid by the general government sector are now included in the estimates of taxes on production rather than being netted out. Third, the treatment of fringe benefits tax has been changed and it is now classified as a tax on income rather than as a tax on production.

The impact of each of these changes are not the same, some contribute positively to the aggregate, others negatively. In 2002-03 the net impact of these changes resulted in a downward revision of $0.4 billion.

Other annual source data

In addition to the changes outlined above updated data from the balance of payments, public finance and the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA) have been incorporated.


The ABS is developing a satellite account on the measurement of information and communication technologies (ICT) in respect of 2002-03. This work examines a range of ICT products and essentially involves confrontation of measures of these products through a supply and use framework, thereby improving the overall cohesiveness of our ICT-related estimates. This exercise has given rise to benchmark level and time series revisions for a number of national accounting aggregates, in particular to gross fixed capital formation on computer software and computer hardware and to certain components of household final consumption expenditure.

Benchmark estimates of gross fixed capital formation of computer software are produced for those years for which detailed information is available. Appropriate indicators are then used to interpolate between these benchmarks and extrapolate beyond the most recent benchmark year. Prior to the release of this publication, benchmarks for gross fixed capital formation of computer software (the most recent of which related to 1994-95 and 1995-96) had been moved forward solely on the basis of imports of computer software. Various data collected by the ABS have allowed the production of more recent benchmarks. At the same time, the indicators used to interpolate between benchmarks and extrapolate beyond the most recent benchmark have been improved. Of particular note is that the number of computing professionals will now be used as the indicator for the series 'customised computer software', since this is considered a more appropriate indicator for this type of product. Revisions to gross fixed capital formation on computer software extend back to 1984-85. The estimate of private gross fixed capital formation on software has been revised down by $0.8 billion in respect of 2002-03.

The 2002-03 estimate of gross fixed capital formation of computer hardware has been revised upwards by $0.9 billion based on data obtained from the 2002-03 ABS Government Technology Survey and the 2002-03 ABS Economic Activity Survey. Historical estimates for this item have been revised back to 1993-94.

Investigations associated with the 2002-03 ICT satellite account have also led to changes to the household final consumption expenditure categories of 'communications' and 'recreation and culture'. For communications, the 2003-04 Household Expenditure Survey (HES) has been used to create updated benchmark information on household spending on telephone carrier services. Data from the ABS Household Use of Information Technology Survey (HUIT) and the ABS Internet Activity Survey provide the basis for updated estimates of household expenditure on Internet provider services. For 2002-03 the upward revision to the current price estimate for this component is $0.7 billion.

The 2003-04 HES also provided the updated benchmarks for household final consumption expenditure on computer hardware and computer software. For these latter items, the indicators used to interpolate between benchmarks and extrapolate beyond the most recent benchmark have also been updated and are now based on information derived from HUIT and the ABS Census of Population and Housing.

Improved estimates of price change for computer software have also been developed. Previous estimates for price change on the three types of computer software (prepackaged, customised and own-account) assumed a constant price fall of 6% per annum. The new methodology provides separate price indexes for each of the three components. The US Bureau of Labour Statistics index for prepackaged software is used, adjusted for some exchange rate variation. The price index for own-account software was derived from labour price index data, adjusted for changes in labour productivity for the IT industry. The customised index is a weighted average of the prepackaged index and own-account software index. The revised indexes show an ongoing price decline for computer software but to a smaller degree than the current estimates. On average the weighted price index for software over the last five years declines at an annual rate of 4.5%.


Compensation of employees

The current method for estimating compensation of employees (COE) is complex and requires the use of a range of data sources to ensure complete coverage of all employees and the various types of remuneration. To date, the primary data sources for COE have been the Quarterly Business Indicators Survey (QBIS) and the quarterly Survey of Employment and Earnings - Public Sector (SEE). These two sources measure wages and salaries for the private and public sectors respectively. Other elements of COE such as superannuation contributions and payments in kind are sourced from the annual EASTax data set and some ATO data on fringe benefits. Some recent conceptual developments and data confrontation exercises have led to a change in approach that affect the level of the COE series but do not impact greatly on movements in COE.

It has been decided to incorporate fringe benefits tax (FBT) as part of COE. In the past FBT was treated as a production tax paid by business and, while included in the calculation of GDP it was not part of COE. The new treatment leaves GDP unchanged but increases the income taxes paid by individuals in the household income account. Household saving is unaffected. It has also been decided to change the treatment of the superannuation contributions tax. This tax was treated as income tax payable by corporations but this has been changed to be shown as income tax payable by individuals. There is no impact on GDP from this change but the level of household saving is reduced. This is offset by an increase in the saving of the corporation sectors.

