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The fourth world: Least Developed Countries

The 47 least developed countries are often referred to as the Fourth World. These are the countries at the lowest end of the poverty scale with the lowest level of development. The official abbreviation LDC is often confused with the "low developed countries". Therefore LLDC is also used.

The current 47 countries, with a total of 1.03 bn people, account for 13.46% of the world's population. The vast majority comes from Africa. This is followed by a few countries in Southeast Asia, as well as Oceania. Europe and America are unrepresented, with one exception (Haiti).
world map Least developed countries
CountryPopulationGNI per capitaHuman Asset IndexHealth IndexEducational Index
Afghanistan38.0 M530 USD48.466.929.9
Angola31.8 M2,960 USD52.567.237.9
Bangladesh163.0 M1,940 USD73.284.761.6
Benin11.8 M1,250 USD49.868.231.3
Bhutan0.8 M3,140 USD72.983.262.6
Burkina Faso20.3 M780 USD42.966.319.5
Burma54.0 M1,390 USD68.580.356.6
Burundi11.5 M280 USD38.534.542.4
Cambodia16.5 M1,530 USD68.985.852.1
Central African Republic4.7 M520 USD17.422.811.9
Chad15.9 M700 USD22.137.36.9
Comoros0.9 M1,400 USD49.454.744.1
Democratic Republic of the Congo86.8 M530 USD41.930.453.3
Djibouti1.0 M3,310 USD58.078.537.6
East Timor1.3 M2,020 USD66.674.059.3
Eritrea3.5 M600 USD42.947.937.9
Ethiopia112.1 M850 USD45.367.323.3
Gambia2.3 M750 USD51.866.037.7
Guinea12.8 M930 USD39.558.320.7
Guinea-Bissau1.9 M820 USD41.756.127.3
Haiti11.3 M1,330 USD48.055.440.6
Kiribati0.1 M3,350 USD84.088.779.2
Laos7.2 M2,570 USD72.877.068.5
Lesotho2.1 M1,380 USD61.664.458.7
Liberia4.9 M580 USD37.247.327.1
Madagascar27.0 M520 USD54.562.246.8
Malawi18.6 M380 USD52.561.743.3
Mali19.7 M870 USD43.163.422.8
Mauritania4.5 M1,660 USD46.968.825.1
Mozambique30.4 M490 USD45.862.129.5
Nepal28.6 M1,090 USD71.286.356.2
Niger23.3 M600 USD35.464.86.0
Rwanda12.6 M830 USD55.066.243.7
Sao Tome and Principe0.2 M1,930 USD86.086.385.8
Senegal16.3 M1,460 USD57.180.433.9
Sierra Leone7.8 M540 USD27.431.423.4
Solomon Islands0.7 M2,390 USD74.888.860.8
Somalia15.4 M16.723.310.0
South Sudan11.1 M460 USD25.850.41.2
Sudan42.8 M590 USD53.068.937.2
Tanzania58.0 M1,080 USD56.064.447.6
Togo8.1 M690 USD61.873.050.7
Tuvalu0.0 M5,620 USD90.191.488.9
Uganda44.3 M780 USD50.263.037.5
Vanuatu0.3 M3,210 USD78.593.363.7
Yemen29.2 M940 USD59.267.051.4
Zambia17.9 M1,430 USD58.660.456.8



Definition and criteria

Until 1990, countries were classified mainly on the basis of their average per capita income, but also industrial development and literacy rates. There were changes in this assessment in 1991 and again in 2009. As things stand at present, a least developed country meets the following conditions:
  • The average income in a 3-year average is less than 992 US dollars.
  • A least developed country should have less than 75 million inhabitants, although exceptions are made here, e.g. Ethiopia and Bangladesh.
  • The food situation in the country must be particularly drastic on the basis of the Human Assets Index (HAI). This includes data on nutrition, infant mortality and education.
  • The Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI) is a UN-created measure of economic vulnerability. It identifies particularly weak states.
Which countries are included in the list of the least developed countries is decided every three years by a United Nations (UN) committee.

Consequences of classification as a least developed country

Since the indicators are all collected and applied by the United Nations (UN), i.e. a community comprising all states, the classification as a least developed country is also internationally accepted. The UN has various support programmes that are explicitly aimed at these poorest countries. In addition, first and second world countries and also groups of countries such as the European Union have special subsidy programmes with which third world countries are subsidised. The states that are regarded as politically unstable are also well networked with each other, for example through the g7+ community.

Former Fourth World countries