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Characteristics of Australian Exporters methodology

Reference period
2019-20 financial year

Concepts

What is an exporter?

An exporter is defined as the owner of the exported merchandise.

Exporters are identified using a combination of:

  • Unit identifiers sourced from Australian Border Force (ABF) data for each merchandise export, consisting of Australian Business Numbers (ABN) and Customs Client Identifiers (CCID); and
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics Business Register (ABSBR) business data, which is detailed in the Statistical Unit Section.

Information on merchandise exporters is compiled from merchandise trade statistics and is largely consistent with balance of payments principles. In a small number of cases however, a non-resident may own the goods at the time of departure. Typically, though there would have been a transaction occurring between an Australian resident and a non-resident prior to the merchandise physically leaving Australia. Therefore, it is assumed for the purpose of these statistics that all owners of the merchandise at the time of export are Australian residents and are included in the counts of exporters.

There are various scenarios that impact on the interpretation of the count and characteristics of exporters, including: 

  • Merchandise export consignments with a value of less than $2,000 are excluded.
  • Australian owned businesses that are located overseas, who supply goods to or from the country in which they are located, are excluded.

Statistical unit

The ABS Business Register (ABSBR) is a register of Australian businesses and their key characteristics. It uses a two-population model: the profiled population and the non-profiled population. The main distinction between businesses in the two populations relates to the complexity of the business structure and the degree of intervention required to reflect the business structure for statistical purposes.

The vast majority of businesses included on the ABSBR are in the non-profiled population. Most of these businesses are understood to have simple structures and the unit registered for an ABN is a good approximation satisfying ABS statistical requirements. For these businesses, the ABS statistical unit structure directly aligns with the ABN unit - one ABN equates to one business.

For a relatively small number of businesses, the ABS maintains its own unit structure through direct contact with businesses. These businesses constitute the profiled population. This population consists typically of large, complex and diverse groups of businesses, where ABNs are aggregated or disaggregated based on industry to form a Type of Activity Unit (TAU). In the profiled population, each in scope TAU equates to one exporting business.

More information regarding the ABS Units Model and the standard ABS approach to linking ABN to TAUs, is contained in the Explanatory Notes of the Standard Economic Sector Classifications of Australia (SESCA). For the purposes of this publication, an “ANZSIC Matching Method” has been developed to establish the link between ABN and TAU for a subset of the profiled population.

ANZSIC matching

An aspect of the integration method, which differs from the standard ABS Units Model method, is the scenario where an ABN is linked to an Enterprise Group where there are 1 or more TAUs. In this publication, where there are multiple available TAUs, a TAU is selected when:

  • there is an ANZSIC match between the ABN and TAU;
  • if there are multiple ANZSIC matches, the annual turnover and number of employees items are used to determine the TAU selection from the group of matching TAUs;
  • if there are no ANZSIC matches, the annual turnover and number of employees items are used to determine the TAU selection.

This matching process differs to the method used on the ABS Business Register where an ABN has multiple matches and may result in different statistical outcomes.

State and territory

Two different concepts are used to measure the state distribution of merchandise exporters in this publication.

The first measure is based on the state an exported good was produced in, and is sourced from information supplied to ABF as part of export declaration documentation.

Exports data by state of origin and industry of the exporter is contained in Table 4. Exports data subject to 'No Commodity Details' or 'No Value Details' confidentiality restrictions are excluded from individual state of origin statistics but included in 'Total merchandise exports'. More information regarding international merchandise trade confidentiality methods are contained in the ABS publication: International Merchandise Trade, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods.

The second measure is based on the state of business location, sourced from the main business address on the ABSBR. Table 5 shows the distribution of merchandise exporting businesses, by industry of exporter and the exporter's main state of business location.

Industry

Table 2 contains exports value, by industry of the commodity and industry of the exporter.

Industry of the commodity is derived from Merchandise trade data on an Australian Harmonized Export Commodity Classification (AHECC) basis, which is concorded to Australia and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006.

Industry of the exporter (included in Tables 2, 3, 4 and 5) is based on the ANZSIC 2006 industry of the exporting business as defined on BLADE. For the purposes of this publication, the exporting business represents the owner of the goods at the time of export and not necessarily the producer of the exported commodity. For more information about ANZSIC 2006, refer to Australia and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006.

