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Although most people have an intuitive understanding of what constitutes a country, precise definition of the concept is difficult given the differing levels of sovereignty and independence of many of the world's countries. The term countries appears in the classification title and is used throughout this document to describe the base-level units (that is, the categories at the most detailed level of the classification), even though not all of the units classified are fully independent countries. The base-level units of the classification include:
A number of supplementary codes are also itemised in the classification document (see Appendix 1). These codes, which are used to represent country-like entities and to process inadequately described responses in statistical collections, are not part of the main classification structure and are therefore not country level units in the classification. These codes are explained more fully below (see Supplementary codes).
In economic statistics, it is often necessary to present within one view of the data, information about countries and information that does not have a country dimension. The SACC therefore includes a number of categories which do not equate to individual countries. These categories include such entities as Reserve Bank Gold and International Institutions. Other categories are also required where country information is applicable but not available. For instance, debt issues in international capital markets are allocated the supplementary code 0718: International Capital Markets. In some cases, residual categories such as Africa, not elsewhere classified, are used in economic statistics to combine, within broad continental groupings, confidential country information, information about insignificant economic relationships, and information that is not sufficiently defined for country attribution but which can be allocated to a continent. All the above residual categories necessary for economic statistics purposes have been assigned unique four-digit codes and are listed in Appendix 1. They are not categories of the main classification structure.
The scope of the SACC is all countries currently existing in the world as defined above. Because the number of countries can easily be accommodated in the main structure without the classification becoming unwieldy, the vast majority of countries are separately identified even though many of them are statistically insignificant in the Australian context. In a small number of instances geographic areas have not been separately identified but have been included in residual (not elsewhere classified) categories. Most of these entities have no permanent civilian population and are not significant in terms of social or economic statistics. This comprehensive coverage makes the classification useful for a wide range of applications and increases its longevity.