A number of changes have been made to data sources. First, the annual benchmarks for wages and salaries for private sector units and public corporations are now sourced from the annual EASTax data rather than by summing quarterly survey data. Data for general government units continues to be sourced from SEE. This change means that around 80% of COE will come from a single data source. Second, a new benchmark for payments in kind has been introduced using data from the irregular Survey of Labour Costs 2002-03. Third, better measures of COE flows to and from non-residents have been introduced.

Overall the change to the estimates of compensation of employees has been significant, with an upward revision of $18.1 billion in respect of 2002-03. Average compensation per employee in 2002-03 has been revised up by $1,434 to $46,122. Comparative estimates of the various components of the income measure of GDP are presented in Table 3.

Agriculture industry value added

An improved derivation of intermediate use in the Agriculture industry has been introduced leading to changes in the estimate of value added. Previous estimates of intermediate use were derived as a residual, by deducting estimates of compensation of employees, gross operating surplus and other taxes on production from output. Intermediate use is estimated directly in the new method. This is possible because reliable external data sources and EASTax data are now available. Other methodological changes to measures of Agricultural industry value added include valuing agriculture output at gross value of agricultural production, rather than at local value of agricultural production, and using EASTax based wages and salaries and employer social contribution estimates.

The way in which data on agricultural income are published have also changed. The separate Agricultural income tables that are published in the various national accounts releases have been maintained but there have been changes to some line items to better reflect the valuation concepts used in the supply and use tables.

Construction industry value added and associated outputs

Previously, the estimates of output and intermediate input recorded in the supply and use tables were on a net basis, that is transactions within the construction industry by sub-contractors and the like were not recorded. The improved methodology adopted for this update recognises these intra industry flows, i.e., the transactions are now recorded on a gross basis. This approach has been facilitated by data from the 2002-03 Construction Industry Survey, which will enable improved estimation and analysis for this industry into the future.

The outputs of the construction industry such as dwellings and other buildings are of particular analytical interest. Using data from the 2002-03 Construction Industry Survey and the new method outlined above, a data confrontation exercise was undertaken against the long standing ABS data sources for building and construction activity. It is difficult to reconcile the estimates from these different sources precisely for a variety of reasons. However, on the basis of this information and some additional demand side data available on the value of alterations and additions, improved estimates of the value of alterations and additions on residential buildings and non-residential buildings have been compiled. The overall effect has been an upward revision to the level estimates of capital formation, private and public, for alterations and additions to both residential and non-residential buildings. In respect of 2002-03 these changes have resulted in a revision of $9.2 billion to the level of private gross fixed capital formation. However, movement estimates remain largely unaffected. Comparative estimates of the various components of the expenditure measure of GDP are presented in Table 4.

Retail industry value added

Annual estimates of value added for the Retail industry are now based on the annual EASTax data source described above. These were previously based on the 1998-99 Retail Industry Survey, moved forward using subannual indicators such as the Monthly Retail Trade series. The level of sales by retailers are higher as a result of this change, although movement estimates are largely unaffected. This in turn has resulted in various upward adjustments to some categories of household final consumption expenditure.

Education industry value added and associated outputs

Estimates of value added for the education industry now directly incorporate information from the EASTax data set. This information provides a measure of the activity of non-government schools and commercial education providers. The contribution of government schools and other government educational facilities are estimated separately, then consolidated with the above information. These estimates were previously compiled through a hybrid methodology that involved aggregation of various demand side estimates of education.

Adoption of this improved method for estimating the output of education industry highlighted a deficiency in the estimates of household final consumption on education. Specifically the estimate of household final consumption of non-government schools output was found to be understated. This component is now estimated as the sum of the recurrent expenses incurred by those schools in delivering their education service. The improved measures of output has resulted in an upward revision of $4.4 billion in this component of household consumption on education.

Household expenditure on motor vehicles

Investigation has shown that, in recent years, household expenditure on motor vehicles has been significantly understated. The existing method estimates expenditure on motor vehicles by multiplying the number of new cars purchased by an average price. This average price is benchmarked infrequently and is moved forward using movements in the consumer price index for motor vehicles. However, the CPI series is adjusted for the increasing quality of motor vehicles thus leading to relative price falls in the CPI compared to changes in the nominal prices paid for cars by households. While this treatment is correct for CPI purposes it represents an understatement of the movements in actual prices paid by consumers.

A new national accounts methodology to estimate current price expenditure has been developed utilising car price data that is not adjusted for quality change. These data are sourced from the VFACTS data produced by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries. The volume of household consumption on motor vehicles is derived using the new current price series deflated by the quality adjusted CPI series. The methodology for estimating household expenditure on motor vehicles has also been altered to account for changes in the structure of the motor vehicle market, particularly the rising proportion of sports utility vehicles, and for improvements in data available on numbers of motor vehicles purchased by households. For 2002-03 the estimate of household consumption expenditure on this item has been revised upwards by $2.9 billion.