Exporter size

For the purposes of this publication, the size of the business in Table 3 has been determined by three criteria - the number of employees (sourced from ABSBR), annual turnover (sourced from Australian Taxation Office (ATO)) and the value of exports (sourced from ABF). These criteria have been developed to cater for a variety of scenarios including, where the ABN reported on the export documentation may not be the same as the ABN used for employment purposes.

For exporters who have the number of employees and annual turnover reported, the criteria to define the size of the business are: 

  • small exporters - having fewer than 20 employees and annual turnover less than $2m and exports of less than $2m during the reference period
  • large exporters - having 200 or more employees, or, annual turnover of $20m or more, or, exports of $20m or more during the reference period
  • medium exporters - all businesses other than those defined as small or large.


There are two types of business which do not have number of employees and/or annual turnover reported: 

  • CCID exporters: The CCID is an identifier provided by ABF to exporting businesses that do not have or do not report an ABN. Therefore, the number of employees and annual turnover are not available.
  • Other exporters where number of employees is not reported and/or annual turnover is not reported.


For CCID exporters, the criteria to define the size of the business are:

  • small exporters - having exports of less than $2m during the reference period
  • large exporters - having exports of $20m or more during the reference period
  • medium exporters - all businesses other than those defined as small or large.


For non-CCID exporters where number of employees is not reported, and/or annual turnover is not reported, the criteria to define the size of the business are: 

  • small exporters –
    • having number of employees fewer than 20 or not reported; and,
    • annual turnover less than $2m or not reported; and,
    • exports of less than $2m during the reference period.
  • large exporters - having 200 or more employees, or, annual turnover of $20m or more, or, exports of $20m or more during the reference period
  • medium exporters - all businesses other than those defined as small or large.

Sources

BLADE

BLADE is an economic data tool combining ATO, ABSBR, ABF trade and survey data to provide a better understanding of the Australian economy and businesses performance over time. BLADE is used as the integrated base for this publication.

Business Characteristics data obtained from BLADE, such as industry and state of business location, are updated from the most recent update and then cast back through the time series. For the 2019-20 edition of the publication, business characteristics are held constant from 2013-14 through to 2019-20 based on business characteristics as at June 2020. Therefore, during this period, where a change in a business structure or characteristic occurs at a point in time, casting back would reduce accuracy. In contrast, where a change has been applied to the ABSBR that reflects an improvement to the history, rather than a change at a point in time, casting back would improve accuracy.

BLADE contains ABN and TAU level integrated data. However, for complex units where an ABN is linked to an Enterprise Group which has more than one TAU, the ABN to TAU matching process in this publication differs from the standard ABS approach described in the Explanatory Notes of the SESCA. In the SESCA, ABN to TAU linkages are established through direct contact with the business. In contrast, this publication utilises a method of ANZSIC matching to establish ABN to TAU linkages.

Data sourced from the ABS Business Register (ABSBR)

The results of these studies are based, in part, on ABR data supplied by the Registrar to the ABS under A New Tax System (Australian Business Number) Act 1999 and tax data supplied by the ATO to the ABS under the Taxation Administration Act 1953. These require that such data is only used for the purpose of carrying out functions of the ABS. No individual information collected under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 is provided back to the Registrar or ATO for administrative or regulatory purposes. Any discussion of data limitations or weaknesses is in the context of using the data for statistical purposes, and is not related to the ability of the data to support the ABR or ATO’s core operational requirements. Legislative requirements to ensure privacy and secrecy of this data have been followed. Only those authorised under the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 have been allowed to view data about any particular firm in conducting these analyses. In accordance with the Census and Statistics Act 1905, results have been confidentialised to ensure that they are not likely to enable identification of a particular person or organisation.

To assist readers interpret data on the number and characteristics of exporters, the TAU (which is derived from ABN) is used to obtain selected information on businesses from the ABSBR.

The information obtained from the ABSBR includes:

  • industry of the TAU business based on the Australia and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) 2006
  • main state of business location, based on main business address

The characteristics listed above cannot be obtained for exporting businesses that are not on the ABSBR (including CCIDs).

The following issues should be considered when interpreting business characteristics data about exporters:

  • As described in the BLADE Section, ABSBR data loaded to BLADE, such as industry and state of business location, are updated from the most recent update (June 2020) and then cast back through the BLADE time series.
  • A business may have more than one ABN and the ABN specified on the export documentation may be linked to a TAU that does not reflect the true industry of the exporter. As a result, in some cases, business characteristics could relate to a corporate head office.
  • A business located in a state may export goods produced in other states.

