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A Quick Guide to understanding the Hong Kong Standard Industrial Classification Code

5 minute read

The Hong Kong Standard Industrial Classification Code (HSIC) is a system that classifies economic units in Hong Kong. It divides each unit into relevant industry categories based on the nature of their major economic activities.

The Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) has implemented the Hong Kong Standard Industrial Classification Code Version 2.0 (HSIC V2.0) since 2009, relying on it for the compilation, analysis, and dissemination of industry statistics. It is widely used as a tool to compare statistical data surrounding national economic activity.

It is useful to know that the concept of HSIC is similar to Singapore’s SSIC, with slight variations. You would need a HSIC code to indicate your major business activities. Keep reading to learn more about HSIC, finding out why it’s important for Hong Kong businesses like yours, and the code that best represents your business activities.

What is a SIC code?

The first version of the Hong Kong Standard Industrial Classification Code (HSIC) was modeled on the ISIC Revision 2 that was introduced to the public in 1990. An updated version of HSIC V1.1 was introduced in 2001. Subsequently, the current version (HSIC V2.0) was released in 2008 and has been in use since 2009.

HSIC V2.0 was developed due to the significant changes in the structure of Hong Kong’s economy. There were too many new economic activities emerging and authorities needed to have a firmer grasp of the region’s economy.

HSIC V2.0 is based on the International Standard Industrial Classification (ISIC) of All Economic Activities Revision 4, which is promulgated by the United Nations Statistics Division. It aims to achieve better relevance, compatibility, and continuity. HSIC V2.0 changed in structure from a 4-level to a 5-level hierarchical system now has 21 top-level groups.

When it comes to changes designed to improve international comparability, HSIC V2.0 has a high degree of conformance with ISIC Rev. 4 (up to level 4).
To meet local requirements, HSIC went from 886 to 1,000 6-digit codes at its most detailed level.

As one might notice, it is similar to the codes of other countries, but is better crafted to suit the specific economy of Hong Kong.

How is it being used?

Logically, both privately-owned companies and government entities have these codes for a number of reasons:

  • Businesses use HSIC codes to identify their existing customers and potential customers by industry.
  • HSIC codes can be used to categorize companies for tax purposes.
  • HSIC codes are used by experts and businesses to create targeted marketing campaigns.
  • Businesses can identify the competition in their industry or region by searching for similar companies through HSIC codes.
  • The government can use HSIC codes to organize and standardize data for various public agencies (e.g. Census and Statistics Department) as well as private companies.

How can I choose a SIC Code for my business in Hong Kong?

It is important to choose a HSIC code that is best suited for the principal activities of your business. You should select a code that best reflects the activities for which you want to acquire a license from the state. To get a better idea, take a look at the list of industry codes (available in both Chinese and English).

For example, if you have a business that produces spices, sauces, and food condiments, it would only make sense to opt for a SIC code 107904.
To check on a specific SIC code in Hong Kong, simply use a code search tool. When you select the code, you will be able to apply for the necessary license that will allow you to operate  the borders of Hong Kong.

There are also detailed explanatory notes for the industries covered in the HSIC that you may want to check for more information.

Tier Hierarchy System

HSIC V2.0 has a 5-level hierarchical system:

  1. The top-level categories are industry sections.
  2. Under each industry section, there are different second-level categories called industry divisions.
  3. Further on, industry groups are under industry divisions.
  4. The fourth level refers to relevant industry classes.
  5. The fifth level refers to industry sub-classes designed for refined business classification.

Take a look:

Level No. of Categories HSIC code format [Range] Example
Top level:
Industry Section
21 1-digit alphabet
G – Import/ export, wholesale and retail trades
Second level:
Industry Division
88 2-digit numeral
47- Retail trade
Third level:
Industry Group
221 3-digit numeral
472 – Retails sale of food, beverages and tobacco in specialized stores
Fourth level:
Industry Class
483 4-digit numeral
4721 – Retail sale of food in specialized stores
Fifth level:
Industry Sub-class
1001 6-digit numeral
472105 – Retail sale of fruits and vegetables, fresh

The 21 Industry Sections

We have mentioned that HSIC V2.0 follows a 5-level hierarchical system and the top-level category is the industry sections.

Moreover, keep in mind that there are a total of 21 industry sections which are listed down below:

Section Industry
Industry Section A Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
Industry Section B Mining and quarrying
Industry Section C Manufacturing
Industry Section D Electricity and gas supply
Industry Section E Water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities
Industry Section F Construction
Industry Section G Import/ export, wholesale and retail trades
Industry Section H Transportation, storage, postal and courier services
Industry Section I Accommodation and food service activities
Industry Section J Information and communications
Industry Section K Financial and insurance activities
Industry Section L Real estate activities
Industry Section M Professional, scientific and technical activities
Industry Section N Administrative and support service activities
Industry Section O Public administration
Industry Section P Education
Industry Section Q Human health and social work activities
Industry Section R Arts, entertainment and recreation
Industry Section S Other service activities
Industry Section T Work activities within domestic households
Industry Section U Activities of extraterritorial organizations and bodies

Wrap up

Starting a business in Hong Kong is a great idea thanks to the fact that its economic climate is very startup-friendly. However, before you can start your business operations in Hong Kong, you need to register your Hong Kong company and denote your business activity.

This is very important, so take your time to determine the code that best reflects what your business is all about.

Finally, if you have a question or need help selecting your Hong Kong SIC code, do not hesitate to reach out to Sleek.

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