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Measuring National Income

Author: Geoff Riley  Last updated: Sunday 23 September, 2012

Introduction

What is National Income?

National income measures the monetary value of the flow of output of goods and services produced in an economy over a period of time.

Measuring the level and rate of growth of national income (Y) is important for seeing:

  • The rate of economic growth
  • Changes to average living standards
  • Changes to the distribution of income

Gross Domestic Product

Gross domestic product (GDP) is the total value of output in an economy and is used to measure change in economic activity

GDP includes the output of foreign owned businesses that are located in a country following foreign direct investment. For example, the output produced at the Nissan car plant on Tyne and Wear and by foreign owned restaurants and banks all contribute to the UK’s GDP.

There are three ways of calculating GDP - all of which should sum to the same amount:

National Output = National Expenditure (Aggregate Demand) = National Income

(i) The Expenditure Method - aggregate demand (AD)

The full equation for GDP using this approach is GDP = C + I + G + (X-M) where
C: Household spending
I: Capital Investment spending
G: Government spending
X: Exports of Goods and Services
M: Imports of Goods and Services

The Income Method – adding factor incomes

Here GDP is the sum of the incomes earned through the production of goods and services. This is:

Income from people in jobs and in self-employment
+
Profits of private sector businesses
+
Rent income from the ownership of land
=
Gross Domestic product (by factor incomes)

Only those incomes that are come from the production of goods and services are included in the calculation of GDP by the income approach. We exclude:

  • Transfer payments e.g. the state pension; income support for families on low incomes; the Jobseekers’ Allowance for the unemployed and welfare assistance such housing benefit.
  • Private transfers of money from one individual to another
  • Income not registered with the Inland Revenue or Customs and Excise. Every year, billions of pounds worth of activity is not declared to the tax authorities. This is known as the shadow economy or black economy.  According to a World Bank report published in October 2010, the average size of the shadow economy (as a percentage of "official" gross domestic product) in Sub-Saharan Africa is 38.4 percent; in Europe and Central Asia (mostly transition countries), it is 36.5 percent, and in high-income OECD countries, it is 13.5 percent.

Published figures for GDP by factor incomes will be inaccurate because much activity is not officially recorded – including subsistence farming, barter transactions and the share economy mentioned above.

Value Added and Contributions to a Nation’s GDP

There are three main wealth-generating sectors of the economy – manufacturing, oil& gas, farming, forestry & fishing and a wide range of service-sector industries.

This measure of GDP adds together the value of output produced by each of the productive sectors in the economy using the concept of value added

Value added is the increase in the value of goods or services as a result of the production process

Value added = value of production - value of intermediate goods

Let us say that you buy a ham and mushroom pizza from Dominos at a price of £14.99. This is the final retail price and will count as consumption. The pizza has many ingredients at different stages of the supply chain – for example tomato growers, dough, mushroom farmers and also the value created by Dominos themselves as they put the pizza together and get it to the consumer.

Some products have a low value-added, for example those really cheap tee-shirts that you might find in a supermarket for little more than £5. These are low cost, high volume, low priced products.

Other goods and services are such that lots of value can be added as we move from sourcing the raw materials through to the final product. Examples include designer jewellery, perfumes, meals in expensive restaurants and sports cars. And also the increasingly lucrative computer games industry.

GDP and Purchasing Power Parity (PPP)

GDP for different countries is usually measured in a common currency – normally we use the US dollar. But there are two problems in using exchange rates to measure GDP

  • Exchange rates can be volatile from month to month and from year to year. For example a large depreciation in the value of the Argentinean peso against the US dollar might imply that Argentinean living standards have fallen even though their economy might actually be growing quite quickly
  • Exchange rates are more relevant to products that are traded between countries rather than non-traded products. Manufactured goods tend to sell for similar prices in most parts of the world – this is because international competition tends to reduce the differentials in prices for similar products. Non-traded service such as domestic cleaners, haircuts and academic tutors tend to have bigger differences in prices.

Calculations of GDP based on market exchange rates tend to over-estimate the cost of living in poorer developing countries. This is called the Balassa-Samuelson effect.

To make a PPP adjustment for comparing GDP we build a basket of comparable goods and services and look at the prices of that basket in different countries. Purchasing Power Parity is the exchange rate needed for say $100 to buy the same quantity of products in each country.

