Third World Countries

The term “Third World countries” was first used during the Cold War. This term was used to describe countries that were not aligned with the Communist Bloc or NATO or that were neutral. This term was first used to categorize countries into three groups based on their politics and economics.

During the Cold War, the United States, Canada, South Kora, Japan, and Western European nations and allies were categorized as First World countries. Second World countries included China, Cuba, the Soviet Union and their allies. Third World countries typically had colonial pasts in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the terminology of the “three worlds” has changed somewhat. Today, the term Third World is used to describe a country that is not developed as much as other countries and faces economic, social, political, environmental and other issues. This has led to some confusion as to how the term was originally used. For example, there were several European countries that were not aligned with NATO or the Communist Bloc that are quite prosperous today. Going by the historical definition, nations including Finland, Sweden, Ireland and Switzerland were Third World countries. Based on the definition that is used today, these would not be considered Third World countries. Instead, what many now interpret “Third World” to mean encompasses economically poor and non-industrialized countries, as well as newly industrialized countries.

The use of the term “Third World” is being used less frequently because of the confusion about its definition. Instead, it is being replaced with terms including least developed countries, developing countries and the Global South. The Least Developed Countries, or LDCs, are based on United Nations data that have the lowest socioeconomic development and Human Development Index ratings. These countries have weaknesses in areas including nutrition, education and literacy, have economic vulnerabilities, and have widespread poverty.

As of 2018, there are several LDCs. These include in alphabetical order):

The list is even larger of countries classified as “developing countries.” These countries (in alphabetical order) include:

There are many countries around the world classified as a developing country. This includes (in alphabetical order):

Flag Name Area Population 2018 Growth Rate
Bangladesh147,570 km²166,368,1491.03%
Ethiopia1,104,300 km²107,534,8822.46%
Tanzania945,087 km²59,091,3923.11%
Myanmar676,578 km²53,855,7350.91%
Uganda241,550 km²44,270,5633.28%
Sudan1,886,068 km²41,511,5262.41%
Afghanistan652,230 km²36,373,1762.37%
Angola1,246,700 km²30,774,2053.32%
Mozambique801,590 km²30,528,6732.90%
Nepal147,181 km²29,624,0351.09%
Yemen527,968 km²28,915,2842.35%
Madagascar587,041 km²26,262,8102.71%
Niger1,267,000 km²22,311,3753.88%
Burkina Faso272,967 km²19,751,6512.91%
Malawi118,484 km²19,164,7282.91%
Mali1,240,192 km²19,107,7063.05%
Zambia752,612 km²17,609,1783.01%
Senegal196,722 km²16,294,2702.80%
Cambodia181,035 km²16,245,7291.50%
Chad1,284,000 km²15,353,1843.04%
Somalia637,657 km²15,181,9252.98%
Guinea245,857 km²13,052,6082.64%
South Sudan619,745 km²12,919,0532.73%
Rwanda26,338 km²12,501,1562.40%
Benin112,622 km²11,485,6742.77%
Burundi27,834 km²11,216,4503.24%
Haiti27,750 km²11,112,9451.20%
Togo56,785 km²7,990,9262.48%
Sierra Leone71,740 km²7,719,7292.15%
Laos236,800 km²6,961,2101.50%
Eritrea117,600 km²5,187,9482.35%
Liberia111,369 km²4,853,5162.57%
Central African Republic622,984 km²4,737,4231.68%
Mauritania1,030,700 km²4,540,0682.71%
Lesotho30,355 km²2,263,0101.33%
Gambia10,689 km²2,163,7653.01%
Guinea Bissau36,125 km²1,907,2682.47%
Djibouti23,200 km²971,4081.51%
Comoros1,862 km²832,3472.26%
Bhutan38,394 km²817,0541.17%
Solomon Islands28,896 km²623,2811.95%
Vanuatu12,189 km²282,1172.13%
Sao Tome And Principe964 km²208,8182.20%
Kiribati811 km²118,4141.73%
Tuvalu26 km²11,2870.85%