Australia's changing economy – a snapshot

From GDP of $40 billion in 1970 to $1.5 trillion today, from male participation of 84 per cent 50 years ago to 72 per cent today ... A dig through the national databases can throw up some interesting facts and figures about our evolving economy.

In keeping with the spirit of the Australia Day public holiday today, I have dug into a few databases and found some contemporary and historical facts that not everyone, presumably, knows about the Australian economy, its finance markets and policy settings.

In researching this, I certainly found some interesting bits of information with the most extraordinary piece being the fact that Australia’s unemployment rate was 0.3 per cent in 1951. Even in 1970 it was 0.9 per cent. Will it ever be this low again?

Anyway, here are some selected facts.

– Australia’s gross domestic product will be $1.52 trillion in 2012-13, up from $1.08 trillion in 2006-07, $622 billion in 1999-2000, $405 billion in
1989-90 and $40 billion in 1970-71.

– In December 2012, there were 11,538,900 million people in paid employment while 656,400 people were unemployed. In 1970, there were
5,396,000 people employed and 78,000 unemployed.

– Australia’s unemployment rate is 5.4 per cent at present, it was 0.9 per cent in August 1970 while in August 1951 it was a staggering 0.3 per cent.

– Australia’s unemployment rate has not been above 6 per cent since July 2003.

– In 1964, the female workforce participation rate was 33 per cent while now it is 58.5 per cent. In 1964, the male participation rate was 83.9 per cent, now it is 71.7 per cent.

– In the last 45 years (where data are available), Australian net government debt has never exceeded 18.1 per cent of GDP. In the US, net government debt has not been below 18.1 per cent since 1915.

– In 2012-13, Commonwealth government spending will be 23.8 per cent of GDP: in 1977-78, it was 24.8 per cent of GDP.

– Australian retail spending is around $705 million per day, of which about $40 million is spent in cafes, restaurants and takeaway meals.

– In 1969, the age pension was $15 a week while unemployment benefits for an adult were $10 a week.

– In the 12 months to November 2012, Australia slaughtered 19,776,800 lambs, 3,193,000 cows and heifers and 4,743,500 pigs.

– With a few short-lived exceptions, the interest rate on 90-day bank bills was above 10 per cent from 1974 to 1991.

– In 1970, the Australian dollar could buy over 400 Japanese yen; today the rate is around 95.

– Australia’s net foreign debt has risen from around 3 per cent of GDP in 1976, to 31 per cent in 1986, 36 per cent in 1996 and to 52 per cent in 2010. It is currently around 50 per cent of GDP.

– In 2011-12, Australia recorded a trade surplus of $33.4 billion with China, driven by $43.5 billion of iron ore exports.

– In 2011-12, Australia exported $802 million worth of coal to the United Kingdom. This was the second largest export item from Australia to the UK behind gold.

– In 2011-12, Australia exported $4000 worth of cheese and curd to Iraq which was the second largest export item to Iraq behind wheat. Australia’s imports from Iraq were zero.

– Kiribati is Australia’s 91st largest export market, taking $24 million of exports in 2011-12. The biggest export item was unmanufactured tobacco.

– As at June 30, 2012, there were 29,383 people in prison – 27,182 males and 2,201 females. Of those prisoners, 9.6 per cent were in jail for homicide and related offences. Also, 27.2 per cent of the prison population were indigenous, 57.3 per cent of prisoners had been imprisoned more than once while 581 prisoners were aged 65 and over.

– As at November 2011, for women who were pregnant and in paid employment, the mean number of leave weeks taken both paid and unpaid for the birth of the child was 32.4 weeks. And 22,200 women who had paid employment while pregnant reported that they did not take any leave for the birth of the child.

– The main types of childcare used when women started or returned to work after having a baby were ‘grandparent’ (27 per cent); ‘father/partner’ (26 per cent); ‘long day care centre’ (23 per cent).

That’s it for the Australia day public holiday.

And I am reminded of the anonymous quote or saying that is something like this: "45.34 per cent of all statistics are made up." Who knows, but all of the above are from either the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Reserve Bank of Australia or the US Congressional Budget Office.

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