Which sectors of the economy pay off the most?

The social situation in Germany

The importance of the individual economic sectors for employment has shifted significantly over the past 50 years. In 1970, 8.4 percent of all employed people worked in agriculture, forestry and fishing. In 2019 it was only 1.3 percent. In the manufacturing sector, too, the share of all employed persons halved between 1970 and 2019 from 46.5 to 24.1 percent. The importance of the service sector, on the other hand, has increased: the share of those employed in the tertiary sector in relation to all employed persons rose from 45.1 percent in 1970 to 74.5 percent in 2019.


In a basic classification of economic activities, three sectors are distinguished: The primary sector comprises the areas of agriculture / forestry and fishing, the secondary sector the manufacturing industry and the tertiary sector the service sector as well as the other economic sectors. According to the results of the national accounts, in 1970 8.4 percent of all employed persons were still employed in agriculture / forestry and fishing, in 1995 the proportion was 2.3 percent and in 2019 it was only 1.3 percent. The secondary sector has also lost importance: while in 1970 the manufacturing industry accounted for 46.5 percent of the workforce, the proportion fell continuously to 31.9 percent by 1995. In 2019, only just under one in four employed persons was employed in the secondary sector (24.1 percent). In line with these developments, the importance of the service sector for employment has steadily increased: The share of those employed in the tertiary sector in terms of all employed persons rose from 45.1 percent in 1970 to 65.9 percent in 1995 and further to 74.5 percent in 2019.

The economic sectors are divided into different branches of the economy. An economic sector (or branch) is a group of companies or institutions that manufacture similar products or provide similar services in the course of their economic activity. According to the microcensus, almost one in five employees worked in manufacturing in 2018 (19.1 percent). The area of ‚Äč‚Äčtrade, maintenance and repair of motor vehicles accounted for 13.9 percent and the health and social services sector for 13.0 percent. This was followed by those employed in public administration, defense, social security (6.9 percent), construction (6.7 percent), education and teaching (6.7 percent), and professional, scientific and technical services (5.7 percent) as well as transport and storage (5.1 percent).

The proportion of women in employment differs in the individual economic sectors. In 2018, it was lowest in the manufacturing sector at 23.8 percent. In the agriculture / forestry and fishing sector, 31.5 percent of all employed persons were women. In the most employment-intensive area, the service sector, the proportion of women was highest at 55.6 percent.

In relation to the industries mentioned above, the differences are in some cases even greater. In the health and social services, 76.8 percent of all employed persons were female and in the field of education and teaching the proportion was 71.7 percent. On the other hand, the proportion of women in the transport and storage sector was only 24.9 percent, in the construction industry it was only 13.8 percent.

With the information provided, it should be noted that the distribution across the various sectors cannot always be equated with the actual activity of an employee. Employees in the manufacturing industry do not necessarily work in actual production, but can also work in the commercial department of an industrial company.

Data Source

Federal Statistical Office: Results of the employment accounts within the framework of the national accounts (VGR), microcensus: Employees by economic sector; Institute for Labor Market and Occupational Research (IAB): Data on the short-term development of the economy and the labor market 04/2013 and 04/2020

Terms, methodological notes or reading aids

Information on Employment by position in the job get here ...

The Microcensus is the largest annual household survey of official statistics in Germany: With around 810,000 people in around 370,000 private households and shared accommodation, almost 1 percent of the population in Germany is asked about their working and living conditions.

Information on the Deviations between employment accounts (within the framework of national accounts) and microcensus for the number of people in employment are available here: https://www.destatis.de/DE/Themen/Arbeit/Arbeitsmarkt/Erwerbstaetigkeit/Methods/Erlaeuterungen/erlaeuterungen-etr-zum-mz.html