The changing makeup of the letter carrier’s mailbag

Despite decline, letter-post still contributes more than 40 per cent of postal revenues, latest UPU statistics show

Posts continue to reap the benefits of e-commerce as the Universal Postal Union’s latest postal statistics for 2013 show sustained growth in global parcel volumes.

Worldwide parcel traffic last year reached 6.7 billion items, up 3.7 per cent from 2012.

The bulk came from the domestic side or 6.6 billion items, representing an increase of 3.7 per cent.

International parcels also went up to 67 million items, growing by 5.8 per cent since 2012.

Parcel volumes increased in all regions of the world, except in Africa and Asia-Pacific, where slight decreases were observed.

This could be due to infrastructure difficulties on the one hand and intense competition on the other, explained UPU Economist José Ansón.

The downward trend in global letter-post traffic also continued as the latter went down by 2.9 per cent to 339.8 billion items from 2012.

Volumes consisted of 336.3 billion domestic and 3.5 billion international items.

While international letter-post volumes have decreased, Ansón says the average weight of individual items is heavier.

In 2010, one kilogramme of international letter-post contained an average 12.21 items, while that same kilogramme today contains an average 10.88 items, as a significant number of small packets generated by e-commerce seem to be moving through the letter-post stream, explains Ansón.

An estimated 240 million small packets made up letter-post volumes in 2013.

Despite volumes declining, the letter-post product continues to account for 43.4 per cent of global public postal revenues, which reached 234.8 billion SDR (361.5 billion USD), up three per cent in nominal terms on the previous year.

In certain regions, the contribution of letter post to revenues was even higher.

This could be seen in industrialized countries, where this stream contributed 59.6 per cent to revenues.

Almost 19 per cent of postal revenues came from parcels and logistics in 2013, while postal financial services contributed 14.5 per cent.

‘Other services’ accounted for 23.5 per cent of global revenues, up from 21 per cent in 2012. They encompass non-postal services, such as retail of mobile-phone cards and similar.

Largest physical distribution network

The public postal network remains widely accessible worldwide.

Posts reported activity at some 663,200 post offices and 5.4 million staff serving the world. Almost 70 per cent of establishments (448,332) are staffed by postal officials, while the rest is run by persons not officially part of the postal operator.

“Despite the transformation the global postal sector is experiencing, it is interesting to note that the global network is not retracting,” said Ansón.

“Rather than seeing a decline of post offices or access points and staff, we are seeing a relative stabilization on both counts. The postal web remains the largest physical distribution network on the planet.”

In 2013, 150 out of 192 member countries responded to the UPU’s survey of the postal landscape.

Other highlights

  1. In 2013, the average number of letter-post items posted annually per capita was 289.2 for inhabitants of industrialized countries, 33.9 for those in Eastern Europe and the Community of Independent States, 18.9 for inhabitants of Latin America and the Caribbean, 10.2 for inhabitants in Asia-Pacific, and 2 respectively for those in Arab countries and Sub-Saharan Africa.
  2.  Most of the world’s population (nearly 89 per cent) continues to benefit from home mail delivery, especially in industrialized countries, where 96 per cent of people are privy to this mode of delivery. In Africa, only nearly 43 per cent of the population receives home delivery, while in Arab countries that percentage reaches almost 63 per cent.
  3. 13 per cent of the world’s population must collect their mail. In Africa, that figure reaches 44 per cent, compared to 29 per cent in Arab countries and about 4 per cent in industrialized countries.
  4. Almost 3 per cent of the world’s inhabitants are without postal services. This includes 13 per cent of the African population, and 8 per cent of citizens in Arab countries.


More postal statistics from 2013 and previous years available from the UPU’s online statistical database

Source: UPU

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