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Mapped: The World’s Largest Exporters in 2018

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The World's Largest Exporters in 2018

Visualizing the World’s Largest Exporters in 2018

Trillions of dollars of goods get traded around the world every year.

In 2018, total global exports exceeded $19 trillion, including specialized goods falling into almost every possible category imaginable.

Whether you’re talking about German cars, Bangladeshi t-shirts, Saudi oil, or Swiss milk chocolate, just about anything is available on the world market for a price – and the world’s largest exporting countries aim to take advantage.

Ranked: The 15 Largest Exporters in 2018

Today’s visualization comes to us from HowMuch.net, and it resizes countries based on their most recent export numbers, as per data from the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Let’s take a look at how the field breaks down:

RankCountryExports (2018, $M)Share of Global Total
#1🇨🇳 China$2,487,04512.8%
#2🇺🇸 United States$1,664,0858.6%
#3🇩🇪 Germany$1,560,8168.0%
#4🇯🇵 Japan$738,4033.8%
#5🇳🇱 Netherlands$722,6683.7%
#6🇰🇷 Korea, Rep.$604,8603.1%
#7🇫🇷 France$581,8163.0%
#8🇭🇰 Hong Kong, China$569,2412.9%
#9🇮🇹 Italy$546,6432.8%
#10🇬🇧 United Kingdom$485,7112.5%
#11🇧🇪 Belgium$466,7242.4%
#12🇲🇽 Mexico$450,5722.3%
#13🇨🇦 Canada$449,8452.3%
#14🇷🇺 Russia$444,0082.3%
#15🇸🇬 Singapore$412,6292.1%

Leading the list of the world’s largest exporters is China, with a whopping $2.5 trillion of goods sent abroad in 2018. If you add in Hong Kong’s numbers, China holds 15.7% of the global export total — roughly equal to Japan, Netherlands, South Korea, France, and Singapore combined.

Coming next on the list is the U.S., which exports about $1.7 trillion of goods each year. After that comes Germany, which is the only other country to export over $1 trillion of goods per year.

Comparing U.S. and Chinese Exports

What does China export, and how does that compare to a more developed economy such as the United States?

Using data from MIT’s Observatory of Economic Complexity, we can see the broad breakdown of exports in both countries:

🇨🇳 China (Exports)Share 🇺🇸 U.S. (Exports)Share
Machines48.5%Machines22.1%
Textiles9.9%Transportation14.9%
Metals7.1%Chemical Products13.7%
Chemical Products4.9%Mineral Products11.4%
Plastics and Rubbers4.0%Instruments6.8%
Instruments3.2%Plastics and Rubbers5.5%
Transportation3.2%Vegetable Products5.1%
Footwear and Headwear2.6%Metals4.8%
Stone and Glass1.7%Foodstuffs3.3%
Mineral Products1.3%Precious Metals3.1%
Animal Hides1.2%Animal Products2.2%
Other/Misc12.4%Paper Goods2.1%
Textiles1.7%
Other/Misc3.3%

On first glance, it’s clear that China’s exports are reliant on one heavy-hitting category (Machines) to drive a whopping 48.5% of total export value. Within that broad category of machines, there are many narrower categories, including:

  • Broadcasting equipment (9.6% of total exports)
  • Computers (6.1%)
  • Office machine parts (3.8%)
  • Integrated circuits (3.3%)
  • Telephones (2.6%)
  • Electrical transformers (1.3%)
  • Semiconductor devices (1.2%)
  • Video displays (1.1%)

For the United States, machines are still important at 22.1% of exports, but three other broad categories also surpass the 10% mark: transportation, chemical products, and mineral products. This means the U.S. is generally more diversified in its major exports.

For more, see the largest export of each state on this map.

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Demographics

The Problem of an Aging Global Population, Shown by Country

The data behind the world’s rapidly aging population, and what it could mean for the economy and future generations of retirees.

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The Implications of an Aging Population

The world is experiencing a seismic demographic shift—and no country is immune to the consequences.

While increasing life expectancy and declining birth rates are considered major achievements in modern science and healthcare, they will have a significant impact on future generations.

Today’s graphic relies on OECD data to demonstrate how the old-age to working-age ratio will change by 2060, highlighting some of the world’s fastest aging countries.

The Demographic Debacle

By 2050, there will be 10 billion people on earth, compared to 7.7 billion today—and many of them will be living longer. As a result, the number of elderly people per 100 working-age people will nearly triple—from 20 in 1980, to 58 in 2060.

Populations are getting older in all OECD countries, yet there are clear differences in the pace of aging. For instance, Japan holds the title for having the oldest population, with ⅓ of its citizens already over the age of 65. By 2030, the country’s workforce is expected to fall by 8 million—leading to a major potential labor shortage.

In another example, while South Korea currently boasts a younger than average population, it will age rapidly and end up with the highest old-to-young ratio among developed countries.

A Declining Workforce

Globally, the working-age population will see a 10% decrease by 2060. It will fall the most drastically by 35% or more in Greece, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. On the other end of the scale, it will increase by more than 20% in Australia, Mexico, and Israel.

aging population chart

Israel’s notably higher increase of 67% is due to the country’s high fertility rate, which is comparable to “baby boom” numbers seen in the U.S. following the second World War.

As countries prepare for the coming decades, workforce shortages are just one of the impacts of aging populations already being felt.

