Classification Of Industry

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Industry Classifications

One of the key concepts we aim to understand within Geography relates to the industry environment. In Geography, an important skill is the classification of industry and the ability to distinguish between each different type. These separate sectors play a significant role in our world environment and understanding diverse economies. To allow for greater insight into your country’s role in these sectors, we need to focus on the definition and key characteristics of the different industries and classify them accordingly. 

The four central industries we deal with are the Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, and Quaternary Industries. All these sectors influence our economies, political status, relationships with other countries across the world, and our local stability.

Generally, each country sits within different development levels. Some countries fall within the developing classification and others in the developed bracket. We need to understand these different categories because they play a role in determining where they link with the various industries. Let’s take a look at the classification of each industry and determine how they affect a country’s ability to perform.

Classification of Industry – Primary Industry

The first classification, the primary industry, is characterised by the following:

  • The industry focuses on the use or extraction of original material from the Earth’s resources.
  • These industries include fishing, agriculture, forestry, and mining.
  • They process raw materials for transfer to the more advanced sectors, e.g. iron ore.
  • They focus less on the determination of value and rather aim to focus on the acquisition of the material itself.
  • Most developing countries rely on the success of the Primary Industry.
  • Developing and developed countries also use this sector to ensure the provision of diverse employment opportunities for their citizens.
  • This sector provides the bulk of work in developing countries. In the event of an economic downturn, the primary sector struggles significantly.

Secondary Industry

The secondary industry presents a more advanced level with a focus on the production of goods. After receiving raw materials from the primary sector, they use them to produce consumer goods and products. Some key components that distinguish the secondary from the primary sectors involve the following:

  • The secondary industry is more complex and is more focused on the value of the products.
  • The industry comprises different processing levels and stages that align with their production levels.
  • They focus on the identification of specific and preferred suppliers, as well as markets, e.g., countries that rely on iron ore mining focus on trade agreements with steel production markets.
  • The secondary sector offers diverse product lines in different fields. For example, these production capabilities include food processing, and light or heavy industries. Also, it involves the production of steel, vehicles, and the occurrence of diverse manufacturing plants.
  • Developed countries invest a significant amount to expand and grow the industrial sections of their economy. They also advance this section to a level where it becomes more environmentally friendly.
  • This industry provides significant work opportunities to a large component of a country’s inhabitants and foreign labour market.
  • It remains an economically controversial sector, especially because of the criticism received over the extensive pollution levels in the industries.

Tertiary Industry

The tertiary industry is a more advanced sector than the secondary and aims to focus on the provision of services, mostly. Some key points to remember when understanding the tertiary industry includes the following:

  • This industry provides a service and does not focus on the production of goods.
  • The tertiary industry focuses on the provision of intangible services and is sometimes difficult to measure.
  • The sector aims to concentrate on supporting the primary and secondary industries by filling in the gaps in the service sector. People need to travel to work, and for this reason, we find transport companies, for example.
  • This sector remains difficult to value because of the service-orientated dynamics they carry. The pricing of an intangible service remains complex.
  • Examples of the tertiary industry relate to the financial sector, media, pharmaceutical services, legal advice, public health, or communication.
  • The tertiary sector usually declines in the event of an economic downturn. It remains a fragile industry in which to work.

Quaternary Industry

The quaternary industry focuses particularly on the provision of specialised services in the fields of consultancy, research, science, and health for example. This sector sometimes overlaps with the tertiary sector but remains unique because of the advanced levels and specialisations it requires. Some key aspects to remember in the quaternary industry relate to the following:

  • The quaternary industry also focuses on the provision of services. It excludes the production of any specific goods.
  • It requires advanced levels of specialisation and highly skilled individuals.
  • This sector sometimes receives the name of a white-collar environment because of the high education levels required.
  • The services connect with the tertiary sectors and provide a more advanced approach.
  • Developed countries, like the UK, for example, offer significant opportunities to their citizens in this sector. Sometimes it expands to over 70% of people working in this environment.
  • Examples of quaternary industry services include weather specialists, data analysts, advanced information technology specialists, scientists in different fields, specialised financial services or research and development sectors.
  • Developed countries focus more on their quaternary sectors than their primary industries.
  • The quaternary industry provides intangible services that become difficult to measure. The industry remains fragile because of the human factors embedded in the sector such as sick days, overall productivity and performance, etc. It, therefore, becomes difficult to measure a specific value.
  • Because of the specialised dynamics, this sector remains sensitive. During instability, this sector seems to struggle the most, for example, because it relies on research funding.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do we need these different industries?

To ensure the proper planning and management of a country’s international and local affairs, we need to divide the different sectors. It allows us to develop a greater understanding of each industry’s requirements and the skill sets they need. Imagine the chaos if we had no control over our different sectors!

Which Industry remains the most important?

Although industries develop signs of progress to different levels, all of them remain key. We cannot develop a tertiary sector without a primary one. Each industry plays a different but important role to maintain our sustainability levels.

When do we talk about a Primary Industry?

We refer to a primary industry when we talk about raw materials or extraction industries. They mostly focus on agriculture, forestry, mining, or fishing. This industry aims to collect the Earth’s resources for processing by the secondary sectors.

When do we talk about a Secondary Industry?

We mostly refer to a secondary industry when we talk about our industrial areas, for example, automotive plants or steel manufacturers. They play a key role to produce goods. These sectors also have a function to support each country’s economy and form part of diverse trade deals.

When do we talk about a Tertiary Industry?

We talk about tertiary industries when we refer to the services environment. For example, if you visit your doctor, it forms part of the tertiary sector.

When do we talk about a Quaternary Industry?

We talk about a quaternary industry when we focus on more advanced services, for example, research and development or scientific services. This sector generally requires individuals with advanced education and so received the name of a white-collar industry.


Cite/Link to This Article

  • "Classification Of Industry". Geography Revision. Accessed on April 22, 2024.

  • "Classification Of Industry". Geography Revision, Accessed 22 April, 2024.

  • Classification Of Industry. Geography Revision. Retrieved from