What Is A Developing Country?

  • There is no universally accepted definition of a developing nation.
  • Overall, developing nations’ economic and social metrics are much lower than those of industrialized countries.
  • The Human Progress Index (HDI) of the United Nations is the most complete assessment of a country’s development, including both social and economic indicators.
  • The majority of the world’s nations are still classified as developing.

There is no commonly accepted definition of what constitutes a developing nation. Different factors have been used to construct different definitions of what makes a developing nation.

Economic criteria are sometimes used. Social factors such as life expectancy and educational levels are often used to evaluate whether a nation is developed or developing.

Developmental nations, on average, have worse economic and social metrics than industrialized ones. Furthermore, some emerging nations are farther down the road to development than others.

Indeed, it might be argued that classifying nations as developed or developing oversimplifies their specific circumstances.

Developing Countries’ Characteristics

One approach to gauging a country’s progress is to look at its GNI per capita.

As previously discussed, there are various ways to distinguish a developing nation from a developed one. One of these methods is solely focused on economic production. The World Bank, in particular, uses GNI (gross national income) per capita to measure a country’s development level.

The World Bank, on the other hand, does not simply designate nations as developed or developing. Instead, the international organization divides the world into four income levels: poor, lower-middle, upper-middle, and high income.

The World Bank classifies many, if not all, of the nations typically regarded as developed as high-income countries, defined as those with a GNI per capita of at least $12,536 USD. This is the category that the United States, Canada, Australia, and Western European nations come under.

The difficulty with using a single economic criterion to distinguish developing from developed nations is that it overlooks a number of other elements that might influence a country’s development status.

Costa Rica, for example, is one step behind the United States in terms of development, according to the World Bank. Costa Rica is an upper-middle-income nation, while the United States is a high-income country.

Nonetheless, Costa Ricans have a somewhat longer life expectancy than Americans. According to United Nations Population Division figures, the average American lives 79.11 years, while the average Costa Rican lives 80.94 years.

Several nations with lower GNI per capita than the United States have longer life expectancies. Cuba, the Maldives, Barbados, Poland, and Lebanon, all classified as upper-middle-income nations, are among them.

This example demonstrates that determining a country’s development status based on a single economic statistic does not give the entire picture. So how can the Maldives, a country that many people think of as a developing country, have a longer life expectancy than the United States?

Urbanization and industry

Another way to look at how well a country is doing is to look at how many people work in the country’s most important jobs, like farming.

There are additional economic characteristics that might be used to differentiate between developing and developed countries. For example, developing nations’ labor forces tend to be more concentrated in basic sectors such as agriculture and mining.

Agriculture, for example, employs more than 35% of the workforce in Nigeria. Agriculture, on the other hand, employs just around 11% of the US workforce.

Agriculture’s share of GDP (gross domestic product) may also show how developed a country’s economy is. Agriculture, for example, accounts for 40% of Ethiopia’s GDP but just 5% of Germany’s GDP.

Developed economies will have big service sectors, high-tech sectors, and major exports of high-end items such as computers and other sophisticated technologies in general.

The degree of urbanization in a nation may also reflect whether it is developing. In Afghanistan, for example, only 26% of the population lives in cities, compared to 88 percent in Denmark.

Life Expectancy

In Afghanistan, for example, only 26% of the population lives in cities, compared to 88 percent in Denmark.

The average life expectancy of a nation reflects its progress.

Economic factors, on the other hand, can’t make a country either developed or not.

As a result, additional measures of a more social character must be used to describe what a developing nation is as compared to a developed one. As previously proven, life expectancy may be used to assess progress.

A high life expectancy is a feature of all developed countries, but as we said before, life expectancy doesn’t tell us if a country is developed or not. However, compared to most industrialized nations, most emerging countries have shorter life expectancies.


When compared to developed nations, developing countries have lower levels of education.

People in the West African nations of Mali and Guinea-Bissau, for example, have less than one year of education on average, while Americans have an average of 12 years of schooling.

The typical individual in China, which has the world’s second-largest economy but is still classified as a developing nation, obtains 6.4 years of education, which is fewer than other developing countries such as Thailand and Jordan but more than Botswana and eSwatini in Southern Africa.

The Human Development Index is a measure of how far people have progressed.

The best way to determine whether a nation is developed or developing is to look at both economic and social indicators. The Human Development Index (HDI), developed by the United Nations, is one approach to incorporating both sorts of measures.

The HDI of a nation is computed using four factors: average years of education predicted years of schooling, life expectancy at birth, and GDP per capita. A perfect score is equal to an HDI of 1.

A score of 0.800 is regarded as extremely high, 0.700-0.799 is considered high, 0.550-0.699 is considered medium, and anything below 0.550 is considered low. The majority of wealthy nations have a fairly high score.

Norway, a Scandinavian nation, earned the highest HDI score of 0.957 as of 2019, thereby making it the most developed country on the planet.

Ireland, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Iceland, Germany, Sweden, Australia, the Netherlands, and Denmark rounded out the top 10.

Less than half of the nations and other jurisdictions examined by the UN HDI have scores of 0.800 or higher, indicating that the majority of the world’s countries are still classified as developing.

According to the HDI, Niger, a West African nation, has the dubious distinction of being the world’s least developed country, with an HDI score of 0.394. In fact, all 10 nations with the lowest HDI rankings are in Africa.

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