Objective 5.1

Services statistics capture the trends, contribution and competitiveness of the sector

Industry and Government agree that part of the challenge in developing evidence-based solutions for the services sector is access to accurate, complete and timely statistics on Australia’s services exports.

This is because traditional balance of payments statistics underestimate services flows as returns from Australian owned foreign affiliate firms are captured as returns on investment.

Industry highlighted the underestimation of the true contribution of services exports to Australia’s economy affects policy making and program design. With a stronger picture of the nature of export services, modes of delivery, export value, trends, and key markets, government and industry would be better placed to develop and implement:

  • Fit-for-purpose regulatory frameworks

  • Export strategies; and

  • Targeted export promotion programs.

Industry noted greater investment is required to develop a sustainable services data asset. While industry welcomed the survey of Australian owned businesses undertaking economic activity overseas, they observed that this should not be only a one-off financial commitment. Industry also suggested additional data sources, such as banking or other large transactional datasets, could offer complementary windows into the markets for services exports, beyond the traditional analyses that underpin the National Accounts.

Indigenous business representatives noted the lack of data on trade and investment related to Indigenous businesses, including in the services sector. Government assistance in collecting and sharing data on Australian Indigenous trade and investment would help inform the work of Indigenous peak business bodies, exporters and the Government in supporting Indigenous services exporters.

The Government recognises the value of robust data in informing policymaking but acknowledges the challenges in collecting data on services exports.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) currently runs a quarterly Survey of International Trade in Services, which provides data on selected services. This survey data is combined with additional datasets to compile trade in services estimates, which are produced monthly, quarterly and annually. This data is produced in accordance with international standards and classifications but does not include transactions between foreign affiliates.

The Government will continue to explore opportunities to work with industry to identify and support initiatives focused on collecting meaningful services statistics and making it publicly available. Two recent outcomes are the Australian Outwards Foreign Affiliates Trade Survey and a DFAT funded services exports statistics publication by the Australian Services Roundtable.

We will continue to explore data requirements, drawing on existing and complementary data sources as appropriate, to better describe the services sector.

An important factor will be whether data is already being obtained by ABS either directly or through other data sources, or whether an expanded or new survey would be required, which would involve additional cost and administrative burden for businesses.

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