At its 13th session in 1965, the Statistical Commission recommended that data on broad economic categories of commodities be compiled to supplement summary data of imports and exports based the sections of the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC).

After being defined in terms of the basic headings of the SITC, the original BEC was issued in 1971. Although its overall structure and coverage has remained unchanged since, it has been revised four times:

  1. The first revision, in 1976, conformed the BEC to the changes in SITC Revision 2.
  2. The second revision, in 1984, conformed the BEC to SITC Revision 3.
  3. The third revision, in 1986, corrected some oversights in the 1984 revision.
  4. The fourth revision, in 2002, took into account the more detailed description of commodities provided by the 2002 edition of the HS classification, and guidelines for determining the main end-use.

This page details the 5th revision process of the BEC in the period 2014-2016.

5th revision of the Classification by Broad Economic Categories (BEC)

Motivation to Revise BEC

The motivation to revise, and in the process to improve the BEC reflects a number of factors (i.e., to better reflect current economic reality and to include services as well goods). Perhaps the most important was the need to introduce greater clarity and simplicity in the structure of the BEC (see diagram below). Crucially, there is a full separation made between economic and end-use categories. The revision also takes the opportunity to introducing a new variable (specification dimension) to help in the analysis of global value chains.

Structure of BEC Rev.5

Revision Process

At its 43rd session in 2012, the United Nations Statistical Commission agreed with the proposals made by the Expert Group (EG) on International Statistical Classifications to revise the BEC and establish a technical subgroup (TSG) tasked with the preparation of this fifth revision. The terms of reference of the technical subgroup identified four areas for improvement:

  1. Re-defining BEC structure to better reflect current economic reality.
  2. Extending the BEC’s scope to include services as well as goods, while giving extra attention to the definition of intermediate goods.
  3. Improving explanatory materials to help both compilers and users of data disseminated according to BEC.
  4. Providing updated correspondence tables to link BEC with other statistical classifications.

The TSG completed a first full draft of the 5th revision of BEC by June 2013. However, several iterations were necessary to arrive at a version that was ready for global consultation. The global consultation was conducted from July to September in 2014, and a report of this global consultation was submitted to the EG at its biennial meeting in May 2015 as a background document. The Expert Group subsequently endorsed the draft of the 5th revision of BEC and put it forward to the UN Statistical Commission for endorsement at its 47th session in 2016.

The unedited version of the 5th revision of BEC was submitted to the Commission as a background document in 2016. The Commission at its 47th session endorsed the 5th revision of BEC and recommended its use as an international statistical classification and that it be included in the International Family of Statistical Classifications.

With its adoption, focus has now shifted to finalizing the correspondence tables between BEC Rev.5 and HS/ CPC/ EBOPS /ISIC. Those correspondence tables will be posted on the website of UNSD as soon as possible.

Major improvements in the 5th revision

This latest revision of BEC has more levels than the previous ones and provides better guidance on end-use categories for analytical purposes. The main changes are that:

  • It provides a new top level of broad economic categories, based on the main outputs of corresponding industries, to facilitate broad analyses of trade and production.
  • It adds services and therefore refers to products rather than goods.
  • It identifies SNA end-use as a separate dimension.
  • It adds a new variable (the specification dimension) to differentiate intermediates that are generic, i.e. consumed across a wide range of industries, from those that are specified, i.e. typically consumed only in certain industries.


Additional Documents