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HDI 2021

0.3

0.35

0.4

0.45

0.5

0.55

0.6

0.65

0.7

0.75

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0.85

0.9

0.95

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Least Developed Countries 2024

As defined by the United Nations, least developed countries (LDCs) are low-income countries that face significant challenges in their efforts to develop a sustainable and self-supporting economy. There are currently 46 LDC countries, the majority of which are located in Africa, and to a lesser extent, South America and Asia/Oceania.

Least developed countries and the Human Development Index (HDI)

One of the most respected at-a-glance metrics used to measure a country's level of development is the U.N.'s Human Development Index (HDI). This global index tracks and compares more than 150 global indicators, such as life expectancy, education, and per capita income, then combines them to create a single "human development" value for more than 150 countries all over the world. HDI places each country on a scale of 0-1 (with 1.000 being the best possible score and 0.000 the worst) and categorizes them into one of four levels of human development: low human development (0-.55), medium human development (.55-.70), high human development (.70-.80), and very high human development (.80-1.0).

Because their industrial and economic ecosystems are fragile and underdeveloped, LDCs are highly vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks. They also tend to have poor educational systems, which leads to a less versatile workforce. To help LDCs catch up, the United Nations offers support programs designed to foster the development of agriculture, education, industry, and other aspects of a healthy, stable nation.

Every three years, the United Nations' Committee for Development (CDP) reviews the list of LDCs and assesses each country's progress in fifteen indicators, which are then grouped into three criteria: human assets index/workforce (HAI), economic and environmental vulnerability index (EVI), and gross national income per capita (GNI). The United Nations also holds a larger conference on least developed countries roughly once per decade. Previous conferences have taken place in Paris, France (twice); Brussels, Belgium; and in Istanbul, Turkey in 2011. The 2011 conference set a goal of boosting half of the current LDCs out of the category by 2022. Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, this goal seems unlikely to be achieved, but several countries have graduated from the program in the past, and several more are on track to elevate from Least Developed to Developing in the next few years.

Countries that have graduated from the U.N.'s least-developed countries program (or should soon):

CountryGraduation DateExpected Graduation
Botswana1994-
Cabo Verde2007-
Maldives2011-
Samoa2014-
Equatorial Guinea2017-
Vanuatu2020-
Bhutan-2023
Angola-2024
São Tomé and Príncipe-2024
Solomon Islands-2024
Bangladesh-2026
Laos-2026
Nepal-2026

On the other hand, some countries still have far to go. According to the Human Development Index, Niger is the least developed country in the world with an HDI of .354. Niger is afflicted with widespread malnutrition and 44.1% of its people live below the poverty line. Additionally, Niger has the highest fertility rate in the world of 6.8 births per woman of childbearing age, which greatly outpaces the country's death rate. As a result, Nigeria's population continues to grow, which increases demand on the country's struggling economy and infrastructure and contributes further to widespread poverty. Droughts have stunted agricultural and economic growth, and the country is plagued by conflict with the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

Ten Least-Developed Countries in the World by HDI 2021

Country
HDI 2021
South Sudan0.381
Central African Republic0.387
Niger0.389
Chad0.393
Mali0.408
Burundi0.419
Yemen0.425
Burkina Faso0.445
Sierra Leone0.456
Mozambique0.459

