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HDI 2021








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Underdeveloped Countries 2024

An underdeveloped country is a country characterized by widespread chronic poverty and less economic development than other nations. "Underdeveloped country" is an unofficial term, but countries that would qualify as underdeveloped are generally classified as developing countries or least-developed countries (LDCs) by the United Nations, which lists 46 nations as least-developed as of 2021 (full list below). Underdeveloped countries are alternately called low-income countries (a term growing in popularity) by World Bank and called emerging markets, newly industrialized countries, or members of the "Global South" by various other organizations.

Underdeveloped countries and the Human Development Index (HDI)

One common method used to categorize the development of a country is the United Nations' Human Development Index (HDI). The Human Development Index evaluates each country's human development by tracking indicators such as life expectancy, education, and per capita income. Human Development Index ranks countries on a scale from 0-1, from least developed to most developed. There are four tiers: low human development (0-.55), medium human development (.55-.70), high human development (.70-80), and very high human development (.80-1.0).

Top 10 Most Underdeveloped Countries in the World (United Nations HDI 2021/22)

HDI 2021
South Sudan0.381
Central African Republic0.387
Burkina Faso0.445
Sierra Leone0.456

Useful as HDI is as a predictor, it is worth noting that a low HDI does not guarantee that a country will appear on the list of least-developed countries, and a relatively high HDI does not guarantee a country will not be classified as an LDC. The least-developed list is based upon a similar, but different set of criteria than HDI, so some variances exist between the two lists. For example, Nigeria does not make the list despite its HDI of 0.535, but Bangladesh is on the LDC list with an HDI of 0.632. In the case of Nigeria, its income may not be the most efficient, but it is large enough to not be at risk, so the country is not considered least-developed.

Characteristics of underdeveloped countries

Underdeveloped countries have very low per capita income, with many residents living in very poor conditions with little access to education or health care. Additionally, underdeveloped countries tend to rely upon obsolete methods of production and social organization. These nations often experience high birth rates and population growth, which strains their infrastructure and supply chains, further contributing to their widespread poverty. In fact, these seven common economic traits appear in most every underdeveloped country:

  1. Low income per capita and widespread poverty—The citizens of underdeveloped countries tend to make very little money. For example, the United States per capita GNP in 2006 was $44,970 (US$). The average for low-income countries was $650 (US), less than 1.4% that of the U.S.
  2. Lack of capital, both public and private—Not only do very few citizens of underdeveloped countries own lumber yards, factories, and other businesses, the government is nearly as impoverished and lacks funds to properly build and support roads, railways, schools, hospitals, and so on.
  3. Population explosion—In most underdeveloped countries, the birth rate far exceeds the death rate, leading to excessive population growth. If the growth happens too quickly, systems such as infrastructure, food supplies, and social services may fail to keep pace.
  4. Excessive unemployment—One of the most impactful results of disproportionate population growth is skyrocketing unemployment, caused by a slow-growing job market matched with a quickly expanding population.
  5. Predominance of Agriculture—Agriculture still makes up 40-50% of national income in most underdeveloped economies, as opposed to 2-8% in developed economies.
  6. Small and unproductive investments—Both the citizens and the governments in underdeveloped countries have little extra income to save or invest, and the little they do have is often invested in ways that do not lead to national growth (physical treasures rather than business investments, for example).
  7. Diminished productivity—In underdeveloped countries, the land, labor, and capital all tend to produce less than in developed countries. Labor (workers) are undereducated, underfed, and have poor medical care. Existing resources tend to be managed less well or with less-technological solutions.

United Nations and World Bank efforts to assist underdeveloped countries:

The United Nations (UN) holds a conference approximately every ten years on the subject of the world's underdeveloped countries. During the meeting in 2011, the UN set a goal to graduate 50% of the current underdeveloped countries to a higher economic status by 2022. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has created an Integrated Framework of Action to integrate these countries into the global economy by assisting with trade and market access with the hopes of encouraging economic growth and development. The hope is that these countries can grow and become developed countries with well-developed economies and a high level of technological advancement. In fact, multiple countries have "graduated" from the United Nations' LDC list over the years, and five more are scheduled to join them soon.

