Economic and Political Overview

flag Australia Australia: Economic and Political Overview

In this page: Economic Outline | Political Outline | COVID-19 Country Response

 

Economic Outline

Economic Overview

The Australian economy experienced 27 years of uninterrupted economic growth. it was the only OECD country that did not enter into recession during the financial crisis of 2007-2008, holding one of the highest growth rates of the developed world. After growing by 3.7% in 2022, the Australian economy's growth stayed below its usual pace in 2023 (+1.8%) due to persistent cost-of-living pressures and increased interest rates, which dampened demand. The main drivers of growth were elevated net migration, resilient private investment, and strong public investment in transport, health, education, and national defence. Economic activity is forecasted to continue slowing down in the short term; consequently, growth is anticipated to decrease to approximately 1.2% in 2024 before it picks up to 2% the following year (IMF).


Monetary policy has significantly tightened in 2023, marked by a cumulative increase of 400 basis points in interest rates since early 2022. Additionally, the fiscal deficit has shrunk more rapidly compared to other advanced economies, standing at 1.6% of GDP in 2023, largely owing to a spike in tax receipts from businesses and households. Nevertheless, the IMF expects it to widen to 2.3% this year. While the anticipation of increased debt servicing is likely to drive up spending during the 2023-2024 financial year, tax reforms - especially the planned reduction in income tax set to take effect in July 2024 - will partially counterbalance this rise. Consequently, this gradual fiscal consolidation is expected to stabilize the government debt ratio over the medium term. Moreover, the proportion of Australian public debt held by non-residents, currently around 45%, has been decreasing since 2020. Overall, the debt-to-GDP ratio was estimated at 51.9% in 2023. Headline inflation dropped to 5.8% in 2023, down from its peak of 7.8% in Q4 2022, surpassing the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) target range of 2-3%. Services inflation persists despite a reduction in global supply chain pressures and a domestic demand slowdown due to tighter monetary policy, which have contributed to a decline in goods inflation. Despite recent moderation, services inflation remains elevated and widespread, fueled by robust demand, increased input costs from both labour and non-labor factors like rent and electricity, and supply constraints. The IMF expects inflation to decrease gradually over the forecast horizon, to 3.4% in 2025.

The short-term projection for employment growth has been adjusted upwards by the Reserve Bank of Australia due to the improved forecast for domestic activity and the expectation of stronger growth in the working-age population in the coming year. Employment is anticipated to continue expanding over the next few years, and a significant portion of the labour market adjustment to below-trend economic growth is anticipated to happen through a reduction in average hours worked. During 2023, unemployment averaged 3.7%, in line with the previous year, although it is seen to rise to 4.3% in 2024. In general, Australians enjoy a high standard of living, with GDP per capita (PPP) estimated at USD 64,675 in 2023 by the IMF. Nevertheless, according to the Council of Social Services’ “2022 Poverty in Australia Snapshot”, 3.3 million people (13.4% of the population) live below the poverty line of 50% of median income, including 761,000 children (16.6%).

 
Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 1,702.551,687.711,685.671,780.931,870.76
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 3.71.81.22.02.2
GDP per Capita (USD) 64,81463,48762,59665,31767,798
General Government Balance (in % of GDP) -2.5-1.6-2.3-1.9-1.4
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 50.751.955.656.356.3
Inflation Rate (%) n/a5.84.03.43.1
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labour Force) 3.73.74.34.54.8
Current Account (billions USD) 18.3610.38-11.89-14.37-15.27
Current Account (in % of GDP) 1.10.6-0.7-0.8-0.8

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database, Latest data available.

Note : (E) Estimated data

 

Main Sectors of Industry

Traditionally, Australia is an importer of finished goods. Its industrialisation is fairly recent, a fact which explains the small scale of its manufacturing sector. Nevertheless, the industrial sector is characterised by high productivity levels, with 75% of the industries rating above the global average. The secondary sector employs 19% of the workforce and contributes to just over a quarter of the GDP (25.5% - World Bank, latest data available). The manufacturing industry is built around the food industry (27% of the workforce), machinery and equipment (around 20%), metal processing and metal goods (nearly 16%), the chemical and petrochemical industries (slightly more than 10%) and building materials, wood, furniture & other manufacturing products with 17% (AI Group, 2022).

Agriculture employs 2% of the workforce and contributes 2.7% of the GDP (World Bank, 2023). However, the agricultural and mining sectors are the most important for exports: Australia is a vast agricultural country and one of the world's main exporters of wool, meat, wheat and cotton. The country is overflowing with mineral and energy raw materials, which secure substantial revenues when exported. Australia was again the world’s largest producer of iron ore in 2023, and the second of gold and uranium, and stayed the world’s largest LNG exporter ahead of Qatar the same year. In fact, iron ore exports alone account for 24% of the country's total annual exports and it was the first Australian commodity to reach the AUD 100 billion mark in annual export value. Australia also has the world's largest reserves of numerous strategic resources, such as uranium, of which it holds 40% of the world's confirmed reserves. According to the latest official government data, Australian agriculture production is forecast to fall in 2023-24 as increasing global supply and drier conditions impact farmers. The total value is projected at AUD 78 billion as drier conditions impact record-high crop production levels, AUD 16 billion lower than estimated production values for 2022–23 but still the third-highest result on record.

