Australia ranks 13th highest national debt out of G20 nations


With the G20 Leaders’ Summit held in Brisbane this weekend, has compared how each of the 20 nations financially stack up against each other.

Out of the G20 nations, the European Union holds the biggest national debt, with a whopping US$14.8 trillion (A$16.8 trillion).

This isn’t surprising given the European Union is made up of 28 member states.

The European Union also holds the fifth-highest debt as a proportion of GDP of 87.4 percent, which means its debt is almost worth the same value as its total economic output.

The United States ranks second behind the European Union, with US$12.0 trillion (A$13.6 trillion) of debt.

It holds the eighth-highest debt as a proportion of GDP, of 71.8 percent.

Australia ranks well compared with other G20 nations according to the research, placing 13th on the list of national debt per nation.

Australia’s national debt is US$485.1 billion (A$549.8 billion), which represents 32.6 percent of the country’s GDP.

Saudi Arabia was ranked at the bottom of the list, with just US$87.7 billion (A$99.5 billion), which represents 12.2 percent of its GDP.


The highest debt as a proportion of GDP was Japan, with 226.1 percent, which means that the country’s national debt of US$11.3 trillion (A$12.9 trillion) is more than double what it made for the year.

Italy was the only other country with Japan to have a debt greater than its GDP, which was 133.0 percent and a debt of US$2.8 trillion (A$3.1 trillion), placing it fifth on the list.It also ranked third highest for national debt. If Japan spent the next two years repaying its debt with its entire GDP, it would still be in the red.

More key stats on the G20 national debt per nation:

  • Half of the G20 countries have a debt under 50% of their GDP (Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, Indonesia, Australia, South Korea, Turkey, Mexico, South Africa and Argentina).
    The remaining countries had debts that totalled above 50% of their GDP
  • Russia has the lowest proportion of debt to its GDP, with just 7.9% of debt worth US$166.9 billion (A$189.5 billion).
    Russia ranks 18th on the list, with the third-lowest national debt out of the G20 nations
  • Germany sits in between Japan and Italy on the list in fourth place, with US$2.9 trillion (A$3.3 trillion), however, this debt as a proportion of its GDP is significantly lower than Japan and Italy’s, at 79.9%
  • China is certainly a power nation, with the biggest population in the world and the third-lowest debt as a proportion of GDP.
    Its national debt of US$2.1 trillion (A$2.4 trillion) is placed eighth on the list, which is worth 22.4% of its GDP.
[1] Experian Hitwise 2013, 2014


Michelle Hutchison, Money Expert at, said that the research shows different levels of strength and vulnerability between the G20 nations.

“It was interesting to see how different each nation is and where they sit on the lists.

It’s clear that there are significant strengths and weaknesses by each nation, for instance a huge population is prosperous for some while a detriment to others.”

National Debt Per Person

Japan has taken out top spot for the highest national debt per person, at US$88,903 (A$101,305), due to its third-highest national debt (behind the US) coupled with its population being one-third the size of the US.

Japan has a population of 127.3 million, the eighth largest out of the G20 nations.

On the other end of the list, India’s debt per person was the lowest at US$691 (A$783), due to its huge population of 1.3 billion – the second largest in the world. Despite this, the country’s debt is over half (51.8 percent) of its GDP.

India’s economic output is very low compared to how many people live there. Despite its thriving population, India has more extreme poverty than anywhere else in the world .

India holds one-third of the world’s poorest people, living off less than US$1.25 per day.

Australia holds the ninth-highest debt per person, at US$20,971 (A$23,769). This is a significantly strong position, given Australia holds the smallest population out of all the G20 nations, of 23.1 million.

More key stats on the G20 national debt per person:

  •  Italy held the second-highest debt per person, of US$45,970 (A$51,813), which was almost half the size of Japan’s
  •  The US holds the fifth-highest debt per person, of US$37,975 (A$43,020), and the fifth-highest population of 316.1 million
  •  China has a significantly low debt per person of US$1,540 (A$1,768), placing it 17th on the list. Its strength lies in its workforce, with a population of 1.4 billion (the highest in the world) and an estimated 68% employed .

Mrs Hutchison said that the financial comparison of the G20 nations could also reflect different types of people and their spending and borrowing habits.

“It doesn’t matter how much debt you’re in or how much you earn. What matters is how you manage it.

“Whether it’s the G20 nations or your own personal finances, any amount of debt may seem small in comparison to others, but if it’s a struggle to pay back that debt then it can become a problem.

“Debt can be used to improve your financial situation, as long as it’s managed well. No matter how much debt you have, you can make the most of your situation by keeping track of your spending, reviewing your budget and finding better deals.”

G20 nations ranked by highest national debt:

1. European Union

The European Union of 28 member states is ranked number one for the biggest pool of national debt, with US$14.8 trillion (A$16.8 trillion).

The European Union also holds the fifth-highest debt as a proportion of GDP at 87.4%. It falls to the 8th highest nation with debt per person of US$29,237 (A$33,156).

2. United States of America

The United States ranks second behind the European Union, with US$12.0 trillion (A$13.6 trillion) of debt.

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This works out to be a debt per person of US$37,975 (A$43,020), placing it in a better position than its national debt compared with other nations.

It also holds the eighth-highest debt as a proportion of GDP, at 71.8%.

3. Japan

Japan has a national debt of US$11.3 trillion (A$12.9 trillion), earning it third place.

It also holds the highest debt as a proportion of GDP, representing 226.1%, which means its debt is more than double what it made for the year.

With a population of 127.3 million, Japan’s debt per person works out to be US$88,903 (A$101,305).

