Underdeveloped countries have low indicators of social development, are poorly industrialized and economically vulnerable.

The developing countries are those that have low economic and social development, marked by inequality, according to the criteria established by the United Nations (UN). They are also known as least developed countries or least developed countries.

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It is important to note that the term underdeveloped, which emerged after the Second World War to describe nations that needed advances in social and economic aspects, fell into disuse as of the 1990s, being replaced by the terms “under development” or “emerging”. Therefore, it is common to find classifications in which underdeveloped countries are considered to be developing countries.

Countries and Learners

List of underdeveloped countries

The following list * of underdeveloped countries follows the UN classification for low income, social fragility and economic vulnerability.

The following are considered underdeveloped countries, according to the UN:

  1. Niger – HDI: 0.354
  2. Democratic Republic of Congo – HDI: 0.457
  3. Mozambique – HDI: 0.437
  4. Burkina Faso – HDI: 0.423
  5. Mali – HDI: 0.427
  6. Eritrea – HDI: 0.417
  7. Burundi – HDI: 0.417
  8. Sierra Leone – HDI: 0.419
  9. Guinea-Bissau – HDI: 0.455
  10. Afghanistan – HDI: 0.498

* HDI: 2017 data

Classification criteria for an underdeveloped country

The UN considers three criteria for classifying a country as underdeveloped. By overcoming these criteria, the country is no longer classified in this way. Are they:

Economic vulnerability Country that presents instability in agricultural production, in exports and has a population that moves due to natural disasters that devastate the country.
Social fragility Country with low social indicators that take into account health, education and nutrition.
Low income Country with GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capita below US $ 750. Being over 900 dollars, the country leaves the list of underdeveloped countries.

Characteristics of underdeveloped countries

The characteristics of underdeveloped countries refer mainly to economic and social aspects.

→ Economic aspects

Underdeveloped countries are characterized by low economic development and low level of industrialization. This means that these countries are economically dependent on developed countries. This dependence is due to the fact that these nations were exploited and colonized, showing, to this day, marks of that exploitation.

In relation to the Gross Domestic Product – which represents the monetary value of goods and services produced by the country over a year -, it is low. The per capita GDP (gross domestic product divided by number of inhabitants) does not exceed 750 US dollars. In these countries, the economy is based mainly on the primary and tertiary sectors.

Another characteristic, related to the economy and investments, is the low scientific development. The lack of capital investment causes deficiency in the technological field, preventing the country from developing.

→ Social aspects

The main indicator of a country’s social development is called HDI (Human Development Index), which compares countries’ development according to criteria such as indicators of education, longevity and income.

The HDI has a reference that varies from 0 to 1. The closer the index is to 1, the better the living conditions, education and income in the country. The closer it is to 0, the worse is the quality of life in the country.

Thus, underdeveloped countries have a low HDI, so they are closer to 0, meeting the UN criterion of social fragility. The life expectancy in these countries is reduced. The population growth rate is high, as well as the birth and mortality rates .

Usually, these countries find it difficult to serve the population, lacking public policies aimed at health, education and culture.

Differences between developed and underdeveloped countries

Developed and underdeveloped countries have differences in all aspects. With regard to development, developed countries have a high level of industrialization, which is not the case in underdeveloped countries, which have late industrialization.

Among the economic aspects, one of the most relevant in the comparison of these countries is the Gross Domestic Product. Developed countries have high GDP, while underdeveloped countries have low GDP. For example:

  • Norway’s GDP: USD 398.8 billion (developed country)
  • Niger GDP: USD 3.774 billion (underdeveloped country)

Still in the economic aspect, there is also income per capita. In developed countries, per capita income is high and generally distributed homogeneously. In underdeveloped countries, per capita income is low and heterogeneously distributed. In the latter, there is much concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.

The industrialized countries are dominant in the economy, presenting a stable economic development and having their revenues generated by the industrial sector. Since the late industrializing countries are exploited economically, with dependence on developed countries. The economy of underdeveloped countries is based mainly on the agricultural sector. Its revenues are generated by the primary and tertiary sectors.

In relation to social aspects, the HDI is very relevant to make the comparison between countries. Developed countries have high HDI, as well as high life expectancy. In underdeveloped countries, the opposite is true, the HDI is low, as well as life expectancy.

Demographic indicators, such as birth rate and mortality, also play an important role. In developed countries, there is greater birth control and more efficient public policies in the health sector. This is also reflected in the mortality rate. Both are reduced in these countries. In the underdeveloped countries, on the other hand, birth and mortality rates are high, considering that health and education programs are not very efficient. These countries face numerous social problems, such as high rates of violence and high rates of illiteracy.