The services sector occupies a dominant position in the Australian economy, contributing to 63.3% of the GDP and employing over 79% of the workforce (World Bank). The biggest growth in this sector has been the rise of business and financial services (holding the world’s sixth-largest pool of managed fund assets). Health care and social assistance have also made a fundamental contribution to growth. Travel services, such as education-related travel, recreational travel and business travel services have also been growing significantly. The banking sector is dominated by four major banks: Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, Australia & New Zealand Banking Group and National Australia Bank.

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 2.4 18.8 78.8
Value Added (in % of GDP) 3.2 27.9 62.4
Value Added (Annual % Change) 23.4 1.7 4.3

Source: World Bank, Latest data available.

 

Find more information about your business sector on our service Market Reports.

Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

Score:
82,4/100
World Rank:
3
Regional Rank:
3



 

Business environment ranking

Definition:

The business rankings model measures the quality or attractiveness of the business environment in the 82 countries covered by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Country Forecast reports. It examines ten separate criteria or categories, covering the political environment, the macroeconomic environment, market opportunities, policy towards free enterprise and competition, policy towards foreign investment, foreign trade and exchange controls, taxes, financing, the labour market and infrastructure.

Score:
8.35/10
World Rank:
6/82

Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit - Business Environment Rankings 2020-2024

 

Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.

 

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Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
Governor General: David HURLEY (since 1 July 2019)
Prime Minister: Anthony ALBANESE (since 23 May 2022) - Australian Labour Party.
Next Election Dates
Senate: May 2025
House of Representatives: May 2025
Current Political Context
In the May 2022 federal elections, the centre-left Labour Party reclaimed power after nine years in opposition, securing a narrow majority in the House of Representatives, the lower house of Parliament. The party obtained 77 out of 151 seats, an increase from 68 seats in the previous federal election in 2019, while the centre-right Liberal-National coalition, previously in power, retained 58 seats. Therefore, the Labor leader Anthony Albanese was nominated Prime Minister.
In October 2023, Australians voted on a referendum to establish an Indigenous advisory body enshrined in the Constitution. Despite a strong campaign and bipartisan support, the proposal was ultimately rejected by a majority of voters. In March, the New South Wales state election saw the incumbent Liberal Party lose power to the Labor Party after 12 years. This marked a significant shift in the political landscape of the state and had implications for national politics.
Main Political Parties
Three parties dominate the political life:
- The Liberal Party: conservative, centre-right, neoliberal
- The National Party of Australia (former Country Party): conservative, centre-right, mostly represents rural interests, in a coalition with the Liberal Party.
- The Australian Labour Party: social democrat, centre-left

The Greens and Independent members are also present in the parliament.
Type of State
The Commonwealth of Australia is a Federal State of six States and two Territories based on a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy.
Executive Power
Australia is an independent nation that belongs to the Commonwealth, and recognises the British Monarch as its sovereign. As such, King Charles III is the Head of State. He is represented in Australia by a Governor General who has a symbolic function (they are appointed by her on the recommendation of the Prime Minister). The Prime Minister is the Head of the Government. The Prime Minister runs state business and appoints the Cabinet. The Prime Minister is the leader of the party that wins the majority of seats in the House of Representatives at the General Election.
Legislative Power
The parliament is bicameral and composed of the Senate with 76 members and the House of Representatives with 151 members. Senators are elected for a six-year term, with half of the membership being renewed every three years. Members of the House of Representatives serve terms of up to three years. By Westminster convention, the decision as to the date on which an election is to take place is that of the Prime Minister, who 'advises' the Governor-General to set the process in motion by dissolving the House of Representatives (if it has not expired) and then issuing writs for election. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet are responsible for parliament, of which they must be elected members.
 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
25/180
 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Ranking:
Free
Political Freedom:
1/7
Civil Liberties:
1/7

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House

 

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COVID-19 Country Response

Travel restrictions
Regularly updated travel information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related entry regulations, flight bans, test and vaccines requirements is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
To find information about the current travel regulations, including health requirements, it is also advised to consult Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on a daily basis by IATA.
Import & export restrictions
A general overview of trade restrictions which were adopted by different countries during the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
For a general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 outbreak (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) undertaken by the Australian government, please consult the section dedicated to Australia in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses
For an evaluation of impact of the Covid pandemic on SMEs and an inventory of country responses to foster SME resilience, refer to the OECD's SME Covid-19 Policy Responses document.
You can also consult the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.

 

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Latest Update: March 2024