Relationship between the activities recorded in the transport sector and gross domestic product (GDP)

What is the gross domestic product (GDP) for transport ?

As a reminder, Gross Domestic Product - or GDP - represents the income produced in a year by an economic entity, across all sectors. In French, this is known as "Produit Intérieur Brut" or PIB.

We talk about GDP for a country (national GDP) or for a given economic zone (European GDP or global GDP for example). This indicator is used to measure the economic activity of a company and its evolution over time.

As an example, the GDP of the European Union (EU) was estimated at 15 679 billion dollars in 2019 as against 2 630 billion dollars for France. (Source: https://tradingeconomics.com/european-union/gdp ).

Considering GDP and its evolution with wealth creation in the transport sector is interesting on several levels. This is used to measure the significance of the sector to the economy of the country (or the economic zone) but also to see what it costs and what this economic activity brings in.

Transport and GDP: characteristics

In a statistical study dedicated to transport in France, the Ministry of Ecological Transition provides interesting figures on income and expenses recorded in the sector relative to GDP in 2019 (Source: https://www.statistiques.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/chiffres-cles-du-transport-edition-2021)

Transport expenses in France relative to GDP

In 2019, the total expenses dedicated to transport were 438.2 billion euros in France. Relative to national GDP which was 2 425.7 billion euros, the transport sector represented 18.1% of French GDP in 2019.

Nationally, transport costs in 2019 were broken down as follows:

  • road at 72.0% ;
  • air transport at 7.1% ;
  • rail transport at 6.9% ;
  • public transport (urban and by coach) at 6.7% ;
  • river and maritime transport for the remaining 7.3%.

Income generated by French transport relative to GDP

With income of 225.6 million euros in 2019, the transport sector (including postal and courier activities) represented 9.3% of the French gross domestic product (GDP). The figures increased by 2.2% in 2019 compared with 2018.

Goods transport alone represents 35.5% of the output in the transport sector by value in 2019, with an amount of 80.2 billion euros. By volume, its growth slowed slightly compared with the previous year, from +5.0% in 2018 to +3.5% in 2019.

As a comparison, passenger transport represented 26.2% of the output in the transport sector in 2019. It continued to increase in volume with growth of +2.8% in 2019 as against +2.2% in 2018.

Examples and application

The relationship between the activity recorded in the transport sector and economic growth (translated by GDP) has long been at the heart of economic studies.

It is true that the demand for the transport of goods plays a significant role in the economy, and is, therefore, indirectly involved in GDP. But this demand is also dependent on the economic activity generated by other activity sectors. Therefore, we talk about interrelation.

This close collaboration between economic growth and the volume of goods transported has recently been highlighted by the economic crisis brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. (Source: https://partageonsleco.com/2020/06/08/evolution-du-transport-de-marchandises-et-du-pib-en-france/).

In addition, economic growth figures and GDP are regularly used to forecast transport demand. Economists then use forecasting models, based on production costs according to different evolution scenarios.

Transport and GDP in figures

Regulatory framework