Australia’s International Business Survey 2018: A profile of respondent businesses

04 Oct 2018


  • Matthew Durban
  • AIBS 2018

AIBS 2018 is one of the largest and most detailed surveys of Australia’s internationally-active businesses. This latest survey captures the responses of 713 Australian companies (629 internationally active) drawn from 19 industry sectors operating across 92 international markets.

As noted the survey does a particularly good job of representing the views of internationally experienced small and medium-sized enterprises: About 60 per cent of survey respondents had 19 or fewer employees, and 60 per cent earned international revenue of less than $1 million last financial year.

The export of final goods directly from Australia was the most important international activity undertaken by exporters, with 78 per cent of respondents deeming it either “essential” or “very important” to their overseas revenue. This was identical to last year’s survey, and similar to those before it.

But what are the characteristics of these businesses?

  • Twenty-four per cent of respondents are from the manufacturing sector, which once again is the single largest source of survey participants. Fourteen per cent were from professional services, 12 per cent from agriculture and nine per cent from education and training.
  • Eighty-two per cent of respondents earned international revenue from more than one country with 12 per cent from more than 11 countries. The top markets for international revenue for respondents were the US, China, New Zealand, UK and Singapore. While 22 per cent had been earning international revenues for at least a decade.
  • The heads of respondent businesses were predominantly male (82 per cent) and the businesses wholly or majority Australian owned (87 per cent). Although interestingly a further four per cent were wholly or majority owned by first generation migrants.
  • For the 8 per cent of businesses which did not undertake international commerce, the main reason was a focus on domestic scalability (36 per cent), followed by lack of international leads or contacts (32 per cent).
  • Nevertheless these respondents valued introductions to overseas buyers, distributors or partners most highly (57 per cent) followed by insights into trends and emerging opportunities (38 per cent), grants (38 per cent) and understanding Free Trade Agreements and regulatory requirements (30 per cent).

IABs by state - industry profile

IABs by state - business revenue and employee number