International Standard Industrial Classification
of All Economic Activities (ISIC)

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ISIC is an abbreviation for International standard industrial classification of all economic activities recommended by UN Statistical Commission for all Member-states of United Nations to make use of it either by: “(a) Adopting this system of classification as a national standard, or (b) Rearranging their statistical data in accordance with this system for purposes of international comparability” – (ECOSOC Resolution 149 A - VII of 27 August 1948).

ISIC provides a comprehensive framework within which economic data can be collected and reported in a format that is designed for purposes of economic analysis. It consists of a coherent and consistent classification structure of economic activities based on a set of internationally agreed concepts, definitions, principles and classification rules.

The classification structure represents a standard format to organize detailed information about the state of an economy according to economic principles and perceptions. In addition to its primary application in statistics and subsequent economic analysis, where information needs to be provided for narrowly defined economic activities (also referred to as “industries”), ISIC is increasingly used also for administrative purposes, such as in tax collection, issuing of business licenses etc. Experience in the use of ISIC has revealed the need for periodic review of the structure and definition of its categories and underlying principles. For these reasons, the Statistical Commission initiated reviews and revisions of ISIC from time to time and the most recent version ISIC Revision 4 was endorsed by the Statistical Commission in 2006. The fourth revision of ISIC enhances the relevance of the classification by better reflecting the current structure of the world economy, recognizing new industries that have emerged over the past 20 years and facilitating international comparison through increased comparability with existing regional classifications.

ISIC is a classification of kind of economic activities and not a classification of goods and services. The activity carried out by a unit is the type of production in which it engages. This is the characteristic of the unit according to which it will be grouped with other units to form industries. An industry is defined as the set of all production units engaged primarily in the same or similar kinds of productive activity. As it is in general not possible to establish a one-to-one correspondence between activities and products, ISIC is not designed to measure product data at any detailed level. For this purpose, a separate classification exists, namely, the Central Product Classification (CPC).

Recommended ISIC version for UNIDO statistical programme which comprises data collection, compilation and dissemination, is ISIC Revision 4. However, many NSOs have not yet made conversion of their data from earlier revisions; UNIDO Statistics continues to maintain its databases according to Revision 3 and Revision 4 of ISIC.  Users can obtain the list of codes and description of ISIC from here for Revision 3 and Revision 4 or here for all classifications  in all formats.


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