Recording of general government transactions

Previously, data for the general government sector was compiled on a consolidated basis, i.e. by netting out transactions between general government units. This is also the basis used by the ABS to compile government finance statistics (GFS). In order to more completely measure activity recorded in the production account, adjustments have now been included to gross up the production account items affected by consolidation. These items are state payroll taxes (PRT) paid by government units and commonwealth fringe benefit taxes (FBT) paid by government units.

The effect of this change is to increase the level of government output, and thus value added for industries that include government units, and to increase the level of government final consumption expenditure. In the case of PRT the level of taxes on production has increased. In the case of FBT, the level of compensation of employees has increased and taxes on income paid by individuals has increased, consistent with the changes to the treatment of FBT outlined above. In 2002-03 these changes resulted in an upward revision of $2.1 billion to government final consumption expenditure and taxes on production.


There is a substantial amount of change described in this article. Nonetheless, employing new methodologies and data sources ensures that the best available data are being used in the compilation of accounts. Ongoing reviews of methods and data sources will continue although it is unlikely that revisions of a similar scope will occur in the near future.

Overall, while there is a noticeable impact on the level of GDP as a result of the changes, there is only a small impact on movements in GDP both in current price and in volume terms.

Questions concerning the nature of the revisions should be directed to Ian Bobbin (email <ian.bobbin@abs.gov.au>, phone 02 6252 6908).


Table 2: Industry gross value added, Current prices - 2002-03


Agriculture, forestry and fishing
23 171
21 164
2 007
35 508
34 271
1 237
89 965
82 462
7 503
Electricity, gas and water supply
17 904
16 961
45 345
45 668
Wholesale trade
38 865
39 282
Retail trade
46 341
39 403
6 938
Accommodation, cafes and restaurants
16 227
15 456
Transport and storage
34 604
37 389
-2 785
Communication services
21 750
20 351
1 399
Finance and insurance
52 832
57 963
-5 131
Property and business services
91 304
79 391
11 913
Government administration and defence
31 138
29 634
1 504
34 177
33 144
1 033
Health and community services
45 384
43 957
1 427
Cultural and recreational services
10 333
13 160
-2 827
Personal and other services
14 244
17 494
-3 250
Ownership of dwellings
62 999
63 860
Gross value added at basic prices
712 091
691 010
21 081
Taxes less subsidies on products
70 707
67 137
3 570
Gross domestic product
782 798
758 147
24 651

Table 3. Income from GDP, Current prices - 2002-03


Compensation of employees
Wages and salaries
337 716
324 545
13 171
Employers' social contributions
39 552
34 644
4 908
Total compensation of employees
377 268
359 189
18 079
Gross operating surplus
Non-financial corporations
Private non-financial corporations
128 568
125 076
3 492
Public non-financial corporations
19 015
19 537
Total non-financial corporations
147 583
144 613
2 970
Financial corporations
22 646
26 679
-4 033
Total corporations
170 229
171 292
-1 063
General government
14 165
13 930
Dwellings owned by persons
57 768
58 792
-1 024
Total gross operating surplus
242 162
244 014
-1 852
Gross mixed income
70 698
61 896
8 802
Total factor income
690 128
665 099
25 029
Taxes less subsidies on production and imports
92 670
93 048
Gross domestic product
782 798
758 147
24 651

Table 4. Expenditure on GDP, Current prices - 2002-03


Final consumption expenditure
General government
141 564
136 848
4 716
462 095
453 202
8 893
Total final consumption expenditure
603 659
590 050
13 609
Private gross fixed capital formation
Private business investment
Machinery and equipment
54 491
54 527
Non-dwelling construction
33 087
28 062
5 025
1 357
1 357
Intangible fixed assets
10 661
11 446
Total private business investment
99 595
95 392
4 203
51 479
47 254
4 225
Ownership transfer costs
14 006
14 025
Total private gross fixed capital formation
165 081
156 671
8 410
Public gross fixed capital formation
Public corporations
10 939
10 781
General government
17 769
17 350
Total public gross fixed capital formation
28 708
28 131
Total gross fixed capital formation
193 788
184 802
8 986
Domestic final demand
797 447
774 853
22 594
Changes in inventories
2 829
2 173
Gross national expenditure
800 276
777 026
23 250
Exports of goods and services
149 691
148 293
1 398
less Imports of goods and services
167 170
167 169
Gross domestic product
782 798
758 147
24 651

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)