biggest industries in the world

Top 10 Biggest Industries in the World

There are well over 300 million companies in the world today, involved in many different industry branches. Each industry has its own requirements, challenges, and solutions, while also addressing and serving different areas of life. Within this grand tapestry of global business, certain industry sectors stand out as the absolute titans of the global economy. These sectors, the biggest industries in the world, are generating trillions of dollars per year and are wielding tremendous influence over the world’s economy, shaping the way the world functions and how each of us lives and works.

The following ranking lists the ten biggest industries in the world based on the revenue each industry generated across the last year. All distinct industries in the world are eligible for the ranking.

The 10 Biggest Industries in the World 2024

biggest industries in the world

1. Retail Industry

Global industry revenue: ~ $28.3 trillion

Global number of companies in the industry: ~ 60 million
Global industry workforce:
~ 100 million employees

The retail industry represents the by far biggest industry in the world. The industry’s expansive nature and its integration into humanity’s everyday life make it an absolute cornerstone of the global economy. This sector encompasses a wide array of businesses, from classic brick-and-mortar stores to online stores and e-commerce platforms. Retail companies buy different types of products from manufacturers and then sell those (“retail those”) with a profit. There are now around 60 million companies in the global retail industry, making retail businesses the most common business branch type in the world. Almost one in five companies in the world are involved in the retail industry.

The retail industry is characterized by a wide variety of different store types and fierce competition, with companies constantly having to strive to capture consumer attention. This competitive landscape drives innovation, prompting retailers to constantly seek new ways to attract and retain customers. Moreover, the industry plays an extremely vital role in global job creation, employing hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

The future of the retail industry is interlaced with advancements in technology. With the advent of online retail, e-commerce, and digital platforms, retailers are leveraging technology to enhance customer experience and streamline operations. The integration of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data analytics is expected to propel the industry to new heights.

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2. Agriculture & Food Industry

Global industry revenue: ~ $14.3 trillion

Global number of companies in the industry: ~ 2 million (+ around 600 million farms)
Global industry workforce:
~ 1.2 billion

The agriculture and food industry, also known as the agrifood industry, is the second-biggest industry in the world. In many ways, the agrifood industry represents the most important industry in the world as it is the industry responsible for getting food on everyone’s table, or, in other words, the industry is feeding humanity. The multifaceted industry encompasses a range of activities, from cultivating crops and raising livestock on farms to processing, packaging, distributing, and finally marketing and selling food products on the retail market. At its core, agriculture involves the cultivation of crops such as grains, fruits, vegetables, and pulses, as well as the rearing of livestock for meat, dairy, and other products.

There are currently over a billion people employed in the agrifood industry, making agricultural work still the single most common type of employment around the world. Modern agricultural practices leverage technology, machinery, and scientific advancements to enhance productivity and decrease human labor. However, there are still around 600 million farms worldwide, with around 90% of them being respectively owned by a single farming family.

The global agrifood industry will undoubtedly always remain the world’s absolute essential industry, and its importance will rise along with the rise of the global population. However, it also faces challenges such as climate change, crop insecurity, water scarcity, and supply chain disruptions. Sustainable practices, innovation, and collaboration across the agricultural and food value chain are therefore currently forefront agendas within the agrifood industry.

3. Construction Industry

Global industry revenue: ~ $11.9 trillion

Global number of companies in the industry: ~ 25 million
Global industry workforce:
~ 200 million employees

The construction industry comes third among the biggest industries in the world. Construction represents another absolute heavyweight in the global economy. From erecting, renovating, and maintaining all kinds of buildings to developing infrastructure, the industry is a key driver of both global economic growth and economic wealth and development. The construction industry encompasses various sectors, including residential, commercial, and industrial construction. Each of these sectors respectively requires a high level of specialized know-how and tools.

There are over 25 million companies involved in global construction, making construction companies the second most common business branch. Furthermore, the industry is also a major and significant source of employment, providing jobs for hundreds of millions of people worldwide, making it the second-biggest employer around the globe.

The construction industry is also known to be constantly evolving and changing. Nowadays, the incorporation and development of digital technologies like Building Information Modeling (BIM) are currently revolutionizing the way construction projects are planned and executed. As the world’s population continues to rise and urbanize, the construction of larger building projects is also expected to increase in the long term, keeping construction one of the world’s most important and biggest industries.

4. Healthcare Industry

Global industry revenue: ~ $7.9 trillion

Global number of companies in the industry: ~ 10 million
Global industry workforce:
~ 70 million employees

The healthcare industry now ranks fourth among the world’s biggest industries. Healthcare represents another absolute pillar of the global economy. It encompasses a wide range of services, from hospitals to the manufacture of medical equipment, and the distribution of medical drugs to specialized healthcare services. The broad scope and its importance to human health make the industry one of the biggest and most essential industries in the world.

