Publication of international trade in services statistics

Latest release
International Trade in Services; Concepts, Sources and Methods
Reference period
December 2021
Next release Unknown
First release

The ABS publish international trade in service estimates across a range of economic statistics outputs:

  • Monthly estimates provide a partial indicator series for some service categories.
  • Quarterly outputs, including statistics for each service category, are included in key economic indicators including Balance of Payments, the Current Account and National Accounts (including GDP).
  • Annual publications (on a calendar and financial year basis) provide supplementary information, which include a more granular view of international trade in services by partner country and by state.


International trade in services statistics are subject to revisions.

Revisions occur because of three types of events:

  1. new input data which improves or replaces nowcasts;
  2. revisions to input data; and
  3. changes to methodology or input data sources.

Significant changes to methodology or input data sources are accompanied by detailed information papers. 

As most input data sources are lagged compared with the reference period, estimates of international trade in services for recent time periods are predominately nowcast, are subject to revision(s), and should be used with caution.


The ABS collects data from individuals and organisations as a routine part of statistical compilation. There is a legal and ethical responsibility for the ABS to respect and maintain the secrecy, privacy and identify of those providing the information.

For international trade in services statistics two main treatments are used to manage the risk of disclosure – data modification and data reduction.

Data modification (perturbation) involves adding a random component to some, or all, cells in a table. This technique ensures that the total does not change (this is important for economic statistics that feed into the National Accounts) and generally results in a minimal loss of information (reasonable estimates of the true value are maintained).

International trade in services statistics implement data removal only in cases where data modification is not possible (too few contributing statistics) or would result in the economic narrative being severely compromised. In these cases, cells with dominant contributors or a small number of contributors may be suppressed.

These data treatments are applied at each level of the services product classifications, as well as to other dimensions (e.g. state and country) and cross-classifications. In each case, the upper levels of the hierarchy are preserved over the lower levels (e.g. personal, cultural and recreational services will be prioritised over audio-visual and related services).

More information on the ABS’ confidentiality framework, and treatments, can be found in the ABS Confidentiality Series.


Prior to 1980 the ABS International Trade in Services Statistics were compiled from a monthly survey of banks’ non-trade foreign receipts and payments. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) ran this survey as a by-product of banking sector regulations.

The deregulation of financial institutions in the 1980s (resulting in the RBA data becoming increasingly incomplete or unavailable) coincided with a push from users of international trade in services statistics for more detailed output. As a result, the Survey of International Trade in Services (SITS) was developed. The SITS commenced as a biennial business survey (1987-88) but has been run as a quarterly survey since 1995-96.

Since that time, there have been changes to the collection and dissemination of international trade in service statistics to accommodate for changes to international guidelines. However, the collection and processing principles have remained largely unchanged over time.

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