Chart of the Day: Developed economies’ debt levels by sector

This is a great chart below via the Wall Street Journal. It shows the total debt to GDP ratios for the largest developed economies in the world broken down into four sectors: households, non-financial corporations, financial institutions and government.

The takeaways are:

  • The UK and Japan are far and away the most indebted nations. Japan’s biggest areas are government and financial sector debt. The UK has a very large financial sector.
  • As I mentioned yesterday, Canada has high household debt, as does Australia. Unlike the UK and the US which also do, these economies have not seen house price declines
  • Italy and France have low household sector debt which suggests that private sector deleveraging is less of a factor in debt deflation dynamics irrespective of the nonfinancial corporate sector.
  • Germany, Canada, the US and Australia have the lowest aggregate debt levels.

Remember that a government deficit that creates debt is always mirrored by a nongovernment surplus. So these aggregate numbers don’t tell the full story since you would need serious private sector credit growth to offset government deficits. Another point to remember is that the UK banks in particular have a lot of foreign currency assets that create concomitant liabilities.

Source: U.S. Leads Other Nations in Deleveraging

Also note, I did an analysis on deleveraging using this sectoral analysis in 2009 to see how the US debt levels changed during and after recession See "A brief look at the Asset-Based Economy at economic turns"


Edward Harrison is the founder of Credit Writedowns and a former career diplomat, investment banker and technology executive with over twenty years of business experience. He is also a regular economic and financial commentator on BBC World News, CNBC Television, Business News Network, CBC, Fox Television and RT Television. He speaks six languages and reads another five, skills he uses to provide a more global perspective. Edward holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College. Edward also writes a premium financial newsletter. Sign up here for a free trial.