Countries that have graduated from the United Nations' Least Developed Countries (LDCs) list:

Countries scheduled to graduate from the United Nations' Least Developed Countries (LDCs) list:

Download Table Data

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HDI 2022
HDI 2021
HDI 2020
World Bank Classification
Bangladesh0.6700.6620.657YesLower middle income
Ethiopia0.4920.4890.489AppliedLow income
DR Congo0.4810.4750.477YesLow income
Tanzania0.5320.5290.535YesLower middle income
Myanmar0.6080.5990.615YesLower middle income
Uganda0.5500.5450.545YesLow income
Sudan0.5160.5160.518AppliedLow income
Afghanistan0.4620.4730.488YesLow income
Angola0.5910.5900.594YesLower middle income
Yemen0.4240.4250.430YesLow income
Mozambique0.4610.4590.467YesLow income
Nepal0.6010.5910.593YesLower middle income
Madagascar0.4870.4840.486YesLow income
Niger0.3940.3890.391YesLow income
Mali0.4100.4080.407YesLow income
Burkina Faso0.4380.4450.446YesLow income
Malawi0.5080.5090.512YesLow income
Zambia0.5690.5650.569YesLower middle income
Chad0.3940.3930.396YesLow income
Somalia0.380AppliedLow income
Senegal0.5170.5120.514YesLower middle income
Cambodia0.6000.5960.596YesLower middle income
Guinea0.4710.4670.471YesLower middle income
Rwanda0.5480.5390.535YesLow income
Benin0.5040.5020.501YesLower middle income
Burundi0.4200.4190.419YesLow income
Haiti0.5520.5510.557YesLower middle income
South Sudan0.3810.3810.386AppliedLow income
Togo0.5470.5450.540YesLow income
Sierra Leone0.4580.4560.453YesLow income
Laos0.6200.6150.616YesLower middle income
Central African Republic0.3870.3870.389YesLow income
Liberia0.4870.4840.483YesLow income
Mauritania0.5400.5380.539YesLower middle income
Eritrea0.4930.4900.490NoLow income
Gambia0.4950.4900.492YesLow income
Lesotho0.5210.5220.530YesLower middle income
Guinea Bissau0.4830.4820.482YesLow income
Timor Leste0.5660.5740.633AppliedLower middle income
Djibouti0.5150.5120.512YesLower middle income
Bhutan0.6810.6770.675AppliedLower middle income
Solomon Islands0.5620.5640.566YesLower middle income
Sao Tome and Principe0.6130.6090.609AppliedLower middle income
Kiribati0.6280.6270.629NoLower middle income
India0.6440.6330.638NoLower middle income
Indonesia0.7130.7070.712NoUpper middle income
Pakistan0.5400.5370.536NoLower middle income
Nigeria0.5480.5420.539NoLower middle income
Philippines0.7100.6920.705NoLower middle income
Egypt0.7280.7260.729NoLower middle income
Vietnam0.7260.7180.726NoLower middle income
Iran0.7800.7760.779NoLower middle income
Kenya0.6010.5960.599NoLower middle income
Algeria0.7450.7400.730NoLower middle income
Morocco0.6980.6880.683NoLower middle income
Ukraine0.7340.7550.762NoLower middle income
Uzbekistan0.7270.7210.716NoLower middle income
Ghana0.6020.6000.601NoLower middle income
Ivory Coast0.5340.5300.530NoLower middle income
Cameroon0.5870.5810.585NoLower middle income
North KoreaNoHigh income
Syria0.5570.5580.561NoLow income
Sri Lanka0.7800.7830.777NoLower middle income
Zimbabwe0.5500.5490.554NoLower middle income
Bolivia0.6980.6910.691NoLower middle income
Tunisia0.7320.7290.734NoLower middle income
Honduras0.6240.6200.621NoLower middle income
Papua New Guinea0.5680.5640.567NoLower middle income
Nicaragua0.6690.6650.652NoLower middle income
Kyrgyzstan0.7010.6960.691NoLower middle income
El Salvador0.6740.6690.666NoUpper middle income
Palestine0.7160.7150.715NoNot rated
Mongolia0.7410.7300.740NoLower middle income
Eswatini0.6100.6120.622NoLower middle income
Cape Verde0.6610.6500.649NoLower middle income
Belize0.7000.6980.705NoUpper middle income
Samoa0.7020.7080.712NoLower middle income
China0.7880.7850.781Upper middle income
United States0.9270.9210.923High income
Brazil0.7600.7560.758Upper middle income
Russia0.8210.8180.826Upper middle income
Mexico0.7810.7570.757Upper middle income
Japan0.9200.9200.917High income
Turkey0.8550.8410.835Upper middle income
Germany0.9500.9480.948High income
Thailand0.8030.7970.800Upper middle income
United Kingdom0.9400.9310.920High income
France0.9100.9060.900High income
South Africa0.7170.7210.722Upper middle income
Italy0.9060.8990.892High income
Colombia0.7580.7520.756Upper middle income
South Korea0.9290.9260.922Low income
Spain0.9110.9040.894High income
