National Accounts at a Glance

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2220-0444 (online)
2220-0436 (print)
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National Accounts data is more than just GDP.  This book, published annually, and its related database present national accounts in a way that reflects the richness inherent in the data and the value that represents for analysts and policymakers.  It responds to the Stiglitz Commission’s recommendation that policymakers look beyond GDP to get a fuller picture of the entire economy.

In particular it uses national accounts data to show important findings about households and governments, including important new series on gross adjusted household income and non-financial fixed assets of households. It presents each of the series on a two-page spread, with the page on the left providing information on the meaning, usage, and comparability of the data and the page on the right presenting data from 1995 onwards for the OECD countries as well as graphics highlighting differences among countries.

This book includes OECD’s unique StatLink service, which enables readers to download Excel®  versions of tables and graphs. Look for the StatLink at the foot of each table and graph.

Also available in: French
National Accounts at a Glance 2010

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10 Feb 2011
9789264095915 (HTML) ; 9789264095878 (print)

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National Accounts at a Glance presents information using an ‘indicator’ approach, focusing on cross-country comparisons; the aim being to make the national accounts more accessible and informative, while, at the same time, taking the opportunity to present the conceptual underpinning of, and comparability issues inherent in, each of the indicators presented. 

This book includes OECD’s unique StatLink service, which enables readers to download Excel® versions of tables and graphs. Look for the StatLink at the foot of each table and graph.

The range of indicators reflects the richness inherent in the national accounts dataset and encourages users to refocus some of the spotlight that is often placed on GDP to other economic important indicators, which may better respond to their needs.  The publication is broken down into seven key chapters, and provides indicators related to income, expenditure, production, government and capital respectively.

Data are generally available for the period 1996-2009.

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  • Foreword
    This publication presents information using an "indicator" approach, focusing on cross-country comparisons; the aim being to make the accounts more accessible and informative, whilst, at the same time, taking the opportunity to present the conceptual underpinning of, and comparability issues inherent in, each of the indicators presented.
  • Reader's Guide
    Each indicator is preceded by a short text that opens with an explanation in general terms of what is measured and why. This is followed by a more detailed description of the underlying concept (Definition) consistent with the 1993 System of National Accounts (SNA). The final paragraph (Comparability) highlights those areas where some caution may be needed when comparing performance across countries or over time. Some issues relating to comparability, or the care that should be taken when making comparisons, cut across a number of subject areas. Rather than refer to these each time they arise these generic cases are described below.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

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    • Size of GDP
      Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the standard measure of the value of final goods and services produced by a country during a period. While GDP is the single most important indicator to capture these economic activities, it is not a good measure of societies’ wellbeing and only a limited measure of people’s material living standards. The sections and indicators that follow better address this and other related issues and this is one of the primary purposes of this publication.
    • GDP growth
      Changes in the size of economies are usually measured by changes in the volume (often referred to as real) of GDP. Real reflects the fact that changes in GDP due to inflation are removed. This provides a measure of changes in the volume of production of an economy.
    • GDP per capita
      Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita is a core indicator of economic performance and commonly used as a broad measure of average living standards or economic well-being; despite some recognised shortcomings.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Income

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    • National income
      While per capita gross domestic product is the indicator most commonly used to compare income levels, two other measures are preferred, at least in theory, by many analysts. These are per capita Gross National Income (GNI) and Net National Income (NNI).
    • Disposable income
      Disposable income, as a concept, is closer to the concept of income generally understood in economics, than either national income or GDP. At the total economy level it differs from national income in that additional income items are included, mainly other current transfers such as remittances. For countries where these additional items form significant sources of income the importance of focusing on disposable income in formulating policy is clear. For OECD countries the differences between national and disposable income at the total economy level are typically insignificant. But another very important difference between national income and disposable income concerns the allocation of income across sectors. At this level significant differences arise. In the main these reflect the reallocation of national income: from corporations and households to government, on account of income taxes; from households to government to reflect social contributions; and, from government and corporations to households to reflect social benefits other than social transfers in kind. It is mainly this reallocation of income that brings the concept of income closer to the economic concept. Indeed, ignoring, for simplicity, changes in net worth that arise from capital transfers or holding gains say, disposable income can be seen as the maximum amount that a unit can afford to spend on consumption goods or services without having to reduce its financial or non-financial assets or by increasing its liabilities.
    • Real measures of income
      As described in earlier sections, measures of income, such as national or disposable income are generally preferred, in theory, to GDP, in analyses of well-being both in nominal and real terms. However there are some specificities related to the calculation and associated interpretations of real income, as opposed to real GDP say, that are worth mentioning.
    • Saving
      The purpose of saving is to increase future resources available for consumption and to protect against unexpected changes in income. Saving in its simplest terms is very similar to the concept of saving commonly used by the man on the street. It reflects the amount of disposable income that remains after final consumption expenditures, and that is invested – be that in financial assets, such as bank deposits or shares, or non-financial assets, such as real estate. Its importance is therefore paramount in many areas such as: analyses of the sustainability of consumption patterns; or the scope of governments to stimulate demand or raise taxes. Government saving is also an important indicator in a budgetary context. The "Golden rule", for example, that government saving should be zero over the course of an economic cycle is often set as a fiscal objective.
    • Household saving rate
      Household saving is the main domestic source of funds to finance capital investment, which is a major impetus for long-term economic growth. Household saving rates vary considerably between countries because of institutional, demographic and socioeconomic differences. For example government provisions for old-age pensions and the demographic age structure of the population will all influence the rate at which populations save (older persons tend to run down their financial assets during their retirement to the detriment of saving). Equally the availability and price of credit, as well as attitudes towards debt, may also influence choices made by individuals regarding whether to spend or save.
    • Net lending/net borrowing
      Net lending/borrowing is one of only two balancing items in the SNA where the reference to "net" is not in juxtaposition to "gross": in other words it is not in reference to lending net of depreciation. If it is positive it is described as net lending and if negative, as net borrowing. It reflects the amount of financial assets that are available for lending or needed for borrowing to finance all expenditures – current, gross capital formation, non-produced non-financial assets, and capital transfers – in excess of disposable income. Its importance as an economic concept is best illustrated by the fact that it forms one of the two Maastricht excessive deficit criteria used by the European Commission to assess the soundness and sustainability of public finances.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Expenditure

