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Modern Changes in Industry in the UK

This GCSE Geography quiz takes a look at modern changes in industry in the UK. The economic geography of the UK has undergone some dramatic changes since the 18th century. Before the industrial revolution, maps would have shown that the UK economy was based on agriculture and cottage industries. All that changed during the industrialisation of Britain (the Industrial Revolution) as heavy industry and factory mass production of textiles, ceramics and many other goods began. The nature of the British economy started to change once again after the 1939-45 war as cheap foreign textiles, raw materials and other products became available through increased globalisation, making manufacturing in the UK less economic. At the same time, the increased mechanisation of agriculture and in factories (e.g. using robots to build cars) gradually increased unemployment, forcing people to look for work in different industry sectors.

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There are three key industry sectors - primary, secondary and tertiary. The primary sector obtains the raw materials e.g. agriculture, mining and quarrying. The secondary sector is the manufacturing and assembly process that converts the raw materials into components and produces items for sale such as computers, smartphones, vehicles, ready meals, houses and bridges. The tertiary sector refers to the commercial services that take these items, selling and distributing the manufactured products. Also included in this sector are things like transport, teaching, advertising and health care.

There is another sector to industry, a relatively new addition and often included with the tertiary sector - the quaternary sector. This refers to the information services that support industry and commerce and includes research and development (R&D), ICT and consultancy (companies and individuals who advise businesses). The tertiary and quaternary sectors account for almost 80% of employment in the UK in the 21st century.

Heavy industry in the UK declined rapidly after the 1970s. At the time, foreign industries had become more competitive, transport costs were lower and so it started to become cheaper to import products such as coal and steel. A large part of the UK's economy depended on both coal and steel, like ship building and heavy engineering. There were a lot of workers strikes during the 1960s and 70s - workers were demanding better wages and working conditions. Gradually the UK-based heavy industries in the primary and secondary sectors became less and less economic to run and closed down. Since the start of the 21st century, China has built up a strong base of industry in the primary and secondary sectors and is a major supplier of raw materials and goods to the rest of the world, much like the UK used to be.

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  1. In the UK at the present time, approximately what percentage of the working population are employed in the tertiary sector?
    At the time of writing this quiz, the figure was a little less than 80%
  2. Since the 1950s, many clothing and footwear manufacturers have closed down. Which of the following is the most likely reason?
    Very low labour costs and cheaper transport costs made foreign-produced textile products more affordable than those made in the UK
  3. Which of the following is an example of a secondary sector industry?
    Make sure that you are aware of the different industry sectors
  4. Since the Second World War, the main change of industry sector has been...
    The manufacturing industry has sharply declined in the UK
  5. There are several reasons that have led to changes in modern UK industry. Which of the following is not one of them?
    Heavy industry could not compete in the postwar (after the Second World War) global marketplace
  6. Tertiary sector industries such as shops and offices were traditionally found in town centres, however, many have moved to out-of-town retail and business parks. Which of the following is the LEAST likely to have been one of the reasons for this?
    A disadvantage of this trend is that people without cars find shopping and getting to work more difficult unless they live quite close to the retail or business park
  7. In areas where there have been large increases in unemployment when heavy industries have closed, the UK government offer grants and subsidies to encourage new businesses to set up or existing businesses to expand. This is described as...
    A single factory or coal mine in an area like South Wales could have provided an entire community with jobs, so the loss of that industry would be locally catastrophic. Re-industrialisation replaces the heavy industry (secondary sector) with a variety of other industries, most of which are tertiary sector service industries
  8. Since the year 2000, the number of people working in mining and quarrying has declined. What has caused this change?
    There are also environmental pressures and regulations that increase costs of UK-mined or quarried resources
  9. Which of the following statistics about the numbers of people employed in each sector is the most likely to represent the workforce of a LEDC?
    The fourth option doesn't add up to 100% and so must be wrong - in your exam, watch out for little things like that as it can help narrow down the choices. A large proportion of the workforce involved in the primary sector is a good indicator that a country is a LEDC
  10. The tertiary sector is also known as the...
    As the heavy industries of the secondary sector have closed down, new and existing business have developed in the tertiary sector

Author: Kev Woodward

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