The Big Mac Index looks at the implied PPP exchange rates between countries and the actual exchange rates and uses this data to see if a currency is under or over-valued against the US dollar.


Country

Big Mac prices in local currency

Big Mac prices in dollars

Implied PPP† of the dollar

Actual dollar exchange rate January 11th 2012

Under (-)/ over (+) valuation against the dollar, %

Norway

Kroner 41

$6.79

9.77

6.04

62

Switzerland

SFr 6.50

$6.81

1.55

0.96

62

Sweden

SKr 41

$5.91

9.77

6.93

41

Brazil

Real 10.25

$5.68

2.44

1.81

35

Denmark

DK 31.5

$5.37

7.50

5.86

28

Australia

A$4.80

$4.94

1.14

0.97

18

Euro area

€ 3.49

$4.43

1.20

1.27

6

Japan

Yen 320

$4.16

76.24

76.9

-1

Britain

£2.49

$3.82

1.69§

1.54

-9

South Korea

Won 3,700

$3.19

882

1159

-24

Russia

Rouble 81.0

$2.55

19.30

31.8

-39

China

Yuan 15.4

$2.44

3.67

6.32

-42

South Africa

Rand 19.95

$2.45

4.75

8.13

-42

Malaysia

Ringgit 7.35

$2.34

1.75

3.14

-44

India

Rupee 84.0

$1.62

20.01

51.9

-61

United States

$4.20

$4.20

-

-

-

The data above is taken from Big Mac Index data for January 2012. The baseline data finds that a Big Mac costs an average of $4.20 in the United States and 3,700 South Korean won. If actual exchange rates were at their implied PPP levels, then the South Korean – US dollar exchange rate would be $1 = Won 882. In fact the Won is weaker than that against the dollar ($1 buys Won1159) which suggests that the Won is under-valued against the US dollar. So too – using the data above – is the Chinese Yuan and also the India Rupee whereas currencies such as the Brazilian Real and the Australian Dollar are over-valued on a PPP basis.

Data from the World Bank uses a huge amount of price data for different countries in order to calculate a PPP-adjusted level of GDP.  But there are problems in making international comparisons across countries:

  • What types of product – rice seems to be homogeneous but it isn’t!
  • Differences in the quality of a good or service are reflected in price variations
  • Differences in consumption weights – for example consumption of cheese reflects household preferences between countries
  • Many goods and services are not bought and sold in markets and therefore do not have official prices – in many countries there is a large informal and/or subsistence sector
  • The quality of economic data varies across countries – many nations do not have sophisticated methods of collecting information

Despite these problems, PPP-adjusted real GDP will continue to be the key way in which we measure the total value of a nation’s output of goods and services, and to guide understanding of what is happening to average living standards between countries. The table shows GDP for the biggest economies in the world for 2011.

United States

              14,991,300

China

              11,290,911

India

                4,503,069

Japan

                4,385,868

Germany

                3,227,444

Russian Federation

                3,015,434

France

                2,306,351

Brazil

                2,289,009

United Kingdom

                2,233,587

Italy

                1,983,986

Mexico

                1,752,459

Korea, Rep.

                1,507,614

Spain

                1,481,583

 

GDP by output – the distribution of GDP from different industries

The UK is an advanced economy where the majority of GDP comes from the service industries such as banking and finance, tourism, retailing, education and health and a vast range of other businesses services. In 2008 less than half of one per cent of our GDP came from the agricultural sector. Manufacturing accounted for less than 15 per cent of GDP and construction a further 6 per cent. In contrast, the service industries now contribute nearly three quarters of national income.

Manufacturing and service industries are not separate! For example the health of a car exporting business will have a direct bearing on demand, output, profits and jobs in many service businesses such as transportation, design, marketing and vehicle retailing.  Equally service businesses such as online banking require plenty of physical inputs such as machinery and infrastructure to be successful.