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    • Household consumption
      Household final consumption expenditure is typically the largest component of final uses of GDP, representing in general around 60% of GDP. It is therefore an essential variable for economic analysis of demand. An additional concept, (household) actual individual consumption, also exists in the SNA. This concept allocates individual consumption expenditures of general government and NPISHs (those that directly benefit households) to households (the ultimate consumers of these expenditures), providing an important measure for cross-country comparisons, in particular for comparisons of well-being.
    • General government final consumption
      General government final consumption expenditure consists of expenditure incurred by government in its production of non-market final goods and services (except GFCF) and market goods and services provided as social transfers in kind. Total general government final consumption is perhaps of less political releance, from a fiscal perspective, than general government expenditure (see Section 16) but its importance as a component of total GDP, and, so, as a reflection of its direct role as a "consumer" of final goods and services is significant.
    • Investment
      Investment, or to be more precise, gross fixed capital formation is an essential variable in economic analyses, such as analyses of demand and productivity.
    • Exports and imports of goods and services
      In today’s increasingly globalised world, exports and imports are key aggregates in the analysis of a country’s economic situation. Whenever an economy slows down or accelerates, all other economies are potentially affected.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Production

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    • Value added
      Value added reflects the contribution of labour and capital to production. It can be shown by: type of enterprise/establishment (activity, size, market/nonmarket, age, etc.); type of product, and institutional sector and combinations of these, and is a key variable in economic analyses such as productivity and structural analysis.
    • Compensation of employees
      Compensation of employees reflects the total remuneration in cash or in kind paid to employees and comprises wages and salaries and the value of social contributions paid by employers. They typically form the largest part of value added. Combined with estimates of labour input they provide the basis for a number of important statistics including unit labour costs and average earnings; which play an important role in many countries in monetary policy and cross country comparisons of labour costs.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts General Government

