Developed and Underdeveloped Countries – Information and examples

We explain what developed and underdeveloped countries are, the differences between them and various examples.

Developed and underdeveloped countries
Developed countries offer economic and political stability.

What are developed and underdeveloped countries?

When speaking of developed countries and underdeveloped countries (the latter also referred to as “less developed”, “backward” and sometimes also “developing”), allusion is made to their respective degrees of economic power and what this entails, that is, to level of economic strength that they have been able to achieve and the standard of living associated with it enjoyed by its citizens.

This is a traditional terminology, very common in economic geography and in journalistic discourse, but it is not without criticism and controversy, since it assumes that some countries are ahead of civilization and that others are instead behind in the historical career, without taking into account the particularities of each case, and reducing the idea of ​​success to the economic in the first place.

Furthermore, the term underdeveloped countries tends to encompass a very disparate set of nations that have different degrees of industrialization and radically different models of life.

As defined by the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan (1938-2018), developed countries are “those that provide their inhabitants with a free and healthy life in a safe environment.”

This explanation can be subjective or unclear, and that is why we tend to think of these terms from an economic and industrial point of view: a developed nation is one that has a strong, highly industrialized economy, whose benefits are transformed into high standards of living for the majority of its population.

Instead, underdeveloped countries are those that fail to sustain a stable economy, or guarantee their citizens a desirable way of life. In general, they are countries with little industrialized agricultural economies, subject to the ups and downs of the market in a catastrophic way. For the most part, its population suffers from poverty (or in some cases misery and hunger), low rates of human development, insecurity, violence, etc.

Differences between developed and underdeveloped countries

If we look for more objective criteria to distinguish between developed and underdeveloped countries, we have to:

Developed countriesUnderdeveloped countries
Low rates of inflation, poverty and unemployment.Big problems of inflation, poverty and unemployment.
Very broad and diverse industrial sector.Little industrial sector, economy based on agriculture.
High life expectancy and low mortality rate, especially infant mortality.Low or medium life expectancies and high infant mortality rates.
Economic and political stability.Economic and political instability.
High levels of human development: education, culture, art, etc.Low levels of human development: illiteracy, low professional development, low cultural consumption, etc.
High per capita income and great consumption capacity of its citizens.Low per capita income and low consumption capacity of citizens.
Favorable trade balance (greater export than import).Unfavorable trade balance (higher import than export).

Examples from developed and underdeveloped countries

Here are some examples of countries that are considered developed and underdeveloped:

  • Developed countries: England, Germany, Australia, United States, France, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Holland, Belgium, South Korea, Japan, Israel, Hong Kong, Turkey.
  • Underdeveloped countries: Haiti, Somalia, Senegal, Tanzania, Laos, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Mauritania, Malawi, Yemen, Nepal, Venezuela, Cambodia, Togo, Eritrea, Burkina Faso, Vanuatu, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone.