Definition: Classification of activities


The main purpose of a classification of activities is to classify productive economic activities. The main aim is to provide a set of activity categories that can be utilised when dissecting statistics according to such activities.

Different classifications are needed to cater for the different functions which statistics are required to perform, so at international and national levels classifications have been developed for a wide range of purposes, whereby each has its own specific area of application depending on the subject of classification.

Economic classifications can be broadly divided into two categories:

Classifications of economic activities cover all economic activities - from agriculture to services - and are used to classify economic entities (enterprises, local units and similar statistical units). Such classifications therefore form the basis for compiling statistics on output, the production factors entering into the production process (input: labour, raw materials and supplies, energy etc.), capital formation or financial transactions.

The outputs of the economic entities are termed products and are generally divided into goods and services. They are classified in product classifications.

The main activity classifications are ISIC (International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities, maintained by the United Nations, used at world level) and NACE (Statistical Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community, maintained by Eurostat, used at European Union level).
1) Statistical Office of the United Nations, "International Standard Industrial Classification of all Economic Activities, Third Revision", Statistical Papers Series M No. 4, Rev. 3, United Nations, New York, 1990, par. 16; 2) Eurostat, "NACE Rev. 1 - Statistical Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community - Introduction", Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg, 1996

Search box