Underdeveloped countries of America

The Haiti is the only country that is underdeveloped in the Americas and, according to the Human Development Index and the criteria established by the UN, is the poorest country in the Americas. The country is experiencing a dramatic scenario both in the economic aspect and in the social and political aspect.

Haiti, in addition to facing alarming corruption, according to reports from the Corruption Perception Index, has also suffered 32 coups d’état throughout its history. Corruption, related to a large network of diversion of funds, is associated with poverty rates in the country, which is experiencing periods of extremely high inflation.

The country suffers from numerous social problems, especially with regard to health. Trafficking rates are alarming, people live in extreme poverty with malnutrition, and education in the country is poor. The country receives aid from programs such as Unicef ​​(United Nations Children’s Fund). Unicef, together with the government, promotes vaccinations, such as the vaccination program against cholera, a disease that killed about 10,000 Haitians.

All of these problems are exacerbated by the countless environmental disasters that are plaguing the country. Haiti has faced several earthquakes and hurricanes of catastrophic proportions. Many people leave the country in search of better living conditions, and, according to the World Food Program, about 140,000 people live in temporary refuges in the country.

Is Brazil an underdeveloped country?

According to Countryaah, Brazil is the largest countries in continent of South America. Here is a description of Brazil economy status.

First, it is important to emphasize that many classifications seek to segment countries according to their levels of development. These classifications are not based on the same criteria, therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to the criteria used for each one of them, in order to understand the economic and social development of a country.

Regarding Brazil, we know that, historically, it was an exploitation colony, dominated and exploited for a long period. Such actions left marks of dependency and fragility in the country. Brazil, for a long time, was considered an underdeveloped country and even today it has characteristics that refer to this underdevelopment, such as social fragility, hunger, inequality and the concentration of income.

However, many classifications frame Brazil as a developing country, that is, a country that is experiencing social ascension, improvement of social indicators and growing economic and industrial development, although slow. Developing countries have average levels of social and economic development and also the potential to become large economies over the years, as is the case in Brazil. Thus, despite still presenting characteristics of underdevelopment, Brazil is currently considered a developing country.


Underdeveloped countries are, according to the United Nations, those that:

– have reduced social and economic development;

– have low social indicators;

– its economy is based mainly on agriculture and the service sector;

– show late industrialization.

– they were usually exploration colonies, so they are economically dependent on developed countries.

All Countries in the World

All Countries in Africa

All Countries in Asia

All Countries in Europe

All Countries in Oceania

All Countries in North America

All Countries in South America

The 50 countries with the fewest telephone connections in the world

Rank Country Number of telephone connections
1 Equatorial Guinea (Africa) 10,400
2 Djibouti (Africa) 14,000
3 Chad (Africa) 14,000
4 Central African Republic (Africa) 14,000
5 Guinea-Bissau (Africa) 16,000
6 Liberia (Africa) 17,000
7 Congo (Africa) 18,000
8 Democratic Republic of the Congo (Africa) 22,000
9 Niger (Africa) 24,000
10 Sierra Leone (Africa) 27,000
11 Burundi (Africa) 33,000
12 Rwanda (Africa) 33,700
13 Guinea (Africa) 34,000
14 Afghanistan (Asia) 37,100
15 Aruba (North America) 38,100
16 Lesotho (Africa) 40,000
17 Bhutan (Asia) 43,000
18 Cambodia (Asia) 44,400
19 Gabon (Africa) 47,000
20 Gambia (Africa) 52,000
21 Eritrea (Africa) 55,000
22 Mauritania (Africa) 59,000
23 Swaziland (Africa) 67,000
24 Uganda (Africa) 70,000
25 Madagascar (Africa) 72,000
26 Benin (Africa) 78,000
27 Papua New Guinea (Australia-Oceania) 81,000
28 Burkina Faso (Africa) 82,000
29 Mali (Africa) 82,000
30 Togo (Africa) 82,000
31 Suriname (South America) 84,000
32 Guyana (South America) 87,000
33 Zambia (Africa) 92,000
34 Mozambique (Africa) 96,000
35 Laos (Asia) 102,000
36 Brunei Darussalam (Asia) 104,000
37 Fiji (Australia-Oceania) 117,000
38 Angola (Africa) 117,200
39 Bahamas (North America) 141,000
40 Namibia (Africa) 144,000
41 Cameroon (Africa) 146,000
42 Mongolia (Asia) 152,000
43 Tanzania, United Republic of (Africa) 156,000
44 Malawi (Africa) 162,000
45 Martinique (North America) 183,000
46 Iceland (Europe) 197,000
47 Qatar (Asia) 205,000
48 Botswana (Africa) 206,000
49 Bahrain (Asia) 214,000
50 Malta (Europe) 214,000

Source: Bridgat

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