Since the end of the Second World War, the structure of the UK economy has undergone a radical transformation. One might say that change was especially noticeable during the Atlee Government of 1945-51, which saw vast nationalisation of industries as well as the establishment of the Welfare State, and the Conservative Governments under Thatcher and Major (especially the former) from 1979-90, which oversaw a large privatisation and deregulation programme. Moreover, the UK's membership of the European Union and its participation in other international trading organisations has had an effect. In the late 1970s and early 1980s North Sea oil and gas also had an affect on the structure of the economy.
The structure of an economy is traditionally divided into three sectors, primary, secondary, and tertiary. The primary sector comprises of activities that are directly related to the use, cultivation, or extraction natural resources. Thus it covers, among others, agriculture, mining, and the extraction of oil and gas. The secondary sector is concerned with the production of all the other goods in the economy, which will obviously include the processing of materials produced by the primary sector. Industry and manufacturing are covered by this sector, as is the construction industry. The tertiary sector comprises of services, which may be provided by either the public or the private sector. .
Economists sometime combine the primary and secondary sectors and refer to them as the "goods sector-, in order to assess the size of these two sectors when compared with the service sector. It is equally useful to occasionally omit the construction industry from analysis of the secondary sector, and instead incorporate the extraction of gas and the mining of coal and coke. This reduced group is referred to as the "production industries-. .
To analyse how the structure of the UK economy has changed, it is necessary to see how the relative size of the various sectors of the economy have changed over time.