Identifying a Developing Country

This paper attempts to explain the characteristics that can be used to identify a developing country. It also discusses the aspects of development (social, political, and economic aspects) It finally explores the relationship between democracy and development and also the three aspects of development.

A developing country according to most books and encyclopedias is a country where the standards of living are relatively low and the industrial base is underdeveloped. In addition, there is a moderate low Human Development Index (HDI) score and per capita income.

Most of the time all countries which are neither a developed country nor a failed state are classified as developing countries, despite discussed major characteristics. Some of the characteristics given for developing countries do not add up because some developing countries are far more developed than some developed countries.

There are therefore several levels of developing countries since the characteristics are not always the same. It always depends on the person and the country one is describing. Some of the terms sometimes used are less developed countries (LDCs), least economically developed countries (LEDCs), “underdeveloped nations” or “undeveloped nations”, Third World nations, and “non-industrialized nations”. Conversely, the opposite end of the spectrum is termed developed countries, most economically developed countries (MEDCs), First World nations, and “industrialized nations”.

Critics believe that at times the word “developing” is inappropriate. In the case of countries ravaged by European colonialism, the word “re-developing” is found to be more accurate since there were successful economic systems before colonialism. Allegedly due to ethnocentrism, Western analysts generally deem these prior interactions invalid and do not consider them “developed”. The premise is that “to develop” is the same thing as “to develop in a western manner”.

The development of a country is measured with statistical indexes such as income per capita (per person) (GDP), life expectancy, the rate of literacy, et cetera. The UN has recently developed the HDI, a compound indicator of the above statistics, to gauge the level of human development for countries where data is available.

Developing countries are therefore in general ones which have not achieved a significant degree of industrialization relative to their populations, and which have a low standard of living.

Development can be seen from three perspectives. ie the political, economic, and social aspects. The three do greatly interrelate in one way or another. For one to understand all about a country that is developed or developing, he/she needs to understand the three aspects of development and how they contribute to the state of the country in terms of development.

The economic aspect of development is usually discussed in terms of wealth, labor force, output, and income. It is explained as the development of an economic wealth of countries or regions for the well-being of their inhabitants. From a policy perspective, economic development can be defined as efforts that seek to improve the economic well-being and quality of life for a community by creating and/or retaining jobs and supporting or growing incomes and the tax base.

When explaining development most people tend to confuse economic growth and economic development yet the two refer to very different issues. Economic growth refers to the increase of a specific measure such as real national income, gross domestic product, etc while economic development refers to improvements in a variety of indicators such as literacy rates, life expectancy, and poverty rates.

Developing countries are described by low income of the people and it is usually no enough to feed the increasing population. The economic growth is between 8-10% and the GDP is quite less because it is plagued with problems like corruption, inefficient distribution, and a huge population. They, therefore, depend highly on foreign aid.

Other than the economic aspect, development is also looked at in terms of social and political aspects. The political aspect here will refer to the governance methods in the country social aspects will refer to the way of living of the people.

Politics is understood in terms of democratization, ‘good governance’, and local self-governance, including the participation of civil society. These are areas that are highly affected in developing countries. Dictatorship is highly eminent in these countries.

Developing countries lag behind on certain points such as infrastructure, luxury needs, lack of tourism, filthy cities, inefficient communication, and distribution network or it may be marred by violence, corruption, or other misdeeds. A developing country has a peculiar pattern of various statistics which include not-so-world-famous cities, many people below the poverty line, famine, hunger, diseases.

There is a connection between democracy and development. Until quite recently conventional wisdom has held that economic development, wherever it occurs, will lead inevitably — and fairly quickly — to democracy. The argument, in its simplest form, runs like this: economic growth produces an educated and entrepreneurial middle class that, sooner or later, begins to demand control over its own fate. Eventually, even repressive governments are forced to give in. Almost all rich counties in the world(developed) have democracy while the reverse is true.

It is also notable that economic development and political development are functionally related in all societies, whether developed or underdeveloped. For example, the increase in American Per capita output over the last few years has been accompanied by a great expansion in the activities of governance.

There has been a lagging question of whether GDP is a good measure of development. The most commonly given reason for this is because it is not equally distributed in all counties. Another reason why it is not a good measure is because it registers only goods and services exchanged for money. Again, it ignores human freedom, distribution, quality of life, and sustainability.

GDP does not also count for unpaid labor especially women’s care work. It does not also count negative goods-for example, the clean-up of toxic waste dump is given a plus in terms of GDP.

Most of the definitions given for developing countries are therefore not sufficient. Even though the characteristics of these countries are given, mostly being the living conditions of the countries, sometimes the countries referred to as developing or developed do not usually follow the trend that has been set by the definitions.

The development of livelihoods and greater quality of life for humans should be the measurement used to describe developed countries or the reverse for developing countries.

One does not need to go to the definitions given to know whether a country is developed or not. This is because development simply encompasses governance, healthcare, education, gender equality, disaster preparedness, infrastructure, economics, human rights, environment, and issues associated with these.


Guasch, J. Luis and Kogan, Joseph, “Inventories in Developing Countries: Levels and Determinants – a Red Flag for Competitiveness and Growth” (2001). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 2552. Web.

UNDP. Human Development Report 2004: Cultural Liberty in Today’s Diverse World. 2004.

Roemer, Donald R. Snodgrass, Economics of development, New York/London 1996.

Todaro, Michael P., Economic Development, Harlow (UK) 1997. Web.

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