What Is the Private Sector? (Definition, Types and Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 19 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Job sectors typically offer unique opportunities and establish benefits for employees and participants. The private sector is a collection of businesses owned by individuals or private groups, which are often the principal contributors to economic development. Understanding what the private sector is and how it works can help you learn more about the companies in your area and how they might operate. In this article, we answer the question, "What is the private sector?" by exploring its definition, the role of the private sector and several examples for reference.

What is the private sector?

If you're wondering the answer to "What is the private sector?", it makes up the segment of the economy not controlled by the government and owned, managed and controlled by individuals and organisations seeking to generate profit. Companies in the private sector are still subject to governmental regulations. The private sector sometimes collaborates with the government in partnerships to jointly deliver a service or business venture to a community.

Related: Business Development Defined (With Answers to FAQs)

What is the role of the private sector?

The role of the private sector is integral to the development of an economy. Here are some specific roles of the private sector:

Act as significant stakeholders of the economy

The private sector is an important player in the economy because of the contribution it makes to the national income. Particularly, it delivers vital goods and services, contributes to tax revenues and ensures the efficient flow of capital. As significant economic stakeholders, the private sector can also exert significant influence over economic policy, growth and innovation in specific industries. Competition among private sector companies is often the main contributor to innovative new products, services or processes. Private sector companies also offer opportunities for investors to gain returns in exchange for their financial support as companies grow.

Generate employment

The private sector plays the pivotal role of generating employment opportunities within the community. Since private sector businesses typically account for a larger percentage of employment opportunities, it employs far more people than the public sector. Private sector businesses can also help establish industry standards and expectations for employees, and private sector employees are often the main contributors to demand for specific changes in working conditions. This includes things like forming unions or petitioning for higher wages.

Assist in development

The private sector often plays a dominant role in professional development, by enhancing the process of industrialisation and community improvement. By introducing new commodities, equipment, machinery and technology, companies in the private sector can produce innovative ideas and products that change methods of production and may lead to better economic development. The private sector also contributes to community development through promoting community businesses, local exchange systems, cooperatives and informal credit. Providing job opportunities to citizens can help create better economic and social conditions in certain areas and provide a stable income for the business's locale.

Related: 11 Essential Business Skills To Help Grow Your Career

Provide goods and services

The private sector is the primary provider of goods and services that contribute to the gross domestic product (GDP), which is a measurement of the total value of a goods and services produced in a region. The private sector also helps promote human capital development, which gives it the ability to produce more goods and services and satisfy market demand. Many private sector businesses also produce essential goods and services that societies cannot function without. For example, private farms and grocers provide food and private banks provide financial services.

Promote diversification of business

The private sector is incredibly diverse, with businesses providing a wide range of goods and services. Since private sector businesses typically operate without direct government control, they often have more freedom to explore new ideas or markets. This can help promote innovation and establish more diversity in niche business sectors. Greater diversity helps create more choices for consumers, encourages competition and can help stabilise prices to improve consumer purchasing power.

Main features of the private sector

The main feature of the private sector is its management by private individuals without direct governmental control, but there are more features that differentiate it from public sectors. These include:

Profit motive

The primary focus of companies in the private sector is making a profit. By operating within government regulations, companies in the private sector may realise more profits compared to firms in the public sector, since there aren't typically profit caps for private sector businesses. A focus on profits can also help encourage innovation in private sector businesses, with companies in similar industries all trying to build or create the next innovative product or service to earn more revenue and create stronger profit margins.

Private ownership and control

Depending on the business structure, a company might have an owner that answers to a board of directors or the company's stakeholders. Private ownership and control allow private sector businesses to explore different processes and freely use their creativity within the limits of government regulations. Freedom of creativity is one of the most important features of the private sector because it allows private sector businesses to continue producing new and innovative goods and services that propel societies forward.

Related: What Is Business Operations? (With Components and Tips)

Minimal governmental interference

The government of Hong Kong typically allows businesses to operate freely within compliance with tax and other business laws. This minimal interference can help reduce the delay that may occur when public sector companies attempt to innovate or change. Private sector companies can freely expand, change and reinvent themselves as long as they remain in compliance with relevant laws. This freedom is typically responsible for much of a country's innovation and exploration of new markets, products, technologies or methods.

Private finance

Private finance is one of the key features of the private sectors. The public can freely invest in any private sector company through private investments or a stock exchange. This helps create more economic growth by providing capital for new businesses and returns on investments for investors. It also allows private sector companies to decide what they do with profits and whether stockholders share in the company's income through features like dividends.

Work culture of employees

The private sector has its own unique work culture based on competition and innovation. As each company typically has its own unique work culture, the private sector offers employees a variety of environments that can help them broaden their experiences and skill set. The private sector is often far more competitive than the public sector, which can be healthy for private sector businesses as it can encourage innovation and help ensure the best candidates fill key positions.

Public sector companies have defined compensation packages that are rarely negotiable, but private sector companies can freely customise salary packages within compliance with relevant laws to attract candidates, such as including stock compensation and profit commission. Private sector businesses often utilise salary packages to motivate employees to work towards organisational goals.

Business partnerships

Private sector businesses are free to pursue relationships with other private or public sector companies without strict guidelines or restrictions. This can give private sector companies a unique advantage in their freedom to form relationships with other business to help boost profits, encourage innovation or receive necessary goods or services to remain operational. Business partnerships can help develop strong networks of similar or interdependent businesses that affect market performance of certain commodities or help change standards in an industry.

Examples of private sector companies

Here are some examples of private sector companies and their role in the sector:

Small and medium-sized enterprises

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) typically comprise a large percentage of the private sector. The Trade and Industry Department of Hong Kong defines SMEs as:

  • manufacturing firms that employ fewer than 100 people

  • non-manufacturing firms that employ fewer than 50 people

SMEs are often owned by an individual or a small group of people. They often provide more niche products and personalised services than larger companies.

Related: How to Become a Business Administrator in 5 Steps

Large corporate entities

Corporations are among the most popular business structures. As of 2021, under the Hong Kong Companies Ordinance, a corporate business structure requires that a company has no more than 50 shareholders and has a company secretary, who is a Hong Kong resident. As of 2021, under the Inland Revenue Ordinance, corporate entities are also subject to a corporate tax rate of 16.5%. Large corporate entities are often the primary forces behind economic policy changes, innovation and economic growth. They can also wield a significant amount of influence over governmental practices and regulations.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles