7 junio, 2024

What are Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Activities?

The primary, secondary and tertiary activities They are the economic activities that generate economic income and are carried out by human beings. They belong to the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors of the economy.

Primary activities are those that depend on the environment, as well as those that refer to the use of planet Earth’s resources, such as water, vegetation, construction materials, minerals, and land.

For this reason, it includes hunting and harvesting; pastoral activities, fishing, agriculture, mining, forestry and extraction. People who work in this industry are often referred to as red-collar workers, due to the nature of their work.

For their part, secondary activities are those that add value to natural resources by transforming crude materials into valuable products.

For that reason, they refer to the manufacturing process, processing, and infrastructure construction industries. Usually the workers in this branch are called blue collar workers.

Tertiary activities are those that have to do with production and exchange. Production involves the “provision” of services that are “consumed”.

This exchange involves trade, transportation, and communication facilities that are often used to overcome distance. Workers in the tertiary sector are called white collar workers.


Primary activities

Primary activities are those that belong to the sector of the economy that makes direct use of natural resources.

This includes agriculture, forestry, mining and fishing. Generally, the primary sector is the most important in developing countries and less so in more developed nations.

In developing countries it is usually a fairly large sector. For example, in Africa livestock farming is much more important than in Japan. In the 19th century, the entire economy of Wales depended on mining, proving that the economy can survive on a single sector.

Technological advances in developed countries have allowed the primary sector to require less human force. For this reason, the percentage of workers in this sector is usually lower.

In the European Union, subsidies from agriculture provide a kind of buffer to withstand changing levels of inflation and farm product prices.

forestry engineering

This is the science and skill of creating, managing, using, conserving and repairing forests and their associated resources. In this way, goals and needs can be met for the benefit of the environment and humans. It is practiced on plantations. This science has elements that belong to the biological, physical, social and political sciences.

Currently, this area is concerned with the conservation of wood, wood fuel, forest habitat, management of water qualities, environmental protection, biodiversity management and erosion control, among others.


It is the extraction of valued minerals or other geological materials from the earth; extractions can occur in veins, reefs and other deposits.

Metals, precious stones, chalk, rocks, clay and gravel, for example, can be extracted from these extraction sites. In a broader definition, mining includes the extraction of non-renewable resources such as oil, natural gas, and water.


This activity consists of catching fish, naturally in their wild or natural habitat. The most used fishing techniques include net fishing, spear fishing, or hand-harvesting, among others.

Fishing can include aquatic animals, not just fish. It may also include mollusks, crustaceans, or cephalopods.

It is estimated that there are about 38 million fishermen worldwide. This industry provides direct and indirect employment to some 500 million people in developing countries.

secondary activities

The secondary sector includes industries that produce some usable product or the sectors involved in construction. Generally, this sector takes the product from the primary sector to manufacture products that are usable for other businesses, for export or for sale.

As many of these industries produce a lot of waste material they can cause pollution or environmental problems.

Additionally, they need large amounts of energy so that machines and factories can do their work. This sector is divided into light industry and heavy industry.

Light industry

This industry usually uses less capital than heavy industry and is more consumer oriented. Most of its products end up in the hands of direct users and not intermediaries as happens in heavy industry.

Light industry requires a small amount of raw materials, area, and power. The value of the products is low and they are easy to transport.

An economic definition could be «a manufacturing activity that uses moderate amounts of partially processed materials to produce objects of relatively high value per unit weight.»

It also has less environmental impact; the most common activities include the manufacturing of beverages, food, personal and household products, cosmetics, clothing, and electronics.

Heavy industry

This industry involves one or more characteristics such as large and heavy products; large teams or complex processes. Therefore, it involves more capital industry than light industry and depends more on investment and work.

Transportation, construction and its manufacturing businesses are the bulk of this industry. Some examples include oil processing, shipbuilding, and machinery manufacturing. They need a lot of capital and equipment; They are also criticized for their high impact on the environment.

Secondary activity industry sectors

food industry
The plastic.
The leather and textile industry.
Home appliances.
Gardening and entertainment.
Beauty and personal care.
Cleaning and storage.

tertiary activities

This sector consists of the service sector. This includes activities where people offer their knowledge and time to improve productivity, performance, potential and sustainability.

The basic characteristic of this sector is the production of services instead of products. Services include care, advice, access, experiences and discussions.

Services may also involve the transportation, distribution, and sale of goods from producer to consumer, as in marketing. It also includes the provision of services, such as entertainment or pest control, for example.

These goods can be transformed in the process of providing the service, as in the restaurant industry.

However, the focus is on people interacting with other people and customer service rather than the transformation of physical goods.

Professional services

They are tertiary sector occupations that require special training in the arts or sciences. Some professional services require professional licenses, such as architects, auditors, engineers, lawyers, and doctors.

Other professional services involve providing specialized business support, such as helping a company with IT services or tax consulting.

In this category fall:



Telecommunication is the transmission of signals, signs, messages, words, images, sounds or intelligence of any nature through radio, cables or any other electromagnetic system. Radio, television and the internet are part of the telecommunications industry.


It is the practice of the right to use a business model and a brand for a determined period of time. For the franchise owner, it is an alternative to building commercial chains to distribute goods. Many countries have laws that regulate franchises.

Public health

Refers to the science of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting human health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, public and private agencies, communities, and individuals.

Quaternary and quinary activities

Although the main classification is primary, secondary and tertiary, the higher services that are below tertiary activities are classified into quaternary and quinary activities. These activities do not depend on resources or the environment, but are activities of the economy.

Quaternary activities are highly specialized tertiary activities, often in the ‘knowledge sector’. Tax consultants, software developers, and statisticians fall into this category.

Likewise, the personnel who work in offices, schools, universities, hospitals, theaters and administration firms as well.

Quinary activities refer to services that create and interpret new ideas to evolve technology. They are the so-called gold-collar workers; members of the government, scientists, legal and financial consultants, etc.

Examples of primary, secondary and tertiary activities by Latin American countries


In Mexico we could use mining as an example of activities and everything derived from it.

– The primary activity would be the extraction of silver from the Fresnillo mine in Zacatecas.

– The secondary activity would be the manufacture of jewelry from metal.

– The tertiary activity would be the boutique that sells the jewel.


In the Spanish case we could cite the agricultural sector, since it is the European leader in the production of fruit and vegetables.

– The primary activity would be the cultivation of tomatoes on the Mediterranean coast.

– The secondary activity would be the process of packaging and shipping to markets.

– The tertiary activity would be the bar that serves the tomato together with the dishes on its menu.


The coffee industry is one of the most important in this South American nation. In this case:

– The primary activity would be the cultivation of coffee in the different plantations of the country.

– The secondary activity would be the processing of coffee in factories (curing, tasting, roasting, ground…).

– The tertiary activity would be the hotel that offers its customers free coffee taken from the vending machine.


Sectors of Economy: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, Quaternary and Quinary (2016). Retrieved from clearias.com.
Sectors of the Economy (2017). Retrieved from thought.co.
Fisheries and Aquaculture in our Changing Climate. Retrieved from ftp.fao.org.
Secondary sector of the economy. Retrieved from wikipedia.org.
Economics: Principles in Action (2003). New Jersey, United States. Pearson Prentice Hall. Recovered from ocas.pearsonschool.
Heavy and Light Industry in Economic Development. The American Economic…

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