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     High income      Upper-middle income      Lower-middle income      Low income
     Advanced economies      Emerging and developing economies (not least developed)      Emerging and developing economies (least developed)Classifications by the IMF and the UN
World map indicating the Human Development Index (based on 2007 data, published on October 5, 2009)[citation needed]
     0.950 and Over      0.900–0.949      0.850–0.899      0.800–0.849      0.750–0.799      0.700–0.749      0.650–0.699      0.600–0.649      0.550–0.599      0.500–0.549      0.450–0.499      0.400–0.449      0.350–0.399      under 0.350      not available
(Color-blind compliant map) For red-green color vision problems.

Developing country is a term generally used to describe a nation with a low level of material well being. There is no single internationally-recognized definition of developed country, and the levels of development may vary widely within so-called developing countries, with some developing countries having high average standards of living.[1][2]

Some international organizations like the World Bank use strictly numerical classifications. The World Bank considers all low- and middle- income countries as "developing". In its most recent classification, economies are divided using 2008 Gross National Income per capita. In 2008, countries with GNI per capita below US$11,905 were considered developing.[3] Other institutions use less specific definitions.

Countries with more advanced economies than other developing nations, but which have not yet fully demonstrated the signs of a developed country, are grouped under the term newly industrialized countries.[4][5][6][7]



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."[8] But according to the United Nations Statistics Division,

There is no established convention for the designation of "developed" and "developing" countries or areas in the United Nations system.[2]

And it notes that

The designations "developed" and "developing" are intended for statistical convenience and do not necessarily express a judgement about the stage reached by a particular country or area in the development process.[9]

The UN also notes

In common practice, Japan in Asia, Canada and the United States in northern America, Australia and New Zealand in Oceania, and Europe are considered "developed" regions or areas. In international trade statistics, the Southern African Customs Union is also treated as a developed region and Israel as a developed country; countries emerging from the former Yugoslavia, except for Slovenia, are treated as developing countries; and countries of eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (code 172) in Europe are not included under either developed or developing regions.[10]

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[11] regions (Hong Kong,[11][12] Singapore,[11][12] South Korea,[11][12][13][14] and Taiwan[11][12]) are considered "developed" region or areas, along with Cyprus,[12] Israel,[12] Malta,[12] and Slovenia,[12] are considered "newly developed countries".

The IMF uses a flexible classification system that considers "(1) per capita income level, (2) export diversification—so oil exporters that have high per capita GDP would not make the advanced classification because around 70% of its exports are oil, and (3) degree of integration into the global financial system."[15]

The World Bank classifies countries into four income groups. Low income countries have GNI per capita of US$975 or less. Lower middle income countries have GNI per capita of US$976–$3,855. Upper middle income countries have GNI per capita between US$3,856–$11,905. High income countries have GNI above $11,906. The World Bank classifies all low- and middle-income countries as developing but notes, "The use of the term is convenient; it is not intended to imply that all economies in the group are experiencing similar development or that other economies have reached a preferred or final stage of development. Classification by income does not necessarily reflect development status."[3]

Measure and concept of development

The development of a country is measured with statistical indexes such as income per capita (per person) (GDP), life expectancy, the rate of literacy, et cetera. The UN has developed the HDI, a compound indicator of the above statistics, to gauge the level of human development for countries where data is available.

Developing countries are in general countries which have not achieved a significant degree of industrialization relative to their populations, and which have, in most cases a medium to low standard of living. There is a strong correlation between low income and high population growth.

The terms utilized when discussing developing countries refer to the intent and to the constructs of those who utilize these terms. Other terms sometimes used are less developed countries (LDCs), least economically developed countries (LEDCs), "underdeveloped nations" or Third World nations, and "non-industrialized nations". Conversely, the opposite end of the spectrum is termed developed countries, most economically developed countries (MEDCs), First World nations and "industrialized nations".

To moderate the euphemistic aspect of the word developing, international organizations have started to use the term Less economically developed country (LEDCs) for the poorest nations which can in no sense be regarded as developing. That is, LEDCs are the poorest subset of LDCs. This may moderate against a belief that the standard of living across the entire developing world is the same.