The healthcare industry is marked by its dynamism and innovation. Medical advancements and technological breakthroughs continually shape the industry, improving patient care and expanding the range of treatments available. Moreover, the industry is a major employer, providing jobs for around 70 million people worldwide, which includes doctors, surgeons, nurses, paramedics, and other healthcare workers.

The healthcare industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world due to the prolonged lives humans enjoy today, which results in more people needing healthcare during their longer lifetimes. The future of the healthcare industry is also increasingly interwoven with technology and personalized care, through innovative application of technologies such as artificial intelligence.

5. Oil & Gas Industry

Global industry revenue: ~ $7.3 trillion

Global number of companies in the industry: ~ 120,000
Global industry workforce:
~ 14 million employees

The oil and gas industry completes the Top Five of the industry ranking as the fifth-biggest industry in the world. The oil and gas industry represents another colossally influential force among the biggest industries in the world. The sector concerns itself with the exploration, extraction, refining, and selling of petroleum-based products as well as natural gas. The industry is an absolute global powerhouse, underpinning economies, and fuelling a wide number of other industries Due to oil and natural gas being limited, non-renewable resources with different levels of availability across the many regions of the world, the industry also often plays a significant role in international politics.

The oil and gas industry is bifurcated into three segments: upstream, midstream, and downstream. The upstream segment involves exploration and extraction of oil and gas reserves, the midstream involves transportation, and the downstream segment involves refining and marketing the products. There are hundreds of thousands of companies involved in the oil and gas industry, which collectively employ over ten million workers around the globe.

Despite the current global push towards renewable energy sources, the demand for oil and gas remains robust due to its myriad uses. Besides fuelling vehicles and power plants, petroleum products are integral to a range of industries, from plastics and chemicals to pharmaceuticals and agriculture. While there likely will come a day when carbon-based energy sources are no longer used by humanity, that day is not yet on the horizon and until then, the oil and gas industry will continue to be one of the most important and biggest industries in the world.

6. Real Estate Industry

Global industry revenue: ~ $7.1 trillion

Global number of companies in the industry: ~ 8 million
Global industry workforce:
~ 10 million employees (licensed ones, likely more unlicensed ones)

The real estate industry comes sixth among the biggest industries in the world and represents another linchpin of the global economy. Its importance stems from the fact that it also deals with one of the most basic needs of humans: A roof over one’s head. While the construction industry builds houses, the real estate market markets them to buyers and renters. Due to its immense importance, the real estate industry often serves as a barometer for economic health, reflecting broader economic trends and shaping especially cities and suburban communities. The industry is also divided into residential estate, commercial estate, and industrial real estate, each segment with its own challenges and requirements.

The real estate industry is also characterized by its cyclical nature. Market conditions can fluctuate significantly, influenced by factors such as interest rates, economic growth, and demographic trends. Despite these fluctuations, the industry always remains a significant contributor to the global economy. The real estate industry also employs millions of people, though the exact number is hard to estimate as license and registering requirements for real estate agents and other employees working for real estate firms vary a lot from country to country.

The future of the real estate industry is intertwined with urbanization and sustainability. As the world’s population continues to urbanize, the demand for housing and infrastructure is expected to rise in the long term. The total worth of real estate in the world has recently reached around $380 trillion.

7. Insurance Industry

Global industry revenue: ~ $7.0 trillion

Global number of companies in the industry: ~ 20,000
Global industry workforce:
~ 15 million employees

The insurance industry represents the world’s seventh-biggest industry. Insurance plays a critical and increasingly important role in the global economy. It provides financial protection against risks and uncertainties, supporting economic stability both for companies and individuals. The industry’s increased role in economic processes, in risk management, and its extensive reach in almost every other industry now has made it, too, one of the most important and biggest industries in the world.

The insurance industry is marked by its complexity and variety. It encompasses various segments, most importantly health insurance, life insurance, and casualty insurance which include car insurance, liability insurance, property insurance as well as reinsurance. Each segment faces unique challenges and target groups. This wide broadly segmented industry therefore also boasts a huge global workforce, with millions of people being employed in the insurance industry worldwide.

The insurance industry’s future is interlinked with digital transformation and data analytics. The advent of “insurtech”, the implementation of high technologies in the insurance field, such as artificial intelligence and big data, is transforming the way insurance products are designed, marketed, and sold. Insurance segments like health insurance and reinsurance are seeing particularly high growth in recent years.