The main service sector industries

  • Hotels and restaurants, and a range of services provided by local government   
  • Transport, logistics, storage and communication           
  • Business services and finance, motor trade, wholesale trades and retail trade                 
  • Land transport   and air transport, post and telecommunications
  • Real estate activities, computer and related activities, Education, Health and social work 
  • Sewage and refuse disposal
  • Recreational, cultural and sporting activities

The share of national output (GDP) for the UK economy

Notice in the chart above how there are long-term shifts in value added from the three main sectors – nearly 80% of national output in the UK comes from service industries. Industry (comprising manufacturing and construction) accounts for around a fifth. The pattern of GDP depends on many factors including the stage of a country’s economic development and the extent to which a nation has built up industries of competitive advantage in the world economy.

Contrast the UK data with that of Brazil shown in the next chart

Gross National Income (GNI)

Gross National Income (GNI) = the final value of income flowing to a country’s owned factors of production

GNI = GDP + Net property income from abroad (NPIA)

  • NPIA is the net balance of interest, profits and dividends (IPD) coming into a country from assets owned overseas minus profits and other income from foreign owned assets located within a country
  • GNI is boosted by inflows of remittance incomes from people living and working abroad

Measuring Real National Income

Real GDP measures the volume of output. An increase in real output means that AD has risen faster than the rate of inflation and therefore the economy is experiencing positive growth. Consider this example

The money value of a country’s GDP is calculated to be $4,000m in 2010. In 2011, the money value of GDP expands to $4,500m but during the year, inflation is 3% causing the general index of prices to rise from a 2010 base year value of 100 to 103 in 2011.

The real value of GDP in 2011 is calculated thus:

Real GDP = money value of GDP in 2011 x 100 / general price index in 2010

= £4,500 x 100/103 = $4,369 (measured at constant 2010 prices)

Note here that the real GDP data is expressed at constant prices which mean that we have made an inflation adjustment. Look for this in the data response questions in the exam.

Measuring Income per Head of Population

How much does each person earn on average? We use per capita measures to give us a guide to this. Income per capita is a way of measuring the standard of living for the inhabitants of a country.

Gross National Income per capita = Gross National Income / Total Population

Real per capita incomes, measured in US dollars, for a selection of countries

Country Name

2000

2005

2011

Country Name

2000

2005

2011

Qatar

64829

69512

77987

Heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC)

940

1051

1244

Luxembourg

61061

68320

68459

Low income

797

941

1190

Singapore

38063

45374

53591

Burkina Faso

853

1014

1149

Kuwait

38359

48783

47935

Nepal

903

954

1102

Norway

43975

47626

46982

Guinea-Bissau

1146

1017

1097

Hong Kong SAR, China

29785

35678

43844

Rwanda

661

840

1097

United States

39545

42516

42486

Haiti

1137

1023

1034

Canada

32447

35033

35716

Mozambique

501

670

861

Ireland

33424

38896

35640

Madagascar

904

869

853

Sweden

29145

32703

35048

Malawi

667

645

805

Australia

29663

32719

34548

Sierra Leone

424

647

769

Germany

30298

31115

34437

Central African Republic

766

672

716

High income: OECD

30419

32821

33726

Niger

597

610

642

High income

30004

32450

33533

Eritrea

576

596

516

Belgium

30398

32189

33127

Liberia

344

346

506

United Kingdom

29056

32738

32474

Congo, Dem. Rep.

260

277

329

The Growing Middle Class

A key feature of many faster-growing, lower-income countries is the emergence of a significant middle class of consumers. There is no single definition of the income level needed to be included in this category. Analysts at Invesco have produced the following data:

Middle class population in millions

 

2010

2015 (Forecast)

China (i)

172

314

India (i)

186

366

Russia (ii)

91

123

Indonesia (i)

48

103

Brazil (ii)

48

69

  • Middle-class households are those with an annual income > US $ 5,000
  • Middle-class households are those with an annual income > US $ 10,000

The huge rise in the number of people calculated as having a middle-class income will be a major factor shaping growth and development in these countries in the years ahead. As per capita incomes rise, so too does the demand for consumer staple products, lifestyle products and financial services. Luxury product demand too will see abnormally high growth rates. All of this represents an enormous opportunity for multinationals who have built up global brands.  For example:

  • 40% of Apple’s revenues come from Asia Pacific and Japan
  • 50% of the revenues for the Swatch group flow from Asian consumer markets
Nearly 30% of the revenues for Kraft Foods are generated in developing markets





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