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Country
Current or Former?
Year Added
HDI 2021
HDI 2019
Year Graduated
AfghanistanCurrent19710.4730.492tbd
Albania0.7850.800
Algeria0.7400.742
Andorra0.8550.865
AngolaCurrent19940.5900.5972024*
Antigua and Barbuda0.8190.831
Argentina0.8440.853
Armenia0.7740.789
Australia0.9490.941
Austria0.9200.920
Azerbaijan0.7380.762
Bahamas0.7990.802
Bahrain0.8840.888
BangladeshCurrent19750.6620.6462026*
Barbados0.8030.806
Belarus0.8010.810
Belgium0.9380.936
Belize0.6980.718
BeninCurrent19710.5020.506tbd
BhutanCurrent19710.6770.6682023*
Bolivia0.6910.715
Bosnia and Herzegovina0.7760.780
BotswanaFormer19710.6800.7031994
Brazil0.7560.764
Brunei0.8240.827
Bulgaria0.7960.813
Burkina FasoCurrent19710.4450.446tbd
BurundiCurrent19710.4190.423tbd
CambodiaCurrent19910.5960.596tbd
Cameroon0.5810.586
Canada0.9340.932
Cape VerdeFormer19770.6500.6672007
Central African RepublicCurrent19750.3870.391tbd
ChadCurrent19710.3930.398tbd
Chile0.8560.859
China0.7850.775
Colombia0.7520.768
ComorosCurrent19770.5850.584tbd
Costa Rica0.8040.811
Croatia0.8670.866
Cuba0.7420.766
Cyprus0.9010.901
Czech Republic0.8910.896
Denmark0.9470.946
DjiboutiCurrent19820.5120.508tbd
Dominica0.7370.745
Dominican Republic0.7560.765
DR CongoCurrent19910.4750.476tbd
Ecuador0.7460.758
Egypt0.7260.724
El Salvador0.6690.676
Equatorial GuineaFormer19820.6470.6532017
EritreaCurrent19940.4900.487tbd
Estonia0.8900.893
Eswatini0.6120.623
EthiopiaCurrent19710.4890.485tbd
Fiji0.7150.730
Finland0.9410.939
France0.9060.905
Gabon0.6870.702
GambiaCurrent19750.4900.492tbd
Georgia0.8090.816
Germany0.9480.951
Ghana0.6000.599
Greece0.8870.890
Grenada0.7880.790
Guatemala0.6300.645
GuineaCurrent19710.4670.470tbd
Guinea BissauCurrent19810.4820.488tbd
Guyana0.7210.711
HaitiCurrent19710.5510.559tbd
Honduras0.6200.629
Hong Kong0.9590.953
Hungary0.8460.854
Iceland0.9570.958
India0.6330.638
Indonesia0.7070.718
Iran0.7760.785
Iraq0.6670.678
Ireland0.9460.942
Israel0.9110.909
Italy0.8990.899
Ivory Coast0.5300.529
Jamaica0.7040.712
Japan0.9200.918
Jordan0.7360.744
Kazakhstan0.8010.810
Kenya0.5960.604
KiribatiCurrent19860.6270.636tbd
Kuwait0.8360.838
Kyrgyzstan0.6960.699
LaosCurrent19710.6150.6172026*
Latvia0.8650.873
Lebanon0.7250.760
LesothoCurrent19710.5220.528tbd
LiberiaCurrent19900.4840.485tbd
Libya0.7460.756
Liechtenstein0.9360.940
Lithuania0.8750.886
Luxembourg0.9270.925
MadagascarCurrent19910.4840.498tbd
MalawiCurrent19710.5090.514tbd
Malaysia0.7980.805
MaldivesFormer19710.7530.7532011
MaliCurrent19710.4080.421tbd
Malta0.9120.905
Marshall Islands0.7290.722
MauritaniaCurrent19860.5380.552tbd
Mauritius0.7900.806
Mexico0.7570.781
Micronesia0.6340.640
Moldova0.7670.773
Mongolia0.7300.749
Montenegro0.8400.841
Morocco0.6880.684
MozambiqueCurrent19880.4590.465tbd
MyanmarCurrent19870.5990.608tbd
Namibia0.6160.638
Nauru0.6930.680
NepalCurrent19710.5910.5982026*
Netherlands0.9410.941
New Zealand0.9360.937
Nicaragua0.6650.661
NigerCurrent19710.3890.390tbd
Nigeria0.5420.537
North Macedonia0.7640.787
Norway0.9640.961
Oman0.8100.841
Pakistan0.5370.537
Palau0.8020.792
Palestine0.7150.739
Panama0.8130.820
Papua New Guinea0.5640.562
Paraguay0.7300.746
Peru0.7550.774
Philippines0.6920.714
Poland0.8760.880
Portugal0.8650.864
Qatar0.8640.869
Romania0.8250.834
Russia0.8180.839
RwandaCurrent19710.5390.531tbd
Saint Kitts and Nevis0.8320.838
Saint Lucia0.7170.733
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines0.7730.789
SamoaFormer19710.7080.7122014
San Marino0.8530.861
Sao Tome and PrincipeCurrent19820.6090.6082024*
Saudi Arabia0.8670.862
SenegalCurrent20000.5120.514tbd
Serbia0.8040.812
Seychelles0.7950.808
Sierra LeoneCurrent19820.4560.457tbd
Singapore0.9420.945
Slovakia0.8520.863
Slovenia0.9160.918
Solomon IslandsCurrent19910.5640.568tbd
SomaliaCurrent1971tbd
South Africa0.7210.741
South Korea0.9260.922
South SudanCurrent20120.3810.391tbd
Spain0.9040.904
Sri Lanka0.7830.775
SudanCurrent19710.5160.521tbd
Suriname0.6890.710
Sweden0.9490.947
Switzerland0.9650.960
Syria0.5580.564
Tajikistan0.6770.668
TanzaniaCurrent19710.5290.533tbd
Thailand0.7970.801
Timor LesteCurrent20030.5740.627tbd
TogoCurrent19820.5450.536tbd
Tonga0.7380.740
Trinidad and Tobago0.8040.813
Tunisia0.7290.740
Turkey0.8410.842
Turkmenistan0.7400.732
TuvaluCurrent19860.6530.654tbd
UgandaCurrent19710.5450.544tbd
Ukraine0.7550.774
United Arab Emirates0.9310.933
United Kingdom0.9310.933
United States0.9210.933
Uruguay0.8140.818
Uzbekistan0.7210.725
VanuatuFormer19850.6140.6142020
Venezuela0.6900.720
Vietnam0.7180.717
YemenCurrent19710.4250.430tbd
ZambiaCurrent19910.5650.574tbd
Zimbabwe0.5490.560
Total0.7220.728
showing: 192 rows

What are the 10 least developed countries?

The 10 least developed countries, according to the Human Development Index and the United Nations, are Niger, Central African Republic, Chad, Burundi, South Sudan, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, and Eritrea.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sources