The term developed country is used to describe countries that have a high level of development according to some criteria. Which criteria, and which countries are classified as being developed, is a contentious issue and is surrounded by fierce debate. Economic criteria have tended to dominate discussions. One such criterion is income per capita; countries with high gross domestic product (GDP) per capita would thus be described as developed countries. Another economic criterion is industrialization; countries in which the tertiary and quaternary sectors of industry dominate would thus be described as developed. More recently another measure, the Human Development Index, which combines with an economic measure, national income, with other measures, indices for life expectancy and education has become prominent. This criterion would define developed countries as those with a very high (HDI) rating. However, many anomalies exist when determining "developed" status by whichever measure is used.
Countries not fitting such definitions are classified as developing countries.
Terms similar to developed country include advanced country, industrialized country, more developed country (MDC), more economically developed country (MEDC), Global North country, first world country, and post-industrial country. The term industrialized country may be somewhat ambiguous, as industrialization is an ongoing process that is hard to define. The term MEDC is one used by modern geographers to specifically describe the status of the countries referred to: more economically developed. The first industrialised country was Britain, followed by Belgium (Wallonia), Germany, United States, France and other Western European countries. According to some economists such as Jeffrey Sachs, however, the current divide between the developed and developing world is largely a phenomenon of the 20th century.
Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, defined a developed country as follows. " A developed country is one that allows all its citizens to enjoy a free and healthy life in a safe environment." But according to the United Nations Statistics Division,
And it notes that
The UN also notes
According to the classification from IMF before April 2004, all the countries of Eastern Europe (including Central European countries which still belongs to "Eastern Europe Group" in the UN institutions) as well as the former Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.) countries in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan) and Mongolia, were not included under either developed or developing regions, but rather were referred to as "countries in transition"; however they are now widely regarded (in the international reports) as "developing countries". In the 21st century, the original Four Asian Tigers which are the regions (Hong Kong), and the countries  Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea) are considered "developed" region or areas, along with Cyprus, Israel, and Slovenia, considered "newly developed countries".
The UN HDI is a statistical measure that gauges a country's level of human development. While there is a strong correlation between having a high HDI score and a prosperous economy, the UN points out that the HDI accounts for more than income or productivity. Unlike GDP per capita or per capita income, the HDI takes into account how income is turned "into education and health opportunities and therefore into higher levels of human development." A few examples are Italy and the United States. Despite a relatively large difference in GDP per capita, both countries rank roughly equal in term of overall human development. Since 1980, Norway (2001-2006 and 2009), Japan (1990-91 and 1993), Canada (1992 and 1994-2000) and Iceland (2007-08) have had the highest HDI score. Countries with a score of over 0.800 are considered to have a "high" standard of human development. The top 38 countries have scores ranging from 0.902 in Malta to 0.971 in Norway.
Many countries listed by IMF or CIA as "advanced" (as of 2009), possess an HDI over 0.9 (as of 2007). Many countries possessing an HDI of 0.9 and over (as of 2007), are also listed by IMF or CIA as "advanced" (as of 2009). Thus, many "advanced economies" (as of 2009) are characterized by an HDI score of 0.9 or higher (as of 2007).
The latest index was released on October 5, 2009 and covers the period up to 2007. The following are the 38 countries classified as possessing a "Very high human development" with an HDI at or above 0.900.
Only three institutions have produced lists of "developed countries". The three institutions and their lists are the UN list (shown above), the CIA list and the FTSE Group's list, whose list is not included because its association of developed countries with countries with both high incomes and developed markets is not deemed as directly relevant here. However many institutions have created lists which are sometimes referred to when people are discussing developed countries. The IMF identifies 34 "advanced economies", The OECD, also widely known as the 'developed countries club'  has 30 members. The World Bank identifies 66 "high income countries". The EIU's Quality-of-life survey and a list of countries with welfare states are also included here. The criteria for using all these lists and for countries' inclusion on these lists are often not properly spelt out, and several of these lists are based on old data.
|• Australia||• Germany||• Malta||• South Korea|
|• Austria||• Greece||• Netherlands||• Spain|
|• Belgium||• Hong Kong||• New Zealand||• Sweden|
|• Canada||• Iceland||• Norway||• Switzerland|
|• Cyprus||• Ireland||• Portugal||• Taiwan|
|• Czech Republic||• Israel||• San Marino||• United Kingdom|
|• Denmark||• Italy||• Singapore||• United States|
|• Finland||• Japan||• Slovakia|
|• France||• Luxembourg||• Slovenia|
The CIA has a modified version of an old version of the IMF's list of Advanced Economies. The CIA notes that the IMF's Advanced Economies list "would presumably also cover" some smaller countries. They are:
|• Andorra||• Faroe Islands||• Monaco||• Bermuda||• Holy See||• Liechtenstein|
The CIA list does not include Cyprus, Czech Republic, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia which have all been added to the IMF's list since the CIA's made its presumptions about the IMF list, but it includes Turkey.
There are 24 members—selected 23 OECD member countries and the European Commission—in the Development Assistance Committee, a group of the world's major donor countries that discuss issues surrounding development aid and poverty reduction in developing countries. As of 2010, the following OECD member countries are DAC members:
|• Australia||• Finland||• Japan||• South Korea|
|• Austria||• France||• Luxembourg||• Spain|
|• Belgium||• Germany||• Netherlands||• Sweden|
|• Canada||• Greece||• New Zealand||• Switzerland|
|• Denmark||• Ireland||• Norway||• United Kingdom|
|• Italy||• Portugal||• United States|
There are 27 High-income OECD members, although there are three other OECD members (Mexico, Poland and Turkey) that are not high-income members. These countries are listed as upper-middle-income economies. Israel is expected to join OECD in May 2010. As of 2010, the High-income OECD membership is as follows:
21 countries in Europe:
|• Austria||• Greece||• Norway|
|• Belgium||• Hungary||• Portugal|
|• Czech Republic||• Iceland||• Slovakia|
|• Denmark||• Ireland||• Spain|
|• Finland||• Italy||• Sweden|
|• France||• Luxembourg||• Switzerland|
|• Germany||• Netherlands||• United Kingdom|
2 countries in Asia:
|• South Korea|
2 countries in North America:
|• United States|
2 countries in Oceania:
|• New Zealand|
"High income economies" are defined by the World Bank as countries with a Gross National Income per capita of $11,906 or more in 2008. According to the United Nations definition some high income countries may also be developing countries. Thus, a high income country may be classified as either developed or developing.
High-income economy not classified by World Bank: