National accounts are designed to provide a systematic summary of economic activity and have been developed to facilitate the practical application of economic theory. At their summary level, the accounts reflect key economic flows: production, income, consumption, investment and saving. At their more detailed level, they are designed to present a statistical picture of the structure of the economy and the detailed processes that make up domestic production and its distribution.
This publication contains detailed national accounts estimates which are provided for gross domestic product (GDP) and its components, the national income account, the national capital account, the national financial account and the national balance sheet. Income, capital and financial accounts and a balance sheet are provided for each sector of the economy. Also provided is a range of information classified by industry, details of capital formation (including capital stocks) and productivity statistics. For brief definitions and description of items in the national accounts, see Glossary.
Official estimates of national income and expenditure have been compiled by the ABS since 1945, when estimates were published for the years 1938-39 to 1944-45. Until 1963 they were published annually as papers entitled National Income and Expenditure issued by the Treasurer with the Commonwealth Government Budget Papers.
In 1963, a number of important changes in the structure and presentation of the national accounts and in the conceptual basis and definitions of the principal aggregates were introduced in a new annual publication entitled Australian National Accounts: National Income and Expenditure, 1948-49 to 1961-62 (cat. no. 5204.0). Constant price estimates of the principal expenditure aggregates were presented for the first time.
In Australian National Accounts: National Income and Expenditure, 1971-72 (cat. no. 5204.0), published in 1973, the structure of the accounts was revised to accord more closely to the international standard described in the United Nations publication A System of National Accounts (1968).
In the 1997-98 issue of cat. no. 5204.0, which was renamed the Australian System of National Accounts, a number of changes were introduced, including the implementation of a revised international standard for national accounting (entitled System of National Accounts, 1993 (SNA93)), the replacement of constant price estimates by chain volume measures and the integration of the national income, expenditure and product accounts with the input-output tables. Also, the scope of the publication was expanded to include balance sheets, capital stock and multifactor productivity statistics. Previously, these statistics had been published in separate publications.
The international standards for national accounts was updated in 2008. The new standards are presented in the System of National Accounts, 2008 (2008SNA). The 2008SNA was produced by five international organisations involved in the use of economic statistics and the promotion of international statistical standards: United Nations, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Commission of the European Communities. The 2008-09 issue of the Australian System of National Accounts (cat. no. 5204.0) was the first issue on a 2008SNA basis. The international standards for international accounts and government finance statistics have been updated to align with the 2008SNA. The current compilation manuals for these statistics are the Balance of Payments Manual and International Investment Position Manual sixth edition (BPM6) and the Government Finance Statistics Manual 2014 respectively.
The revised standards are not radical departures from their former edition. They represent an incremental change in the development of national accounting to reflect changing economic behaviour and new policy concerns, as well as an improved understanding of the accounts, their international comparability and harmonisation with other international statistical standards. There have been incremental changes to concepts, classifications and definitions. Some of these represent changes in terminology and presentation, while others impact on the measurement of major summary aggregates such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and saving. For a discussion of the major changes implemented and the concepts, sources and methods of the more significant changes, see the Information Paper: Implementation of new international statistical standards in ABS National and International Accounts, September 2009 (cat. no. 5310.0.55.002).
Concepts, sources and methods
The Australian System of National Accounts (ASNA) includes not only the traditional annual and quarterly estimates of national income, expenditure and product, but also input-output tables, state estimates, estimates of capital stock, financial accounts, balance sheets and reconciliation accounts and productivity estimates.
Australia's national accounts statistics are compiled in accordance with international standards contained in the System of National Accounts, 2008. Australia's application of these SNA standards is described in Australian System of National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5216.0). This publication outlines major concepts and definitions, describes sources of data and methods used to derive the full suite of Australian System of National Accounts estimates.
The system could also be defined more widely to include balance of payments and government finance statistics. For detail see Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5331.0) and Australian System of Government Finance Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5514.0).
Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
GDP can be derived by three broad approaches: the income approach (I), the expenditure approach (E) and the production approach (P). A description of each approach is provided in the following paragraphs. While each measure should, conceptually, deliver the same estimate of GDP, if the three measures are compiled independently using different data sources then different estimates of GDP result. Where estimates have been derived from balanced Supply-Use tables, annual estimates using the I, E and P approaches are identical.
