Heavy industry

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Heavy industry does not have a single fixed meaning as compared to light industry. In general, it is a popular term used within the name of many Japanese firms, meaning 'construction' for big projects. Example projects include the construction of large buildings, chemical plants, the H-IIA rocket and also includes the production of construction equipment such as cranes and bulldozers. Alternatively, heavy industry projects can be generalized as more capital intensive or as requiring greater or more advanced resources, facilities or management.

Heavy industry

In the academic study of economics, heavy industries are often differentiated from light industries as heavy industries are capital intensive, and light industries are labor intensive. Light industries are easier to relocate than heavy industry, and can be built with less investment.

This definition is not universal, however, as some sources refer to heavy industries as referring to the weight or volume of the products handled. The British Geographic Society, for example, listed several potential ways of measuring heavy versus light industry. One measure is the weight per cost of their products. For instance, one dollar buys more mass of steel or fuel than of drugs or textiles. Another is the weight of material handled per employee or the cost of materials as a proportion of gross value output.

Heavy industry can be also understood as that which produces products for other industries instead of end users. The outputs of steel mills or chemical plants, for example, are generally sold to other manufacturing, service, or wholesale trade businesses as opposed to retail consumers.

Heavy industry in law and government

Heavy industry is often defined by governments and planners in terms of its impacts on the environment. These definitions concentrate on the seriousness of any capital investment required to begin production or of the ecological effect of its associated resource gathering practices and by-products. In these senses, the semiconductor industry is regarded as "heavier" than the consumer electronics industry even though microchips are much more expensive by weight than the products they control.

Heavy industry is also sometimes a special designation in local zoning laws.

Many pollution control laws are based on heavy industry, since heavy industry is usually blamed for pollution more than any other economic activity, rightly or not.

Heavy industry in firm names

In Japan, many conglomerates call divisions or companies responsible for capital-intensive manufacturing (shipbuilding, mining, industrial machinery) their "heavy industry" group.


  • Morris Teubal, Heavy and Light Industry in Economic Development The American Economic Review, Vol. 63, No. 4. (Sep., 1973), pp. 588-596.
  • Some Definitions in the Vocabulary of Geography, IV, British Association Glossary Committee, The Geographical Journal, Vol. 118, No. 3. (Sep., 1952), pp. 345-346.