National accounts

2014 saw most countries revising GDP estimates upwards

 

Why?

Main aggregates like gross domestic product (GDP), household consumption expenditure, general government deficit, etc., are compiled using a unified and internationally comparable framework: the System of National Accounts (SNA). A couple of years ago, the international standards for this framework have been updated, from the SNA 1993 to the SNA 2008. By now, most OECD-countries have implemented the new standards. 

National accounts play a key role in understanding the workings of the economy by providing information on the economic interactions taking place between different sectors of the economy (households, corporations, government, non-profit institutions and the rest of the world), allowing for macro-economic analysis and evidence based decision making. To maintain relevance in describing how the economy functions, the national accounts need to evolve and adapt to the changes in the economy. One prominent example is the need to better reflect the growing importance of the knowledge economy by recognising research and development as investment.

Four successive international standards for national accounts have been released: 1952, 1968, 1993 and 2008.

 

System of National Accounts 2008 (SNA08) - Main Changes

The changes in the international standards which have the most significant impact on the level of GDP relate to the delineation of investments.

According to SNA 2008, expenditures on research and development and weapons systems (warships, submarines, military aircraft, tanks, etc.) are now included in gross fixed capital formation, i.e. investments. This is recognition of the fact that expenditures on these items provide long-lasting services to businesses, non-profit institutions, and the governments who use them. It increases the level of GDP across time, but the impact on GDP growth rates will generally be minor (as can be seen in countries who have already implemented SNA 2008).

Moreover, in situations like this when changes in international standards are actually implemented in the national accounts, countries tend to take advantage of the unique situation and make changes to improve all their compilation methods - therefore also implementing various improvements in sources and estimation methodologies. It is important to underline that the impact of the latter “statistical benchmark revision” could be higher than the impact of the changeover in standards. For example, the Netherlands increased their level of GDP by 7.6 % for 2010, but only 3 percentage points are related to the implementation of the SNA 2008.

Download "New standards for compiling national accounts: what’s the impact on GDP and other macro-economic indicators?", Statistics Brief N.20" for more details.

 

The overall impact of the benchmark revision on GDP-levels, in year 2010
(changeover to SNA 2008 and statistical benchmark revision)

*Australia: 2007 data; Denmark: 2008 data; Mexico: 2008 data; Norway: 2011 data.
**OECD Total corresponds to available countries.

Source: OECD Statistics Brief N. 20, February 2015

 

Who and when?

Australia implemented the SNA08 in 2009, Canada in 2010, Israel, Mexico and the United States in 2013.

All European Union member states as well as Korea, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and New Zealand implemented the SNA08 in 2014.

Therefore since end of 2014, all OECD countries except Chile, Japan and Turkey, publish GDP estimates according to the SNA08.

Turkey plans to implement SNA08 by the end of 2015, whereas Chile and Japan will adopt the new standards in 2016.

 

Further reading

Detailed information on the implementation of SNA08 in international institutions and OECD countries

 

 

Contact

For further information please contact the OECD Statistics Directorate at stat.contact@oecd.org.

 

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