Prior to 1994-95, the estimates using each approach are based on independent sources, and there are usually differences between the I, E and P estimates. Nevertheless, for these periods, a single estimate of GDP has been compiled. In chain volume terms, GDP is derived by averaging the chain volume estimates obtained from each of the three independent approaches. The current price estimate of GDP is obtained by inflating the average chain volume estimate by the implicit price deflator derived from the expenditure-based estimates.
As a result of the above methods:
- There is no statistical discrepancy for annual estimates from 1994-95 up to the year prior to the latest complete financial year, in either current price or volume terms
- For years prior to 1994-95, and the latest year, statistical discrepancies exist between estimates based on the I, E and P approaches and the single estimate of GDP, in both current prices and volume terms. These discrepancies are shown in the relevant tables.
Income approach (I)
GDP using the income approach is derived as the sum of compensation of employees, gross operating surplus, gross mixed income and taxes less subsidies on production and imports.
Expenditure approach (E)
GDP using the expenditure approach is derived as the sum of all final expenditures, changes in inventories and exports of goods and services less imports of goods and services. Volume estimates are derived for each of the components as well as for their sum.
Production approach (P)
GDP using the production approach is derived as the sum of gross value added for each industry, at basic prices, plus taxes less subsidies on products. Basic values represent the amounts received by producers, including the value of any subsidies on products, but before any taxes on products. The difference between the sum over all industries of gross value added at basic prices, and GDP at market (or purchasers) prices, is the value of taxes less subsidies on products.
Other national accounts statistical publications
This publication is part of a regular sequence of national accounts publications. The key national accounts publication is the quarterly national accounts released as Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product (cat. no. 5206.0) every three months approximately two months after the end of the reference period. The first estimates of national accounts for a particular financial year are released in the June quarter issue of cat. no. 5206.0, released in early September.
State estimates are compiled on a quarterly basis for the aggregate state final demand and its components. These results are published in cat. no. 5206.0. On an annual basis estimates of gross state product (GSP) and other relevant state data are made for each state and territory. These are released in the publication Australian National Accounts: State Accounts (cat. no. 5220.0) shortly after the release of this publication and are fully consistent with the Australian level estimates contained in this publication.
As part of the supply-use framework for compiling a set of national accounts, supply and use (SU) tables are also compiled annually. The tables are published in Australian National Accounts: Supply Use Tables (cat. no. 5217.0) which is released simultaneously with this publication.
Input-output tables are compiled annually. Input-output tables are available in Australian National Accounts: Input-Output Tables (cat. no. 5209.0.55.001). Related to this release is the detailed commodity information contained in Australian National Accounts: Input-Output Tables (Product Details) (cat. no. 5215.0.55.001).
Financial accounts, capital accounts and balance sheets for the Australian economy are published in Australian National Accounts: Finance and Wealth (cat. no. 5232.0). This publication is released quarterly within three months of the reference period.
Further productivity statistics are compiled and published within two additional annual publications. These are Estimates of Industry Multifactor Productivity (cat. no. 5260.0.55.002) and Experimental Estimates of Industry Level KLEMS Multifactor Productivity (cat. no. 5260.0.55.004).
Tourism satellite accounts, which estimate the contribution of tourism to the Australian economy, are compiled annually. These estimates are released in the publication Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account (cat. no. 5249.0), approximately 2 months after this release and are consistent with the Australian System of National Accounts.
Reliability and future revisions
National accounts estimates are prepared from a wide range of statistical sources, some of which are available quickly and some with a delay of several years. Some are closely related to the desired national accounting basis, but others are not completely satisfactory in various respects, including coverage, concepts and timing. Most of the basic data derive from the general system of statistical surveys or as a by-product of government administrative processes. The frequency, detail and timeliness of these data sources are constrained by many factors, including the other purposes which they must serve. Any increase in timeliness of data is usually at the expense of detail, reliability or additional resources. Therefore, estimates for recent years may be subject to considerable revision as firmer data become available.