The importance of advanced physical and mathematical sciences to the Australian economy

Published in 2015, this report quantifies the contribution of the advanced physical and mathematical sciences (the APM sciences) to the Australian economy. It was commissioned by the Office of the Chief Scientist and the Australian Academy of Science and prepared by economists from the Centre for International Economics.

Expert scientists assessed all of the Australian Bureau of Statistics' ANZSIC 2006 classification system's 506 industry classes and rated how dependent they are on the APM sciences—physics, chemistry, maths and the earth sciences. For industry classes important to the APM sciences based sector, follow-up consultations were undertaken with industry representatives to ensure that their industry experience matched the views from the workshop. At the end of this consultation phase, 158 APM science-based classes were identified.

The Centre of International Economics then used statistical data and a computable general equilibrium model to calculate the economic contribution (the net value added and employment) of those classes.

The analysis builds on the methodologies used by researchers in Europe and the United States, and takes a more rigorous approach to both the identification of sectors and the measurement of flow on impacts.

The economists found that the APM sciences, directly and indirectly:

  • account for 22.5% of Australian economic activity, or around $292 billion per year
  • provide 7% of total Australian employment (about 760,000 jobs in 27,000 businesses)
  • generate 28% of our exports, or about $74 billion per year.

In addition, the parts of the Australian economy based on the APM sciences have:

  • grown at an average of 3.5% per year in the past decade, compared to an average of 3% per year for the Australian economy overall
  • delivered productivity (gross value added per worker) double that of the economy as a whole.

In the report, the heads of the sponsoring organisations note: the Australian community's continuing commitment to the APM sciences will be needed to ensure that the benefits from what is essentially a global scientific enterprise can accrue to the Australian economy... With that commitment, all Australians will benefit.

© 2017 Australian Academy of Science

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