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Least developed countries

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 1.08 billion people, account for 13.80 percent of the world's population. The vast majority come 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
Afghanistan39.8 M500 USD42.049.734.3
Angola33.9 M1,770 USD52.057.146.8
Bangladesh166.3 M2,620 USD75.372.178.6
Benin12.5 M1,370 USD49.453.245.6
Bhutan0.8 M2,840 USD79.577.681.5
Burkina Faso21.5 M860 USD56.059.852.1
Burma54.8 M1,140 USD73.970.577.4
Burundi12.3 M240 USD53.942.165.6
Cambodia16.9 M1,550 USD74.374.074.6
Central African Republic4.9 M530 USD27.431.423.3
Chad16.9 M650 USD18.325.411.3
Comoros0.9 M1,460 USD67.267.766.7
Democratic Republic of the Congo92.4 M580 USD47.946.049.8
Djibouti1.0 M3,300 USD61.962.661.2
East Timor1.3 M1,940 USD69.558.280.8
Eritrea3.5 M600 USD57.249.265.2
Ethiopia117.9 M960 USD55.358.252.3
Gambia2.5 M800 USD63.865.562.2
Guinea13.5 M1,010 USD39.847.732.0
Guinea-Bissau2.0 M780 USD44.050.437.6
Haiti11.5 M1,420 USD66.263.968.5
Kiribati0.1 M2,910 USD81.580.882.2
Laos7.4 M2,520 USD72.868.677.0
Lesotho2.2 M1,270 USD62.649.675.5
Liberia5.2 M620 USD45.249.141.2
Madagascar28.4 M500 USD60.756.764.6
Malawi19.6 M630 USD55.560.550.5
Mali20.9 M870 USD45.651.639.6
Mauritania4.8 M1,730 USD54.151.356.9
Mozambique32.2 M480 USD53.955.152.7
Nepal29.7 M1,230 USD74.971.578.4
Niger25.1 M590 USD35.642.229.1
Rwanda13.3 M850 USD67.667.767.5
Sao Tome and Principe0.2 M2,280 USD89.485.992.9
Senegal17.2 M1,540 USD66.474.058.7
Sierra Leone8.1 M510 USD41.732.051.3
Solomon Islands0.7 M2,300 USD73.877.370.3
Somalia16.4 M450 USD24.338.510.0
South Sudan11.4 M460 USD22.031.812.2
Sudan44.9 M670 USD61.961.162.8
Tanzania61.5 M1,140 USD61.157.165.0
Togo8.5 M980 USD58.863.054.6
Tuvalu0.0 M6,760 USD82.889.675.9
Uganda47.1 M840 USD57.865.250.3
Vanuatu0.3 M3,140 USD77.577.577.5
Yemen30.5 M670 USD57.762.053.5
Zambia18.9 M1,040 USD67.163.570.7


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 three-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 accepted internationally. The UN has various support programs that are aimed explicitly at these poorest countries. In addition, first and second world countries, and groups of countries such as the European Union, have special subsidy programs that subsidize third world countries. The states that are regarded as politically unstable are also networked with each other, for example through the G7+ community.

Key figures in comparison

(All figures weighted according to population share.)
 Least developed countriesWorldUSA
Total population1.1 bn7.8 bn331.9 m
GNP per capita1,191 USD12,070 USD70,430 USD
Government debt (% of GDP)61.7 %93.9 %119.0 %
Expenditure on education (% of GDP)3.2 %3.7 %4.9 %
Unemployment rate6.2 %6.2 %5.5 %
Literacy rate64.9 %86.7 %0.0 %
Electricity access54.8 %90.5 %100.0 %
Birthrate30.7 ‰17.3 ‰10.9 ‰
Life expectancy65.6 years72.7 years77.3 years


Former Fourth World countries

Newly industrialized countriesList of newly industrialized countriesList of all 10 countries that are currently counted among the newly industrialized economies
Heavily Indebted Poor CountriesList of the 36 Heavily Indebted Poor CountriesInformation on the 36 heavily indebted states that could not survive without subsidies.
Developing countriesList of 152 developing countriesList of all 152 developing countries with below-average living standards