This paper presents experimental results of a firm-level analysis of Australian merchandise exporter performance and characteristics, using export declarations and integrated business microdata from the Business Longitudinal Analysis Data Environment (BLADE).
Export declarations are identified by either an Australian Business Number (ABN) or a Customs Client Identifier (CCID). Export declarations with ABNs were linked to the BLADE using the same graph-based method that was employed for the 2019-20 Characteristics of Australian Exporters.¹ This leads to 41,092 linked units in the BLADE, accounting for 99.2% of Australia’s total merchandise export value in 2020.
The study of the linked population (hereafter referred to as the 'population') over the period 2014 to 2020 provides insights into the nature of Australian exporter continuity and resilience during a period of considerable turbulence (challenges associated with trade restrictions, COVID-19, etc.) We found that a relatively large proportion of businesses commenced or ceased exporting annually. In 2020, 11,873 exporters (28.9% of the year-end population) commenced exporting while 29,219 exporters (71.1% of the population) continued exporting from 2019. 13,916 exporters (or 32.3% of the population in 2019) ceased exporting.
17,679 exporters exported every year over the period from 2016 to 2020. These continuous exporters represent 43.0% of the population and 89.2% of the population’s total export value in 2020. The median average annual growth rate of these continuous exporters over 2016 to 2020 was 0.1%, considerably lower than a median average annual growth rate of 5.1% for the same cohort over the period from 2016 to 2019. The difference reflects that an increased number of exporters experienced a decline in their export value in 2020. COVID-19 related restrictions and associated supply constraints could be a contributor to this decline.
Of the continuous exporters, 7,018 exporters or 17.1% of the population were categorised as resilient, their export value in 2020 being equal to, or exceeding, their 4-year average over 2016-2019. They represent 64.8% of the population’s total export value in 2020. Mining exporters account for 1.5% of the resilient population but 70.8% of the resilient population's total export value. Large and medium exporters are more likely to be resilient than small exporters (29.4% and 22.0% of their respective cohorts, compared to 9.5%). Businesses in the older age group (20 years and over) are more likely to be resilient than those in the younger age group (under 20 years). Resilient exporters also had more diversified markets, with 29.9% of the resilient population exporting to more than 5 countries in 2020, compared to just 7.8% of the non-resilient population.