4. Germany

Germany’s national sits at US$2.9 trillion (A$3.3 trillion), which works out to be a debt per person of US$35,608 (A$ 40,932).

Ranking fourth for national debt and sixth for debt per person, this number represents 79.9% of the nation’s GDP.

5. Italy

real-estate-world-economy-global-markets-companies-tech-travel-health-112757A debt of US$2.8 trillion (A$3.1 trillion) represents 133% of Italy’s GDP.

While it ranks fifth for national debt, the debt per person is ranked second, at US$45,970 (A$51,813) with 59.8 million people.

6. France

Coming in sixth for highest national debt, France owes US$2.6 trillion (A$2.9 trillion), which also puts it in fourth place for highest debt per person – US$38,744 (A$43,920) – for its 66 million people.

This figure represents 93.4% of its GDP.

7. United Kingdom

The UK has national debt of US$2.3 trillion (A$2.6 trillion), which represents 91.1% of its GDP and puts the nation in seventh position for highest national debt.

This works out to be a national debt of US$35,587 (A$40,789) per person, which is also seventh position for debt per person. Its population size is 63.7 million.

8. China

The eighth-highest national debt is China, of US$2.1 trillion (A$2.4 trillion), representing 22.4% of its GDP.

China drops to 17th position for debt per person, at US$1,540 (A$1,768), because of its huge population of 1.4 billion – the highest in the world.

9. Canada

Canada has a debt of US$1.6 trillion (A$1.8 trillion), which puts them in the ninth-highest national debt of the G20.

The nation rises to third position for debt per person, at US$44,797 (A$51,197), with a population of 35.2 million – one of the lowest out of the G20. This debt represents 86.3% of its GDP.

household debt

10. Brazil

The tenth-highest national debt of the G20 is Brazil’s, at US$1.3 trillion (A$1.5 trillion).

Representing 59.2% of its GDP, this number also equates to a debt of US$6,471 (A$7,486), which puts it in 11th position for debt per person. Brazil’s population is 200.4 million.

11. India

India’s national debt of US$865.1 billion (A$980.5 billion) equates to 51.8% of their GDP.

Their debt per person ranks 20th (last) and amounts to US$691 (A$783) per person.

12. Mexico

A national debt of US$500.3 billion (A$567 billion) puts Mexico in the 12th-highest national debt of the G20, and also amounts to 37.7% of its GDP.

It drops down one, to the 13th place, for highest debt per person, at US$4,090 (A$4,635), with 122.3 million people.

13. Australia


The ‘land down under’ is 13th place with a a national debt of US$485.1 billion (A$549.8 billion), which is 32.6% of its GDP.

This figure increases to ninth position for debt per person, at US$20,971 (A$23,769).

Interestingly, Australia has the lowest population of the G20 nations, with just 23.1 million people.

14. South Korea

South Korea sits in 14th position for highest national debt of the G20, with US$428.9 billion (A$486.1 billion) – this is 35.8% of its GDP.

It also works out to be a debt per person of US$8,540 (A$9,679) for the 50.2 million South Koreans, which sits them in at 10th for highest debt per person.

15. Turkey

With a national debt of US$300.8 billion (A$341.3 billion) Turkey ranks 15th for highest national debt.

When it comes to debt per person, it moves up one to 14th place, with US$4,014 (A$4,555), considering its 74.9 million inhabitants.

16. Argentina

Argentina’s national debt is just US$221.9 billion (A$251.8 billion) sitting at 16th position, which almost amounts to half of its GDP, at 45.8%. Argentina ranks as the 12th highest nation for debt per person US$5,355 (A$6,075), and its population is around 41.4 million.

17. Indonesia

Indonesian debt represents less than a quarter of its GDP, at just 24.2%.

With a national debt of US$209.9 billion (A$238.3 billion), it ranks 17th out of the G20 nations.Economy 2014

However, Indonesia has the second-lowest amount of debt per person, of US$840 (A$954), as it has a large population of 249.9 million.

18. Russia

Russia has a national debt of US$166.9 billion (A$189.5 billion), which puts it in 18th spot on the list, with the third-lowest national debt out of the G20 nations.

With a population of 143.5 million, the national debt is worth US$1,162 (A$1,321) per person, and it remains in 18th place for debt per person.

Its debt represents less than a tenth of its GDP, at just 7.9%.

19. South Africa

South Africa is one of the 10 G20 nations that has a national debt under its GDP, of 45.4%.

Currently sitting on a national debt of US$160.7 billion (A$182.4 billion), placing it at 19th on the list.

When it comes to debt per person, South Africa ranks 16th of the G20 nations, with a debt of US$3,033 (A$3,443) and a population of 53 million.

20. Saudi Arabia


Saudi Arabia’s debt was ranked the lowest of the G20 nations, with US$87.7 billion (A$99.5 billion), representing 12.2% of its GDP.

With a population of 28.8 million, Saudi Arabia ranks 15th when looking at its debt per person of US$3,041 (A$3,451).

Methodology: internally compiled the research based on a number of sources including

  • The CIA World Fact Book, which lists the GDP and national debt as a percentage of GDP.
    The national debt was calculated as a value based on these figures
  • Population was also listed and was used to convert the figures to Australian Dollars
  • Other sources include, World Bank Group and a 2010 UN Report

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'Australia ranks 13th highest national debt out of G20 nations' have 1 comment

    Avatar for Michael Yardney

    November 16, 2014 Rick

    Really only of limited interest. It would be far more interesting if the analysis were inclusive of private sector debt.


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