What Are The Biggest Industries In The United Kingdom?

Agricultural land in the United Kingdom.
Agricultural land in the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom has a market-oriented and highly developed economy. The country also has one of the largest GDP based on PPP in the world. The country’s economy accounts for 3.5% of the world GDP, and it is ranked as the 22nd with the highest GDP per capita. The country's capital city in London and is among the world's leading financial hubs. The UK was the first country to industrialize in the 18th century, and by the 19th century, its economy was dominating the world and accounted for about 9.1% of the global GDP by 1870. According to the estimates of 2019, the UK had a nominal GDP of $2.83 trillion and GDP based on purchasing power parity of $3.13 trillion. In 2018, the country had a nominal GDP per capita of $44,177 and GDP per capita on purchasing power parity of $45,643.


In the UK, agriculture occupies about 25% of the country's total land area and accounts for 1.5% of the country's labor force that is equivalent to 476,000 people while contributing about 0.62% of the country's GDP. The country produces less than 60% of the food it consumes, and most of the agricultural activities are carried out rural locations particularly in East Anglia where crops are predominant, while South Wales is popular for livestock keeping. The UK has some of the highly skilled farmers, highly fertile soils and employs high technology, while the government gives subsidies to farmers, but the earnings are still relatively low as a result of low prices of farm outputs. As a result, the young generation in the UK is discouraged from engaging in agricultural activities, and the average age of a British farmer is about 59 years. The total area under agriculture in the UK is about 9.34 million hectares, and about one third is arable, and the rest are grasslands. About half of the arable land in the country is devoted to cereal crops, and the widely cultivated cereal crop is wheat. Farming in the UK is intensive and highly mechanized, and in 2010 the country exported agricultural products valued at £14 billion and imported about £32.5 billion worth of agricultural products.


The climate in the UK, which is characterized by mild winters and heavy precipitation coupled with fertile soils and hilly sheltered topography is ideal for tree growing. The broad-leaved hardwood trees are found in the UK exceeds those found in any other place in Europe, while other trees like conifers which are softwood have growth rates which three times faster than those in Sweden and five times faster than those in Finland. Approximately 12.9% of the land area in the UK is covered with trees. During the first and second world wars, the country’s supply of timber severely affected the wooded areas. By 1919 the area that was forested in the UK was below 5% compared to other countries in Europe which had an average of between 25% and 72%. It was during this time that the Forestry Commission was established in the UK to provide a strategic reserve of timber. Currently, about 12,120 square miles of the land area is forested in the UK, and about 30% of these are publicly owned, and the rest are privately owned. In 2010 the government of the UK suggested that it might sell about half of it is woodland areas owned by the Forestry Commission.

Construction Industry

As of 2011, the construction industry in the UK was estimated to have contributed about £86 million to the country's economy. The industry had approximately 2.2 million employees, and the end of 2009, the country had approximately 194,000 companies in the construction industry. The orders received by the construction industry in 2009 were valued at £18.7 billion from the private sector and about £15.1 million from the public sector. The construction industry in the UK has remained relatively the same compared to other Industries, and it has accounted for about 6% of the economy between 1948 and 2013. The industry was thrown into turmoil following the Brexit vote in 2016. The biggest construction project in the country is the Crossrail, which was opened in 2018. The project is new railway line connecting west to east of London and connects the nearby countryside and has branches to Heathrow Airport.


In the past, the UK had a vibrant manufacturing industry, particularly in the 1970s, when it accounted for about 25% of the country's economy. The manufacturing industry in 1979 employed 7.1 million people, and by 1992 the industry was employing 24.5 million people, while in 2016 the industry employed only 2.7 million people and accounted for just 10% of the country's economy. As of 2008, the country ranked as the world’s sixth largest manufacturer based on the output value. The industry generated about £140.54 billion in 2011 and employed about 2.6 million people. The total investment in R&D in 2008 was about £16 billion by different businesses in the country, and about £12 billion was by manufacturing companies. In the same year, approximately 180,000 were employed directly in the manufacture of automotive. In the same year, the automotive sector registers the turnover off £52.5 billion, while generating £6.6 billion in exports. The subsector produced about 1.45 million vehicles for passengers and about 203,000 commercial vehicles. The country is one of the leading manufacturers of engines, and in 2008 the country produced about 3.6 million engines.


The UK ranks as the world’s 6th largest tourist destination, and in 2018 the country received more than 40 million visitors. In 2017, tourists spent about $32 billion in the country, and most of the tourists were from the US. However, the number of tourists from other European countries exceeded the number of visitors from North America, and there were 21.5 million visitors from Europe as opposed to 3.5 million from American and Canada. The most popular tourist destination in the country is the city of London. The largest component of tourism in the UK is domestic tourism, with expenditures in 2008 of about £2.88 billion. It was estimated that in 2009, domestic tourism registered about 126 million trips. Some of the busiest periods for domestic tourism in the country include summer months and bank holidays, and particularly August being the busiest time. The coastal resorts such as Lancashire, Blackpool, Wales, and Swansea have had a long history of family visits and bookings in holiday camps. In the recent past, this tradition has significantly faded out because of the competition from packages of holiday operators from overseas and other factors such as operating costs and the changing demand that has forced the holiday camps to close down.

Other industries in the UK

Other significant industries in the UK include Oil and gas. In 2009, the country was producing about 1.5 million barrels of oil per day at the same time, and the country was consuming about 1.5 million barrels of oil per day. In the recent past, there has been a decline in the production of oil in the country, and as from 2005, the country has been an importer of oil. In 2010 the country had proven reserves of oil of about 3.1 billion barrels, which were the largest of any EU member country at the time. In 2009 the country was ranked as the world’s 10th largest producer of natural gas. Production of natural gas is also on the decline, and the country is presently importing natural gas since 2004. Mining is another industry in the country, and one of the most significant minerals is coal. The production of coal was about 19.7 million tons as of 2009, and at the same time, the country consumed 60.2 million tons. The proven coal reserves in 2005 were estimated at 171 million tons. Other minerals in the UK include limestone, tin, iron ore, clay, salt, silica, lead, and gypsum.


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