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Chapter 23 Satellite accounts

Australian System of National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods
Reference period
2020-21 financial year


23.1    A great strength of the 2008 SNA (and ASNA) framework is that its articulation allows a great deal of flexibility in its implementation while remaining integrated, economically complete, and internally consistent. A classic example of its flexibility is the development of satellite accounts where an account is linked to, but distinct from, the central system. Satellite accounts allow an expansion of the national accounts for selected areas of interest while maintaining the concepts and structures of the core national accounts.

23.2    There are two types of satellite accounts serving two different functions, namely those that involve:

  1. elaboration or extension of detail; and
  2. alternative concepts and classifications.

23.3    The first type involves some rearrangement of the classifications and the possible introduction of complementary elements, but they do not change the underlying concepts of the SNA. The main reason for developing such a satellite account is that to encompass all the details for all areas of interest as part of the standard system would overburden it and possibly distract attention from the main features of the accounts. Examples include environmental protection expenditure and information, communication, and technology satellite accounts.

23.4    The second type is mainly based on concepts that are alternatives to the SNA. These include a different production boundary, an enlarged concept of consumption or capital formation, an extension of the scope of assets, etc. This type may also involve changes in classifications, but the main emphasis is on the alternative concepts. It is a particularly useful way to explore new areas in a research context, i.e. they allow experimentation with new concepts and methodologies with a wider degree of freedom that is possible within the central system. An example may be the role of volunteer labour in the economy as well as the tourism satellite account.

23.5    Some sets of satellite accounts may include features of both types of satellite accounts.

23.6    The ABS has produced several satellite accounts over two decades. One of them is the Australian tourism satellite account (ATSA). The first issue was released in 2000 for the year, 1997-98. This account has been released annually in the ABS publication, Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account. The latest issue was released in 2020 for the years, 2004-05 to 2019-20. In 2020, a supplementary publication, the Quarterly tourism labour statistics, Australia, experimental estimates, commenced. The second one is an experimental Transport Satellite Account which the ABS released in 2018 for the period 2010-11 to 2015-16. The third one is a non-profit institutions satellite account. The ABS has released three non-consecutive accounts in the publication, Australian National Accounts: Non-Profit Institutions Satellite Account. The first issue was released in 2002 for the year, 1999-00. The latest account was published in 2014, based on data from the 2012-13 Economic Activity Survey, and a re-presentation of 2006-07 data on a 2008 SNA basis. The fourth one is an information and communication technology satellite account. This account was released in 2006 as Australian National Accounts: Information and Communication Technology Satellite Account, 2002-03.

23.7    The ABS has maintained an environmental statistical program since the early 1990s, when it began recording in the national balance sheet the value of those environmental assets falling within the SNA asset boundary. The environmental-economic accounts (''environmental accounts'') program has expanded markedly over the past decade; in particular, accounts related to water and energy have improved in their extent, quality, and frequency. Experimental accounts have been released in respect of spatial land accounts, waste, environmental protection expenditures and environmental taxes. The ABS aims to further improve the range, frequency and quality of its suite of environmental accounts.

23.8    The ABS has produced three papers to provide measures of unpaid work which is outside the production boundary as defined in the 2008 SNA but does constitute production in a broad sense. The latest publication is Unpaid Work and the Australian Economy, 1997. The ABS has not produced a household satellite account as such to date. A number of conceptual, methodological and funding issues would need to be resolved prior to its production, given there is no agreed standard for a household satellite account.

23.9    The rest of this chapter outlines the general approach the ABS has taken to produce the tourism, non-profit institutions and information and communication technology satellite accounts as well as the environment-related accounts. Also included is a discussion on the issues surrounding the production of a household satellite account, including an outline of the approach used to measure unpaid work. The ABS has a program of future work associated with satellite accounts and environmental accounting.