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    • Total expenditure
      Section 11 described the concept of general government final consumption, reflecting the contribution government makes as a consumer of final goods and services for individual and collective consumption. Whilst useful in illustrating the scope for government to stimulate demand directly, it does not tell the full story. For a start the measure does not include GFCF of government which is an area where the scope to stimulate demand is considerable. But it also excludes other components of spending by government not recorded as final consumption, for example, debt interest payments, and cash transfers, such as social benefits, which, collectively, better reflect the size of government and its ability to stimulate demand, without changing taxes say, both directly and indirectly. The concept that best reflects this overall expenditure is referred to as general government expenditure. It reflects the total amount of expenditure by government that needs to be financed via revenues, such as taxation, and borrowing.
    • Taxes
      In the SNA, taxes are compulsory unrequited payments, in cash or in kind, made by institutional units to the general government exercising its sovereign powers or to a supranational authority and generally constitute the major part of government revenue in most countries. Social security contributions, which although being compulsory payments to general government, are not treated as taxes in the SNA because the receipt of social security benefits depends, in most countries, upon appropriate contributions having been made, even though the size of the benefits is not necessarily related to the amount of the contributions. However, many policy makers and users prefer to define taxes to include social security contributions. Indeed this is the basis of tax measures used in the OECD Revenue Statistics publication. This partly reflects the fact that the contributions to general government are compulsory but also because not all countries operate social security schemes, choosing instead to finance social benefits paid by government through other taxes or revenue (see also Section 18). From a practical policy perspective, definitions of taxes that include social security contributions are generally preferred. This section however focuses on the SNA definition.
    • Social contributions
      Social contributions are actual or imputed payments to social insurance schemes to make provision for social insurance benefits (see Section 17). They may be made by employers on behalf of their employees or by employees, self-employed or non-employed persons on their own behalf. The contributions may be compulsory or voluntary and the schemes may be funded or unfunded. Compulsory social security contributions paid to general government or to social security funds under the effective control of government form an important part of government revenue and, although they are not treated so in the SNA, many analysts (including the OECD’s Tax Directorate) consider the payments as being analogous to a tax on income and so part of a country’s overall tax burden. They are important not only in the sense that they form a significant share of government revenue but because they also reflect part of the costs of doing business. In many developing countries high social contributions coupled with low social benefits are often cited as a reason for a large informal economy.
    • Social benefits
      Social benefits reflect current transfers to households in cash or in kind to provide for the needs that arise from certain events or circumstances, for example sickness, unemployment, retirement, housing, education or family circumstances that may adversely affect the well-being of the households concerned either by imposing additional demands on their resources or by reducing their incomes. Transfers are typically made by governments and NPISH, and they form a significant share of total general government expenditure and households disposable income; particularly for the lower income groups of society. They are an important factor in analyses of households’ welfare and income inequality and the redistributive role of government.
    • Financial assets and liabilities
      The amount of financial assets and liabilities held by government has significant political and economic importance. The assets reflect a source of additional income available to government and a source of funds that it can draw on without necessarily increasing liabilities, for example as an additional lever to protect its currency when money markets exert prohibitive upward pressure on bond yields say. The liabilities reflect the debts accumulated by government and, so, provide an indication of the structural nature of debt interest payments (which add to government deficit). This matters because, in general, the higher the liabilities the higher the perceived risk of default (and therefore the higher the risk premium required by the market). Typically, this cycle can eventually force governments to either cut spending or raise taxes. General government gross debt’s importance, and, in particular, the importance of sustainable levels of debt, is reflected in the European Maastricht criteria, where it is one of the two measures referred to in the Excessive Deficit Procedure.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Capital

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    • Net capital stock
      Net capital stock reflects the market value of the stock of fixed assets in the economy and as such provides an important indication of overall wealth. It also forms an important input into the derivation of other statistical indicators, such as depreciation and, in some cases, capital services.
    • Consumption of fixed capital
      Economically, consumption of fixed capital, (depreciation), is best described as a deduction from income to account for the loss in capital value owing to the use of capital goods in production. Its primary importance in an accounting sense is in its use as the "netting" component in estimates of net domestic product, etc., as described in earlier sections, and, so, in its ability to permit analyses that are closer to a welfare perspective than gross measures. It also constitutes one part of the costs of capital services and so plays a role in productivity measurement. Moreover it has a direct impact on GDP because estimates of non-market value-added explicitly include a component for depreciation.
    • Non-financial assets held by households
      Non-financial assets held by households reflect the assets owned by unincorporated household enterprises and dwellings owned by households, with the latter component forming by far the bulk of nonfinancial assets held by households. They form an important part of overall wealth and can provide an important additional source of revenue; either through their sale or refinancing, or as income via rentals of residential property for example. Estimates of non-financial assets held by households also play an important role in economic analyses, such as studies of asset bubbles, and analyses of living standards.
    • Financial assets held by households
      Financial assets held by households include cash, shares, pension funds, etc., and form an important part of overall wealth and an important source of revenue; either through their sale or refinancing, via pensions, or other property income via interest and dividends say. Data on financial assets held by households play an important role in economic analyses, such as studies of asset bubbles and analyses of welfare.
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  • Reference Series
    Gross domestic product - Actual individual consumption - Population - Purchasing power parities - Exchanges rates
  • The 2008 SNA – Changes from the 1993 SNA
    For all OECD countries except Australia, the indicators presented in this publication are based on the 1993 SNA. The 2008 SNA has recently been finalised and includes a number of changes to the 1993 SNA. Although it will be a number of years (2014 for most countries) before the national accounts and this publication reflect these changes, it is all the same instructive to present the key changes (those that will eventually impact on the indicators presented in this publication) here. For Australia, an indication of the size of the changes for the two most significant items (R&D and weapons system) that impact on the indicators is also presented below. A full description of the impact of the 2008 SNA on Australia’s accounts can be found at: 8DD6B1990BCE6806CA25765D0004DD3F/$File/5310055002_September%202009.pdf.
  • Glossary of Main Terms
    The definitions in this Glossary are based on the actual wording used in the System of National Accounts, 1993 (SNA93). Where applicable, each definition shows the paragraph of SNA93 from which the definition has been derived.
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