The term underdeveloped country refers to a country with a lower level of economic development than other countries. Underdeveloped country is an unofficial term. However, the United Nations classifies 46 countries as least-developed as of 2021.
World Bank refers to low-income nations as low-income countries, whereas other organizations refer to them as emerging markets, newly industrialized countries, or global south.
The Human Development Index (HDI) and developing nations:
The UN’s Human Development Index is a typical way to classify a country’s level of development (HDI). Human development is measured using metrics like life expectancy, education, and per capita income.
The Human Development Index (HDI) assigns a score to each country, ranging from 0 to 1, based on its level of development. As a general rule, there are four tiers: low human development, medium human development, and high human development.
The world’s 10 least developed nations (United Nations HDI 2020)
- Niger – .394
- Central African Republic – .397
- Chad – .398
- Burundi – .433 (tie)
- South Sudan – .433 (tie)
- Mali – .434
- Burkina Faso – .452 (tie)
- Sierra Leone – .452 (tie)
- Mozambique – .456
- Eritrea – .459
A low HDI does not ensure that a nation would appear on the list of least-developed countries. A reasonably high HDI does not guarantee that a country will not be categorized as an LDC, despite the usefulness of the HDI as a predictor.
For instance, despite having an HDI of 0.539, Nigeria does not appear on the LDC list, although Bangladesh does, with an HDI of 0.632.
Certain discrepancies may be found since the criteria used to compile the least-developed list vary from those used to compile the HDI. Even if Nigeria’s income isn’t the most effective, it’s substantial enough that the nation isn’t classified as the world’s least developed.
Characteristics of underdeveloped countries
Many people in underdeveloped nations live in very impoverished circumstances and have limited access to education and health services. Even in less developed nations, outdated manufacturing and social structures are commonplace.
Their infrastructure and supply networks are further strained by high birth rates and population expansion, contributing to the prevalent poverty in these countries. In reality, the following seven economic characteristics are seen in almost every impoverished country:
There is widespread poverty in developing nations due to low income per capita. For example, in the United States, the 2006 per capita GNP was $44,970. Less than 1.4 percent of what Americans spend was spent in low-income nations, with an average of $650 (US).
There is a lack of capital, both public and private, in underdeveloped countries—not only are there few citizens who own lumberyards, factories, and other businesses, but the government is nearly as impoverished and lacks funds to properly build and support infrastructures such as roads, railways, schools, and hospitals.
Excessive population growth—The birth rate in many undeveloped nations is far higher than the mortality rate, resulting in an explosion in the population. Infrastructure, food supply, and social services may not be able to keep up with population increase if it occurs too rapidly.
Unemployment rates out of control—One of the most damaging effects of population expansion that is out of proportion to economic growth is an increase in the number of people without jobs.
Many developing nations still rely heavily on agriculture, with 40-50 percent of national GDP from the sector, compared to only 2-8 percent in affluent ones.
There is little additional money to save or invest, so residents and governments in developing nations tend to spend what little they have in ways that don’t advance the country’s development (physical treasures rather than business investments, for example).
Productivity in developing nations is lower than in industrialized ones since the land, labor, and capital all tend to produce less. Laborers are under-educated and under-fed, and they get subpar health care. Less-technological alternatives are used to manage existing resources.
UN and World Bank initiatives are helping underdeveloped countries
Every 10 years, the United Nations (UN) convenes a summit on the world’s poor nations. By 2022, the UN wants to see half of the world’s currently developing nations achieve a better economic position.
Through assistance in trade and market access, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has developed an Integrated Framework of Action to stimulate economic growth.
The goal is that they can evolve into mature nations with advanced economies and technological advancements. Over the years, several nations have “graduated” from the United Nations’ list of LDCs, and five more are expected to join them shortly.