8. Banking

Global industry revenue: ~ $6.8 trillion

Global number of companies in the industry: ~ 10,000
Global industry workforce:
~ 15 million employees

Baking represents another cornerstone industry of the global economy and is currently the eighth-biggest industry in the world. Banks have a wide array of functions such as facilitating economic transactions, giving out loans, investing in numerous companies and industries, and ensuring financial stability. Banks hold most of the world’s monetary wealth. The total global assets managed by banks have now reached over $180 trillion, more than the entire global gross domestic product (global GDP). This fact alone underlines the industry’s extremely impactful and influential role in the global economy and in the world’s financial system and thus unsurprisingly also makes it one of the biggest industries in the world.

Banking is divided into retail banking, which fulfills all the typical everyday functions of a bank for individuals, commercial banking, which targets businesses as customers, and investment banking, which serves as investment brokers and advisors, wealth managers for high-income individuals as well as facilitators of large business deals among the largest companies. Each of these banking segments operates in a highly regulated environment, shaped by monetary policy, economic conditions, and regulatory changes. While the so-called big banks are the most influential for the world economy, there are over ten thousand banks in the world and millions of employees working in banking.

The future of the banking industry is intertwined with digital transformation and financial inclusion. The advent of fintech has introduced new banking forms such as digital banks and mobile banking. Moreover, the industry is working towards expanding access to financial services, aiming to reach the unbanked and underbanked populations.

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9. Chemical Industry

Global industry revenue: ~ $5.1 trillion

Global number of companies in the industry: ~ 15,000
Global industry workforce:
~ 20 million employees

The chemical industry ranks ninth among the biggest industries in the world. The chemical industry represents a cornerstone of modern civilization, providing essential materials and innovations that touch nearly every aspect of everyday life. From the manufacturing of plastics used in packaging, home appliances, and electronics, to the fertilizers that nourish crops around the world, chemicals play a crucial role in countless products and processes of the modern economy and manufacturing. The chemical industry is also characterized by its complex supply chains, rigorous safety standards, constant innovations, and significant investments in research and development.

At its core, the chemical industry encompasses the manufacturing of a diverse range of chemicals, including basic chemicals like chlorine, ammonia, and sulfuric acid, as well as specialty and fine chemicals used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and advanced materials. These chemicals serve as building blocks for a wide array of products, from plastics, textiles, and coatings to pharmaceuticals, agricultural chemicals, biotechnology, and advanced electronics. Millions of people worldwide are employed in chemical plants and at the chemical companies that own them.

The chemical industry will maintain its huge importance to the global economy for the foreseeable future. As society confronts pressing issues like climate change, resource scarcity, and public health, the chemical industry may have an even more critical role to play in developing innovative solutions to meet these challenges head-on.

10. Automotive Industry

Global industry revenue: ~ $2.5 trillion

Global number of companies in the industry: ~ 1 million
Global industry workforce:
~ 20 million employees

The automotive industry completes the ranking of the ten biggest industries in the world. The automotive industry concerns itself with the design, manufacturing, marketing, and selling of vehicles of all kinds. The industry can roughly be divided into the car manufacturer or automaker segment and the car sales segment. The automakers make the cars, while the car sellers sell the cars, both new and used ones. New car sales are typically made through dedicated car dealerships that have signed dealership contracts with a certain car manufacturer. The importance of the automotive industry as a whole is based on the importance of car usage in everyday life and most economic processes.

Car manufacturers design their cars usually with specific target groups in mind, resulting in a wide variety of different car types in different price classes. In the car sales segment, used car sales outnumber new car sales by a factor of almost three to one, though new cars typically yield higher per-sale revenue. An increasing number of car sales are also being conducted through the internet now and on specialized platforms, where the platform owner is acting as the broker between car sellers and car buyers. In total, there are around a million companies involved in the overall automotive industry employing tens of millions of people around the globe.

Several factors continue to drive the automotive industry. These include economic conditions, consumer preferences, technological advancements, and government regulations. A strong economy, favorable financing options, and innovative vehicle features can boost car sales, while economic downturns, high-interest rates, and stricter emission standards can dampen sales. There is also an increasing will and trend among the world’s largest automakers to sell their cars directly, cutting out dealerships, which could unite the car manufacturing segment with the car sales segment of the industry in the future.

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The 10 Biggest Industries in the World:

Global industry revenue:
1. RETAIL INDUSTRY~ $28.3 trillion
2. AGRICULTURE & FOOD INDUSTRY~ $14.3 trillion
3. CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY~ $11.9 trillion
4. HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY~ $7.9 trillion
5. OIL & GAS INDUSTRY~ $7.3 trillion
6. REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY~ $7.2 trillion
7. INSURANCE INDUSTRY~ $7.0 trillion
8. BANKING~ $6.8 trillion
9. CHEMICAL INDUSTRY~ $5.1 trillion
10. AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY~ $2.5 trillion
Updated as of February 2024.

The ten biggest industries in the world based on the total industry revenue each industry generated across the last year. All distinct industries in the world are eligible for the ranking. Sources: Statista & The Business Research Company

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