Managing the Risks

There are many other social and economic risks that we can come to expect as the global population continues to age:

  • The Squeezed Middle: With more people claiming pension benefits but less people paying income taxes, the shrinking workforce may be forced to pay higher taxes.
  • Rising Healthcare Costs: Longer lives do not necessarily mean healthier lives, with those over 65 more likely to have at least one chronic disease and require expensive, long-term care.
  • Economic Slowdown: Changing workforces may lead capital to flow away from rapidly aging countries to younger countries, shifting the global distribution of economic power.

The strain on pension systems is perhaps the most evident sign of a drastically aging population. Although the average retirement age is gradually increasing in many countries, people are saving insufficiently for their increased life span—resulting in an estimated $400 trillion deficit by 2050.

Pensions Under Pressure

A pension is promised, but not necessarily guaranteed. Any changes made to existing government programs can alter the lives of future retirees entirely—but effective pension reforms that lessen the growing deficit are required urgently.

Towards a Better System

Certain countries are making great strides towards more sustainable pension systems, and the Global Pension Index suggests initiatives that governments can take into consideration, such as:

  1. Continuing to increase the age of retirement
  2. Increasing the level of savings—both inside and outside pension funds
  3. Increasing the coverage of private pensions across the labor force, including self-employed and contract employees, to provide improved integration between various pillars
  4. Preserving retirement funds by limiting the access to benefits before the retirement age
  5. Increasing the trust and confidence of all stakeholders by improving transparency of pension plans

Although 59% of employees are expecting to continue earning well into their retirement years, providing people with better incentives and options to make working at an older age easier could be crucial for ensuring continued economic growth.

Live Long and Prosper

As 2020 marks the beginning of the Decade of Healthy Ageing, the world is undoubtedly entering a pivotal period.

Countries all over the world face tremendous pressure to effectively manage their aging populations, but preparing for this demographic shift early will contribute to the economic advancement of countries, and allow populations—both young and old—to live long and prosper.

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Economy

Everything You Need to Know About Recessions

The economic cycle is a series of peaks and valleys. Analyzing economic data going back to 1950 helps put recessions into perspective.

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expansions recessions

Everything You Need to Know About Recessions

Just like in life, markets go through peaks and valleys. The good news for investors is that often the peaks ascend to far greater heights than the depths of the valleys.

Today’s post helps to put recessions into perspective. It draws information from Capital Group to break down the frequency of economic expansions and recessions in modern U.S. history, while also showing their typical impact.

What is a Recession?

Not all recessions are the same. Some can last long while others are short. Some create lasting effects, while others are quickly forgotten. Some cripple entire economies, while others are much more targeted, impacting specific sectors within the economy.

Recession is when your neighbor loses their job. Depression is when you lose yours.

– Harry Truman

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, a recession can be described as a significant decline in economic activity over an extended period of time, typically several months.

In the average recession, gross domestic product (GDP) is not the only thing shrinking—incomes, employment, industrial production, and retail sales tend to shrink as well. Economists generally consider two consecutive quarters of declining GDP as a recession.

The general economic model of a recession is that when unemployment rises, consumers are more likely to save than spend. This places pressure on businesses that rely on consumers’ income. As a result, company earnings and stock prices decline, which can fuel a negative cycle of economic decline and negative expectations of returns.

recession expansion cycle

During economic recoveries and expansions, the opposite occurs. Rising employment encourages consumer spending, which bolsters corporate profits and stock market returns.

How Long Do Recessions Last?

Recessions generally do not last very long. According to Capital Group’s analysis of 10 cycles since 1950, the average length of a recession is 11 months, although they have ranged from eight to 18 months over the period of analysis.

Jobs losses and business closures are dramatic in the short term, though equity investments in the stock market have generally fared better. Throughout the history of economics, recessions have been relatively small blips.

 Average ExpansionAverage Recession
Months6711
GDP Growth24.3%-1.8%
S&P 500 Returns117%3%
Net Jobs Added12M-1.9M

Over the last 65 years, the U.S. has been in an official recession for less than 15% of all months. In addition, the overall economic impact of most recessions is relatively small. The average expansion increased GDP by 24%, whereas the average recession decreased GDP by less than 2%.

In fact, equity returns can be positive throughout a contraction, since some of the strongest stock rallies have occurred in the later stages of a recession.

Buying the Dip: Recession Indicators

Whether you are an investor or not, it would be wise to pay attention to potential recessions and prepare accordingly.

There are several indicators that people can watch to anticipate a potential recession, which might give them an edge in preparing their portfolios:

Recession IndicatorWhy is it Important?Average Length Until Recession
Inverted Yield CurveOften a sign the U.S. Fed has hiked short-term rates too high or investors are seeking long-term bonds over riskier assets.15.7 months
Corporate ProfitsWhen profits decline, businesses cut investment, employment, and wages.26.2 months
UnemploymentWhen unemployment rises, consumers cut back on spending.6.1 months
Housing StartsWhen the economic outlook is poor, home builders often cut back on housing projects.5.3 months
Leading Economic Index
Aggregation of multiple leading economic indicators. gives a broader look at the U.S. economy.
4.1 months

This is not a magic rubric for anticipating every economic downturn, but it helps individuals see the weather patterns on the horizon. Whether and where the storm hits is another question.

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