Header and navigation menu

Page content

Tips for reading government debt-to-GDP ratios

The government debt-to-GDP ratio is one of the headline indicators used to assess the health of government finances. It compares the stock of government debt (financial liabilities) outstanding at the end of the year or quarter with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in that same year or quarter.

This indicator was in the spotlight during the great financial crisis of 2008-09 and the Covid-19 pandemic when there were growing concerns about increases in government borrowing. But there can be some confusion surrounding the interpretation of the government debt-to-GDP ratio. The figures reported for a particular country may differ between two different websites or even on the same website. For instance, on the OECD Data Explorer, the United Kingdom’s general government debt-to-GDP ratio for the third quarter of 2023 ranged from 94% of GDP to 155% of GDP, depending on the measure of debt used. […]