Graduates from the United Nations list of Least Developed Countries (LDCs):
- Sikkim – 1975 (became part of India)
- Botswana – 1994
- Cabo Verde/Cape Verde – 2007
- Maldives – 2011
- Samoa – 2014
- Equatorial Guinea – 2017
- Vanuatu – 2020
The United Nations Least Developed Countries (LDCs) list is set to be retired:
- Bhutan – 13 Dec 2023
- Angola – 12 Feb 2024
- São Tomé and Príncipe – 13 Dec 2024
- Solomon Islands – 13 Dec 2024
- Laos – 24 Nov 2026
Also See: Traditional Economy Countries 2022
The following are the 10 nations with the worst levels of human development:
- Tuvalu (not ranked)
- Palestine (not ranked)
- Laos (not ranked)
- Somalia (not ranked)
- South Korea (not ranked)
- Niger (0.394)
- Central African Republic (0.397)
- Chad (0.398)
- South Sudan (0.433)
- Burundi (0.433)
|Country||U.N. LDC||U.N. HDI 2020||World Trade Organization LDC||World Bank classification|
|Bhutan||Yes||0.6540||Applied||Lower middle income|
|Bangladesh||Yes||0.6320||Yes||Lower middle income|
|Kiribati||Yes||0.6300||No||Lower middle income|
|Timor-Leste||Yes||0.6060||Applied||Lower middle income|
|Nepal||Yes||0.6020||Yes||Lower middle income|
|Cambodia||Yes||0.5940||Yes||Lower middle income|
|Zambia||Yes||0.5840||Yes||Lower middle income|
|Myanmar||Yes||0.5830||Yes||Lower middle income|
|Angola||Yes||0.5810||Yes||Lower middle income|
|Solomon Islands||Yes||0.5670||Yes||Lower middle income|
|Comoros||Yes||0.5540||Applied||Lower middle income|
|Mauritania||Yes||0.5460||Yes||Lower middle income|
|Benin||Yes||0.5450||Yes||Lower middle income|
|Tanzania||Yes||0.5290||Yes||Lower middle income|
|Lesotho||Yes||0.5270||Yes||Lower middle income|
|Djibouti||Yes||0.5240||Yes||Lower middle income|
|Senegal||Yes||0.5120||Yes||Lower middle income|
|Haiti||Yes||0.5100||Yes||Lower middle income|
|DR Congo||Yes||0.4800||Yes||Low income|
|Burkina Faso||Yes||0.4520||Yes||Low income|
|Sierra Leone||Yes||0.4520||Yes||Low income|
|South Sudan||Yes||0.4330||Applied||Low income|
|Central African Republic||Yes||0.3970||Yes||Low income|
|Laos||Yes||Yes||Lower middle income|
|Tuvalu||Yes||No||Upper middle income|
|Iran||No||0.7830||No||Lower middle income|
|Sri Lanka||No||0.7820||No||Lower middle income|
|Ukraine||No||0.7790||No||Lower middle income|
|Algeria||No||0.7480||No||Lower middle income|
|Tunisia||No||0.7400||No||Lower middle income|
|Mongolia||No||0.7370||No||Lower middle income|
|Uzbekistan||No||0.7200||No||Lower middle income|
|Indonesia||No||0.7180||No||Lower middle income|
|Philippines||No||0.7180||No||Lower middle income|
|Bolivia||No||0.7180||No||Lower middle income|
|Belize||No||0.7160||No||Lower middle income|
|Samoa||No||0.7150||No||Lower middle income|
|Egypt||No||0.7070||No||Lower middle income|
|Vietnam||No||0.7040||No||Lower middle income|
|Kyrgyzstan||No||0.6970||No||Lower middle income|
|Morocco||No||0.6860||No||Lower middle income|
|El Salvador||No||0.6730||No||Lower middle income|
|Cape Verde||No||0.6650||No||Lower middle income|
|Nicaragua||No||0.6600||No||Lower middle income|
|India||No||0.6450||No||Lower middle income|
|Honduras||No||0.6340||No||Lower middle income|
|Ghana||No||0.6110||No||Lower middle income|
|Eswatini||No||0.6110||No||Lower middle income|
|Kenya||No||0.6010||No||Lower middle income|
|Zimbabwe||No||0.5710||No||Lower middle income|
|Cameroon||No||0.5630||No||Lower middle income|
|Pakistan||No||0.5570||No||Lower middle income|
|Papua New Guinea||No||0.5550||No||Lower middle income|
|Nigeria||No||0.5390||No||Lower middle income|
|Ivory Coast||No||0.5380||No||Lower middle income|
|South Korea||No||No||Low income|
|Palestine||No||No||Lower middle income|