Quality of international trade in services statistics
The lag in availability of most data sources, compared with the publication reference period, results in most international trade in services estimates being nowcast - especially at the monthly level.
Regular revisions occur as a result of updates to the nowcasts, as well as replacements of nowcasts with estimates modelled from actual data (when they become available).
Due to the nature of this data in a volatile economic climate, it is recommended monthly services estimates be interpreted with caution.
Unlike international trade in goods statistics, there is no single, complete data source from which to compile international trade in services statistics.
The ABS data quality framework describes seven quality dimensions. These dimensions have been developed to assist the ABS in developing statistical collections, but also to aid data users in interpreting the data (including determining if a dataset is fit for purpose).
The seven dimensions are interconnected, and the importance of each is likely to change based on the purpose for which the statistics will be used.
Institutional environment includes the impartiality, objectivity and independence of ABS statistics– from the data sources used to the statistical products published. Consideration of the institutional environment enables an assessment of the validity, reliability or appropriateness of a product.
Data for international trade in services is collected by the ABS, under the provisions of the Census and Statistics Act, or collected by other government organisations under objective protocols.
International trade in services is an important component of Australian trade, which is a main economic indicator because of the importance of international trade to the Australian economy.
The conceptual framework of the ABS international trade in services statistics is compliant with international standards and guidelines. Adherence to these standards allows for comparison of the ABS’ international trade in services statistics with data from other countries.
Headline international trade in services estimates are available monthly, within 5 weeks of the reference month.
International trade in services are available on a quarterly basis as part of the Balance of Payments. These data include more detailed service sub-categories. The quarterly data are available within ten weeks of the reference quarter.
Detailed international trade in services statistics are available on an annual basis (both calendar and financial year) within 20 weeks of the end of the reference year. These data include services classified by partner country and state.
The time frames for these releases either meets or exceeds the international requirements set by the IMF’s Special Data Dissemination Standards (SDDS).
There is no simple way of measuring the accuracy of international trade in service statistics as there are no direct data sources for many of the services concepts.
The Survey of International Trade in Services (SITS) is subject to non-sampling errors (in coverage, measurement, processing and non-response). The ABS perform various procedures and checks to ensure these errors are minimised. The Survey methodology is designed to capture high-quality national estimates for each of the twelve key service categories. Therefore, care should be taken when using the more detailed aggregations, i.e. by sub-service category, partner country, state or any cross classification.
The lag in availability of most data sources, compared with the publication reference period, results in most international trade in services estimates being nowcast. Revisions result from updates to the nowcasts, as well as replacements of nowcasts with estimates modelled from actual data (when they become available).
The confidentiality treatment of data modification (perturbation) also impacts the accuracy of published estimates. However, statistics are suppressed in preference to modification that alter the economic narrative.
Coherence refers to the internal consistency of a statistical collection, as well as comparability with other sources of information.
The use of international standards, classifications and definitions for statistical compilation ensures that the ABS has adopted collection methods which are comparable to other national statistical organisations. These frameworks also ensure that time series for a particular data item are highly coherent (comparable through time).
There are very few comparable sources of international trade in services information or statistics for Australia. However, where there are available alternate estimates, differences usually arise from conceptual/definitional variance. For example, the economic contribution of international students is captured by education-related travel services but could also include components of transport services and personal, cultural and recreational services depending on the defined scope of “economic contribution”.
Interpretability refers to the availability of information to help provide insight into the data.
Measures to increase the interpretability of international trade in services statistics include:
- key materials, including this paper, to provide supporting information to users;
- inclusion of analytical summaries and key messages in statistical releases;
- clearly denoting tables which have been subject to data modification to protect confidentiality; and
- providing users with revision tables.
ABS international trade in services statistics are available, for free, on the ABS website. Each publication includes key statistics, main features, analytics and downloadable datasets.
The datasets provide international trade in services estimates from 1971 to present.