Data sourced from ABF

The following information can be obtained or derived from export documentation for all merchandise exporters including those without an ABN:

  • value of exports
  • state of origin of the commodity
  • industry of origin of the commodity
  • country of destination

The aggregated data for value of merchandise exports in this publication matches the aggregated data in the December 2020 reference month issue of International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia.

The state of origin of the commodity recorded on export documentation can be used to identify the state from which the exported merchandise was sourced. State of origin is the state in which the final stage of production or manufacture occurs. Determining a single state of origin is difficult when there may be several stages in the manufacturing process, each of which may take place in a different state. For example, fruit may be grown in one state, canned in another, and exported from another.

The industry of the commodity is derived by linking each statistical code in the Australian Harmonised Export Commodity Classification (AHECC) to an ANZSIC 2006 industry based on the primary activity of the industry most likely to have produced the exported merchandise. Industry of origin of the commodity is a different concept from the industry of business recorded on the ABSBR. While each AHECC statistical code is allocated to one primary industry of origin, commodities can be produced and/or exported by businesses classified to multiple industries.

Data sourced from ATO

ATO data items are utilised both in the “ANZSIC Matching” unit selection process and the derivation of exporter size (as published in Table 3). These data items are:

  • Annual turnover, which is sourced from Business Activity Statement (BAS)  data; and
  • The number of employees, which is sourced from Pay as You Go (PAYG) data.

Compilation

Country information

This publication contains statistics on the following country groups: APEC, ASEAN, EU, OECD and Pacific. For comparison purposes, these country groups were held constant over time, regardless of whether a country entered or exited a country group in a given year. The groups are listed below:

APEC: Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China (excludes SARs and Taiwan), Hong Kong (SAR of China), Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Republic of (South), Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russian Federation, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United States of America, Vietnam. 

ASEAN: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam. 

EU: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark (includes Greenland and Faroe Islands), Estonia, Finland, France (includes Andorra and Monaco), Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy (includes Holy See and San Marino), Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden

OECD: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czechia, Denmark (includes Greenland and Faroe Islands), Estonia, Finland, France (includes Andorra and Monaco), Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy (includes Holy See and San Marino), Japan, Korea, Republic of (South), Lithuania, Latvia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland (includes Liechtenstein),  Turkey, United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man, nfd., United States of America. 

Pacific: Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Federated States of, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Samoa, American, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna.

Rounding

Where figures have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals. Percentage movements are calculated from data at the level of precision presented in this publication (i.e. $m).

Confidentiality

Legislative requirements to ensure privacy and secrecy of this data have been followed. Only people authorised under the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 have been allowed to view data about any particular firm in conducting these analyses.

In accordance with the Census and Statistics Act 1905, results have been confidentialised to ensure that they are not likely to enable identification of a particular person or organisation.

Quality Declaration

Institutional environment

Statistics presented in this release have been derived using a combination of:

  • data collected directly by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905 (CSA);
  • tax data supplied to the Australian Statistician by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) under the Taxation Administration Act 1953;
  • Australian Business Register (ABR) data supplied by the Registrar under A New Tax System (Australian Business Number) Act 1999; and
  • international merchandise exports data sourced from ABF.

The results of these studies are based, in part, on ABR data supplied by the Registrar to the ABS under A New Tax System (Australian Business Number) Act 1999 and tax data supplied by the ATO to the ABS under the Taxation Administration Act 1953. These require that such data is only used for the purpose of carrying out functions of the ABS. No individual information collected under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 is provided back to the Registrar or ATO for administrative or regulatory purposes. Any discussion of data limitations or weaknesses is in the context of using the data for statistical purposes, and is not related to the ability of the data to support the ABR or ATO’s core operational requirements. Legislative requirements to ensure privacy and secrecy of this data have been followed. Only those authorised under the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 have been allowed to view data about any particular firm in conducting these analyses. In accordance with the Census and Statistics Act 1905, results have been confidentialised used to ensure that they are not likely to enable identification of a particular person or organisation.

For information on the institutional environment of the ABS, including the legislative obligations, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.

Relevance

This statistical release provides an analysis of the characteristics and international trading activities of Australian merchandise exporters. The scope includes all exporters of merchandise active during the 2013-14 to 2019-20 financial years, excluding those having only export consignments with a value of less than $2,000. Please refer to the Methodology section of this publication for further information.