Iraq0.6730.6670.661Upper middle income
Argentina0.8490.8440.841Upper middle income
Poland0.8810.8760.874High income
Canada0.9350.9340.928High income
Saudi Arabia0.8750.8670.861High income
Peru0.7620.7550.758Upper middle income
Malaysia0.8070.7980.802Upper middle income
Australia0.9460.9490.948High income
TaiwanHigh income
Kazakhstan0.8020.8010.806Upper middle income
Chile0.8600.8560.849High income
Romania0.8270.8250.828High income
Ecuador0.7650.7460.734Upper middle income
Guatemala0.6290.6300.638Upper middle income
Netherlands0.9460.9410.938High income
Belgium0.9420.9380.930High income
Dominican Republic0.7660.7560.760Upper middle income
Jordan0.7360.7360.740Lower middle income
Cuba0.7640.7420.759Upper middle income
Sweden0.9520.9490.944High income
Czech Republic0.8950.8910.891High income
Azerbaijan0.7600.7380.722Upper middle income
Tajikistan0.6790.6770.656Lower middle income
Greece0.8930.8870.887High income
Portugal0.8740.8650.861High income
Hungary0.8510.8460.849High income
United Arab Emirates0.9370.9310.930High income
Belarus0.8010.8010.800Upper middle income
Israel0.9150.9110.906High income
Austria0.9260.9200.916High income
Switzerland0.9670.9650.957High income
Hong Kong0.9560.9590.955High income
Serbia0.8050.8040.806Upper middle income
Libya0.7460.7460.737Upper middle income
Paraguay0.7310.7300.742Upper middle income
Bulgaria0.7990.7960.802Upper middle income
Turkmenistan0.7440.7400.731Upper middle income
Republic of the CongoLower middle income
Singapore0.9490.9420.942High income
Denmark0.9520.9470.946High income
Slovakia0.8550.8520.860High income
Finland0.9420.9410.939High income
Norway0.9660.9640.963High income
New Zealand0.9390.9360.935High income
Costa Rica0.8060.8040.811Upper middle income
Lebanon0.7230.7250.742Lower middle income
Ireland0.9500.9460.945High income
Oman0.8190.8100.823High income
Panama0.8200.8130.809High income
Kuwait0.8470.8360.826High income
Croatia0.8780.8670.860High income
Georgia0.8140.8090.807Upper middle income
Uruguay0.8300.8140.820High income
Moldova0.7630.7670.765Upper middle income
Puerto RicoHigh income
Bosnia and Herzegovina0.7790.7760.776Upper middle income
Albania0.7890.7850.784Upper middle income
Jamaica0.7060.7040.707Upper middle income
Armenia0.7860.7740.769Upper middle income
Qatar0.8750.8640.863High income
Botswana0.7080.6800.701Upper middle income
Lithuania0.8790.8750.880High income
Namibia0.6100.6160.634Upper middle income
Gabon0.6930.6870.704Upper middle income
Slovenia0.9260.9160.910High income
North Macedonia0.7650.7640.766Upper middle income
Latvia0.8790.8650.873High income
Equatorial Guinea0.6500.6470.650Upper middle income
Trinidad and Tobago0.8140.8040.815High income
Bahrain0.8880.8840.884High income
Estonia0.8990.8900.891High income
Mauritius0.7960.7900.792Upper middle income
Cyprus0.9070.9010.900High income
Fiji0.7290.7150.722Upper middle income
Guyana0.7420.7210.727High income
MacauHigh income
Luxembourg0.9270.9270.921High income
Suriname0.6900.6890.702Upper middle income
Montenegro0.8440.8400.832Upper middle income
Malta0.9150.9120.901High income
Maldives0.7620.7530.737Upper middle income
Brunei0.8230.8240.827High income
Bahamas0.8200.7990.798High income
Iceland0.9590.9570.955High income
Vanuatu0.6140.6140.612Lower middle income
French PolynesiaHigh income
New CaledoniaHigh income
Barbados0.8090.8030.803High income
Saint Lucia0.7250.7170.724Upper middle income
GuamHigh income
Grenada0.7930.7880.786Upper middle income
Micronesia0.6340.6340.636Lower middle income
Tonga0.7390.7380.742Upper middle income
Seychelles0.8020.7950.799High income
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines0.7720.7730.785Upper middle income
Antigua and Barbuda0.8260.8190.820High income
Andorra0.8840.8550.843High income
Dominica0.7400.7370.738Upper middle income
BermudaHigh income
GreenlandHigh income
Saint Kitts and Nevis0.8380.8320.832High income
Marshall Islands0.7310.7290.727Upper middle income
San Marino0.8670.8530.844High income
Palau0.7970.8020.794Upper middle income
showing: 202 rows

What are the 5 least developed countries?

The countries that are currently considered to be the least developed are South Sudan, Chad, Niger, Central African Republic, and Burundi.

Frequently Asked Questions