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Australia’s economy is on a 25-year winning streak, and China will determine how much longer it goes

A picture of the Sydney Opera House.
Unsplash/Alex Wong
Australia doesn’t do recession.
By Dan Kopf
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Australians can breathe a sight of relief. Their record streak of consecutive quarters without a recession is still alive. After a 0.5% contraction in the third quarter of 2016, the country’s economy grew by 1.1% in the fourth quarter. It has been more than 25 years since Australia’s last recession, the longest streak for any Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) country since 1970.

Other media outlets contend the Netherlands still owns the crown for their recession-less growth from 1982 to 2008, but we beg to differ. Using data from the OECD and the generally accepted definition of a recession—two consecutive quarters of negative growth—the Netherlands went through a very mild recession in 2003.

Australia was one of the few wealthy countries to continue to grow through the 2008 financial crisis, largely because of natural resource demand from China.

The recent slowdown that threatened Australia’s run is also attributable to China, this time in reduced demand for Australia’s iron ore and coal. China is now Australia’s largest trading partner, and the Australian economy ebbs and flows with Chinese desire for their exports. Australian treasury secretary John Fraser recently spoke of the need to move the country towards “broader-based growth” after an investment boom concentrated in natural-resource extraction.

If the Australian economy were to slip in the next several years, Poland is the favorite to take over the longest active growth streak without recession. Since 1995, the first year the OECD began collecting Polish GDP growth data, the economy has not had a recession. Poland’s economy swelled at the robust rate of 1.7% in the fourth quarter of 2016, and the World Bank expects it to continue humming along in 2017. Still, it remains four years short of Australia’s current streak—a lifetime in economic-cycle years.

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