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Statistical portrait of Australia's exporters

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in conjunction with Austrade, today released a new publication containing data which gives new insights into the characteristics and behaviour of Australia’s exporting businesses.

The report is a result of an important collaborative project between the two organisations established to gain a better understanding of the Australian exporter community.

During 1997-98 there were 21,800 exporting businesses in Australia which represented 4% of all businesses. Of these, 77% were small businesses (those employing less than 20 people).

While small businesses made up the majority of exporting businesses, they accounted for only 13% of total export revenue. There were an estimated 700 large business exporters (those employing 200 or more people) contributing 49% to total export revenue.

Over the three-year period 1994-95 to 1997-98, the number of exporting businesses increased 26% from 17,300 to 21,800 which represented an average growth rate of 8% per year. Growth was strongest in the small business sector, particularly in micro businesses (those employing 1-4 people) where growth averaged 11% per annum over the three years.

Only a little over one third of exporters that operated over the four years of the survey exported in every year. Large businesses were more likely to be regular exporters, with 54% of the large exporting businesses exporting in each year.

By comparison, in the small business category only one third of the exporters exported in all years. Of the irregular exporters, most exported in only one of the four years.

The regular exporting businesses tended to be the major exporters, averaging over $6 million in export revenue per year which represented, on average, 27% of their total income.

On the other hand, irregular exporting businesses tended to have a much lower proportion of their income accounted for by exports (an average of 9%) with average export revenue of $457,000 per year.

Overall, exporting firms showed some distinctive business characteristics when compared to their non-exporting counterparts. Exporting firms were more likely to employ staff on a full time basis and were also more likely to employ staff on a permanent basis.

Exporting businesses were more likely to provide training for their staff and more likely to use practices such as formal business plans and regular income and expenditure reports, or to be involved in formal business networking arrangements.

Exporting businesses were more intensive users of information technology tools. In 1997-98, 69% of Australia’s exporting firms had access to the Internet, compared to only 28% of non-exporters.

Full details are in “A Portrait of Australian Exporters: A Report Based on the Business Longitudinal Survey” (Cat. No. 8154.0), which is available from the ABS.

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