The concept of the developing nation is found, under one term or another, in numerous theoretical systems having diverse orientations — for example, theories of decolonization, liberation theology, Marxism, anti-imperialism, and political economy.

Criticism of the term 'developing country'

There is criticism of the use of the term ‘developing country’. The term implies inferiority of a 'developing country' compared to a 'developed country', which many such countries dislike. It assumes a desire to ‘develop’ along the traditional 'Western' model of economic development which a few countries, such as Cuba, have chosen not to follow. Thus Cuba remains classed as 'developing' due to its low gross national income but has a lower infant mortality rate and higher literacy rate than the USA.[16]

The term 'developing' implies mobility and does not acknowledge that development may be in decline or static in some countries, particularly those southern African states worst affected by HIV/AIDS. The term implies homogeneity between such countries which vary wildly. The term also implies homogeneity within such countries when wealth (and health) of the most and least affluent groups varies wildly.

List of emerging and developing economies

The following are considered emerging and developing economies according to the International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook Report, October 2009.[17]


Developing countries not listed by IMF

Graduated developing countries (Four Asian Tigers) - Now considered developed

Typology and names of countries

Countries are often loosely placed into four categories of development. Each category includes the countries listed in their respective article. The term "developing nation" is not a label to assign a specific, similar type of problem.

  1. Newly industrialized countries (NICs) are nations with economies more advanced and developed than those in the developing world, but not yet with the full signs of a developed country.[4][5][6][7] NIC is a category between developed and developing countries. It includes Brazil, the People's Republic of China, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey.
  2. Big Emerging Market (BEM) economies, a label with various meanings. Jeffrey Garten identified, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, South Africa, Poland, Turkey, India, Indonesia, the People's Republic of China, and South Korea as the Big 10 BEMs.
  3. Countries with long-term civil war or large-scale breakdown of rule of law ("failed states") (e.g. Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Haiti, Somalia) or non-development-oriented dictatorship (North Korea, Myanmar, Zimbabwe).
  4. Some developing countries have been classified as "Developed countries" such as South Africa, and Turkey by the CIA, and Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Brunei, Estonia, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Trinidad and Tobago by the World Bank.


  1. ^ Sullivan, Arthur; Steven M. Sheffrin (2003). Economics: Principles in Action. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458: Pearson Prentice Hall. pp. 471. ISBN 0-13-063085-3. 
  2. ^ a b "Composition of macro geographical (continental) regions, geographical sub-regions, and selected economic and other groupings (footnote C)". United Nations Statistics Division. revised 17 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  3. ^ a b "Country Classification". World Bank.,,contentMDK:20420458~menuPK:64133156~pagePK:64133150~piPK:64133175~theSitePK:239419,00.html. Retrieved July 20, 2009. 
  4. ^ a b Paweł Bożyk (2006). "Newly Industrialized Countries". Globalization and the Transformation of Foreign Economic Policy. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 0-75-464638-6. 
  5. ^ a b Mauro F. Guillén (2003). "Multinationals, Ideology, and Organized Labor". The Limits of Convergence. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-69-111633-4. 
  6. ^ a b Waugh, David (3rd edition 2000). "Manufacturing industries (chapter 19), World development (chapter 22)". Geography, An Integrated Approach. Nelson Thornes Ltd.. pp. 563, 576–579, 633, and 640. ISBN 0-17-444706-X. 
  7. ^ a b Mankiw, N. Gregory (4th Edition 2007). Principles of Economics. ISBN 0-32-422472-9. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Composition of macro geographical (continental) regions, geographical sub-regions, and selected economic and other groupings (footnote C)". United Nations Statistics Division. revised 17 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  11. ^ a b c d e
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h IMF Advanced Economies List. World Economic Outlook, Database—WEO Groups and Aggregates Information, April 2009.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Q. How does the WEO categorize advanced versus emerging and developing economies?". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved July 20, 2009. 
  16. ^ "The World Factbook". 
  17. ^ IMF Emerging and Developing Economies List. World Economic Outlook Database, October 2009.
  18. ^ a b c World Economic Outlook, International Monetary Fund, April 2009, second paragraph, line 9-11.


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