Actively trading businesses include:

  • Type of Activity Units (TAUs) from the profiled population of the ABS Business Register (ABSBR), where activity is monitored by direct contact by the ABS.
  • Australian Business Numbers (ABNs) from the non-profiled population, that are actively remitting in respect of a Goods and Services Tax (GST) tax role.

The characteristics of actively trading businesses are then identified in the international merchandise exports data sourced from ABF, with the process for identifying actively exporting businesses summarised as follows:

  • The ABF documentation for each merchandise export includes an ABN or a Customs Client Identifier (CCID) identifying the owner of the goods. The CCID is an identifier provided by Home Affairs to exporting businesses that do not report an ABN or choose not to report an ABN.
  • ABNs are linked to TAU using a combination of the established ABSBR Enterprise Group relationships and the ANZSIC Matching Method.
  • CCIDs, which cannot be linked to the ABSBR, are treated as statistical units.

More detail on the underlying concepts, sources and methods of international merchandise trade data is available in International Merchandise Trade, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods.

Timeliness

International merchandise trade data for the 2019-20 financial year were extracted as at the December 2020 reference month. This extraction timeframe ensures that the data is final and will not be revised as part of the standard revision window. For further information about the revision window for international merchandise trade data, refer to the Data Quality - Accuracy section in International Merchandise Trade, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods.

Accuracy

The statistics contained in this release are intended to provide an accurate measure of the characteristics and international trading activities of Australian merchandise exporters. 

The ABS use a variety of methods to routinely assess information obtained from administrative data (such as that utilised in producing the statistics contained in this release). Sound data collection, methodological systems, conformity to international standard frameworks and the use of analytical tools all contribute to high quality output.  Nevertheless, the data may not be accurate for a variety of reasons.

More detail on the major sources of inaccurate data in ABS' international merchandise trade statistics, and business statistics can be found in International Merchandise Trade, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods and Counts of Australian Businesses, including Entries and Exits. Additional information regarding possible sources of inaccuracies is contained in the Methodology page of this publication.

Coherence

Statistics on Australia's international merchandise trade are compiled and presented in accordance with international standards. The main standards are outlined in the Quality Declaration section of ABS publication, International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia

A revised methodology was introduced in the 2019-20 financial year release, therefore aggregates from this publication are not strictly comparable to previous editions to the Characteristics of Australian Exporters.

A new ‘ANZSIC Matching Method’ was developed to establish ABN to TAU links for a subset of the profiled population. While this is broadly consistent with BLADE integration, it differs from statistical outputs compiled using the standard ABS Units Model and may result in different statistical outcomes.

Interpretability

This statistical release provides data on the characteristics and international trading activities of Australian merchandise exporters. These characteristics include business counts by selected demographics (e.g. ANZSIC, business size) and the value of trading activity associated with these demographic breakdowns. These data are available by financial year and on a current price basis only.

The ABS publication, International Merchandise Trade, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods, provides users with detailed information on international merchandise trade statistics, describing the conceptual framework underlying the statistics, classification of data items, presentations and publications.

Accessibility

Data are available to users free of change from the ABS website. Data available in this release is in Excel spreadsheet format and the metadata (e.g. Methodology) is available in HTML webpage format.

For inquiries about these and related statistics, contact the Customer Assistance Service via the ABS website Contact Us page. The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to us.

Abbreviations

Show all

$mmillion dollars
ABFAustralian Border Force
ABNAustralian Business Number
ABRAustralian Business Register
ABSAustralian Bureau of Statistics
ABSBRAustralian Bureau of Statistics Business Register
AHECCAustralian Harmonised Export Commodity Classification
ANZSICAustralian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification
APECAsia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
ASEANAssociation of Southeast Asian Nations
ATOAustralian Taxation Office
BASBusiness Activity Statement
BLADEBusiness Longitude Analysis Data Environment
CCIDCustoms Client Identifier
CSACensus and Statistics Act 1905
EUEuropean Union
GSTGoods and Services Tax
HTMLHypertext Markup Language
nanot available for publication
nonumber
npnot available for publication but included in totals where applicable, unless otherwise indicated
OECDOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
PAYGPay as you go
SARSpecial Administrative Region
SESCAStandard Economic Sector Classifications of Australia
TAUType of Activity Unit