Monthly Statistical Bulletin Feature Articles

In general terms, a person who is unable to pay their debts by due dates may be declared bankrupt.

This state of bankruptcy may be requested by an insolvent person themself by a debtor s petition to the Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia the responsible Australian government body or can be requested by creditors.

Bankruptcies can be considered one measure of the state of economic conditions at any time, with bankruptcies tending to increase during times of recession.

Bankruptcies since 1948 49

Figure 1 shows total bankruptcies in the period since 1948 49.

The two obvious peaks in the number of bankruptcies are during the 1991 92 recession and during the economic slowdown around 1998 99.

Recent trends

Figure 2 shows total bankruptcies each quarter since the September quarter 1995. From a peak of over 7 000 in the June quarter 2001 when economic growth was the lowest it had been for nearly ten years the quarterly number of bankruptcies has trended downwards to about 5 000 each quarter. Part of this recent reduction can be attributed to the use of debt arrangements as an alternative to bankruptcy.

Business related bankruptcies

Business related bankruptcies are those where an individual s bankruptcy is directly related to their interest in a business. Figure 3 shows for the period since 1988 89, the proportion of bankruptcies which were business related. These figures show that from a peak of about 35 per cent in 1989 90, the percentage of business related bankruptcies has declined to around 20 per cent now.

Non-business related bankruptcies

Non-business related bankruptcies are all bankruptcies which are not related to an individual s interest in a business. Table 1 shows the underlying cause of 2004 05 bankruptcies which were non-business related.

Table 1.
Causes of non-business bankruptcy 2004 05



Per cent


5 761


Excessive use of credit

4 082


Domestic discord

2 109


Ill health

1 810


Adverse litigation



Gambling or speculation



Liabilities on guarantees







16 324


This table shows that in excess of one-third of all non-business related bankruptcies were attributed to unemployment and a further quarter were attributed to credit card debt.

MESI table 4.5

Monthly Economic and Social Indicators table 4.5 shows for the past five years:

  • the quarterly number of bankruptcies, and annual totals, and
  • the annual percentage change in quarterly bankruptcies and in annual totals.

The annual percentage change in quarterly bankruptcies is graphed over the past twenty quarters (five years).

MESI e-data table 4.5

MESI e-data tables show the number of bankruptcies quarterly from the September quarter 1985 and annually from 1948 49; and annual percentage changes quarterly from the September quarter 1986 and annually from 1949 50.

Quarterly numbers of bankruptcies are graphed from the September quarter 1985 to date.

This feature was prepared by Greg Baker

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