A developing country, also called a less-developed country, is a nation with a lower living standard, underdeveloped industrial base, and low Human Development Index (HDI) relative to other countries. There is no universal, agreed-upon criterion for what makes a country developing versus developed and which countries fit these two categories, although there are general reference points such as a nation's GDP per capita compared to other nations. Also, the general term less-developed country should not be confused with the specific least developed country.
There is criticism of the use of the term developing country. The term implies inferiority of a developing country or undeveloped country compared to a developed country, which many countries dislike. It assumes a desire to develop along the traditional Western model of economic development which a few countries, such as Cuba and Bhutan, choose not to follow. An alternative measurement that has been suggested is that of gross national happiness, measuring the actual satisfaction of people as opposed to how industrialised a country is.
Countries with more advanced economies than other developing nations but that have not yet demonstrated signs of a developed country, are often categorized under the term newly industrialized countries.
According to authors such as Walt Whitman Rostow, developing countries are in transition from traditional lifestyles towards the modern lifestyle which began in the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Various terms are used for whatever is not a developed country. Terms used include less developed country (LDC) or less economically developed country (LEDC), and for the more extreme, least developed country (LDC) or least economically developed country (LEDC).
Criteria for what is not a developed country can be obtained by inverting the factors that define a developed country:
- people have lower life expectancy
- people have less education
- people have less money (income)
Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, defined a developed country as "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,
- There is no established convention for the designation of "developed" and "developing" countries or areas in the United Nations system.
- The designations "developed" and "developing" are intended for statistical convenience and do not necessarily express a judgment about the stage reached by a particular country or area in the development process.
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 western 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 are treated as developing countries; and countries of Central Europe and of the Commonwealth of Independent States (code 172) in Europe are not included under either developed or developing regions.
On the other hand, according to the classification from International Monetary Fund (IMF) before April 2004, all countries of Central and Eastern Europe (including Central European countries that still belongs to the "Eastern Europe Group" in the UN institutions) as well as the former Soviet Union (USSR) 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".
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."
The World Bank classifies countries into four income groups. These are set each year on July 1. Economies were divided according to 2011 GNI per capita using the following ranges of income:
- Low income countries had GNI per capita of US$1,026 or less.
- Lower middle income countries had GNI per capita between US$1,026 and US$4,036.
- Upper middle income countries had GNI per capita between US$4,036 and US$12,476.
- High income countries had GNI above US$12,476.
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."
Along with the current level of development, countries may be classified by how much this has changed over some amount of time. This may be by absolute numbers or country ranking.
- countries that were more less-developed, and are less less-developed (also developing country)
- countries that were less-developed, and are about the same (developing country)
- countries that were less less-developed, and are more less-developed (developing country)
Measure and concept of development
The development of a country is measured with statistical indexes such as income per capita (per person) (gross domestic product), life expectancy, the rate of literacy (ignoring reading addiction), et cetera. The UN has developed the Human Development Index (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 that have not achieved a significant degree of industrialization relative to their populations, and have, in most cases, a medium to low standard of living. There is a strong association 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, developed countries, most economically developed countries (MEDCs), First World nations and "industrialized nations" are the opposite end of the spectrum.
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.
Another important indicator is the sectoral changes that have occurred since the stage of development of the country. On an average, countries with a 50% contribution from the Secondary sector of Manufacturing have grown substantially. Similarly countries with a tertiary Sector stronghold also see greater rate of Economic Development.
Some researchers in development economics, such as Theodore Schultz who won a Nobel Prize in 1979, have found that literate farmers in developing countries are more productive than illiterate farmers. They therefore recommend investing in human capital (education, health, etc.) as an effective tool for economic development. Others, such as Mohammed Tamim, believe that economic development is measurable in educational level from primary school to the university. They noticed that wherever the educational level is raised, the level of development is also raised. They conclude that the percentage of the schooled population is proportional to the economic growth rate and inversely proportional in the demographic growth rate. The Take-Off of Walt Whitman Rostow can start in a country if its population is completely schooled. It is therefore necessary for the organization of a worldwide education program, itself conditioned by another worldwide program of birth control and the establishment of a worldwide organization for the implementation of this development strategy.
Typology of countries
Countries are often loosely placed into five 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.
- Developed countries, and their dependencies.
- Newly industrialized countries or NICs, nations with economies more advanced and developed than those in the developing world, but not yet with the full signs of a developed country. NIC is a category between developed and developing countries, and it includes South Africa, Mexico, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, India, the Philippines, Thailand, and Turkey.
- Countries with an economy consistently and fairly strongly developing over a longer period: Some parts of Pakistan, Iran, much of South America, the Caribbean (except Jamaica belongs to category 2) several of the Persian Gulf States, the countries of the former Warsaw Pact and others. (See Emerging markets.)
- Countries with an inconsistent record of development: most countries in Africa including (North Africa), Central America, Southeast Asia (Examples: Laos or Cambodia), South Asia (Example: Bangladesh) and Central Asia (Example: Tajikistan); and some countries of the Middle East. 76% of the world's countries fall under this category.
- Countries with long-term civil war or large-scale breakdown of rule of law or non-development-oriented dictatorship ("failed states") (e.g. Afghanistan, Haiti, Somalia, Myanmar, Iraq, North Korea); they sometimes also have low resources.
Criticism of the term 'developing country'
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There is some criticism of the use of the term ‘developing country’. The term implies inferiority of a 'developing country' or 'undeveloped country' compared to a developed country, which many countries dislike.
It assumes a desire to ‘develop’ along the traditional 'Western' model of economic development, which a few countries, such as Cuba and Bhutan, choose not to follow.
The term 'developing' implies mobility and does not acknowledge that development may be in decline or static in some countries, particularly in southern African states worst affected by HIV/AIDS. In such cases, the term developing country may be considered a euphemism. The term implies homogeneity between such countries, which vary widely. The term also implies homogeneity within such countries when wealth (and health) of the most and least affluent groups varies widely. Similarly, the term 'developed country' incorrectly implies a lack of continuing economic development/growth in more-developed countries.
In general, development entails a modern infrastructure (both physical and institutional), and a move away from low value added sectors such as agriculture and natural resource extraction. Developed countries, in comparison, usually have economic systems based on continuous, self-sustaining economic growth in the tertiary sector of the economy and quaternary sector of the economy and high material standards of living. However, there are notable exceptions, as some countries considered developed have a significant component of primary industries in their national economies, e.g., Norway, Canada, Australia. The USA and Western Europe have a very important agricultural sector, and are major players in international agricultural markets. Also, natural resource extraction can be a very profitable industry (high value added), e.g., oil extraction.
An alternative measurement that has been suggested is that of gross national happiness, measuring the actual satisfaction of people as opposed to how fiscally wealthy a country is.
List of developing economies
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Republic of the Congo
- Costa Rica
- Côte d'Ivoire
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Equatorial Guinea
- The Gambia
- Marshall Islands
- Federated States of Micronesia
- Papua New Guinea
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Saudi Arabia
- Sierra Leone
- Solomon Islands
- South Africa
- South Sudan
- Sri Lanka
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Arab Emirates
- Developing countries not listed by IMF
List of graduated developing economies
- Hong Kong (before 1997)
- Israel (before 1997)
- Singapore (before 1997)
- South Korea (before 1997)
- Taiwan (before 1997)
- Cyprus (before 2001)
- Slovenia (before 2007)
- Malta (before 2008)
- Czech Republic (before 2009)
- Slovakia (before 2009)
- Estonia (before 2011)
- San Marino (before 2012)
- Latvia (before 2014)
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