A developed country (or industrialized country, high-income country, more economically developed country (MEDC)) is a sovereign state that has a high quality of life, developed economy and advanced technological infrastructure relative to other less industrialized nations. Most commonly, the criteria for evaluating the degree of economic development are gross domestic product (GDP), gross national product (GNP), the per capita income, level of industrialization, amount of widespread infrastructure and general standard of living. Which criteria are to be used and which countries can be classified as being developed are subjects of debate. A point of reference of 20,000 USD in 2021 USD nominal GDP per capita for the IMF is a good point of departure, it is a similar level of development to the United States in 1960. Some countries with lower nominal gdp per capita could be considered as developed given that their PPP gdp per capita is much higher to their nominal gdp per capita, therefore having a higher standard of living than would be considered if one only looks at nominal gdp.
Developed countries have generally more advanced post-industrial economies, meaning the service sector provides more wealth than the industrial sector. They are contrasted with developing countries, which are in the process of industrialisation or are pre-industrial and almost entirely agrarian, some of which might fall into the category of Least Developed Countries. As of 2015, advanced economies comprise 60.8% of global GDP based on nominal values and 42.9% of global GDP based on purchasing-power parity (PPP) according to the International Monetary Fund.
Definition and criteria
Economic criteria have tended to dominate discussions. One such criterion is income per capita; countries with high gross domestic product (GDP) per capita would thus be described as developed countries. Another economic criterion is industrialisation; countries in which the tertiary and quaternary sectors of industry dominate would thus be described as developed. More recently another measure, the Human Development Index (HDI), which combines an economic measure, national income, with other measures, indices for life expectancy and education has become prominent. This criterion would define developed countries as those with a very high (HDI) rating. The index, however, does not take into account several factors, such as the net wealth per capita or the relative quality of goods in a country. This situation tends to lower the ranking for some of the most advanced countries, such as the G7 members and others.
According to the United Nations Statistics Division:
There is no established convention for the designation of "developed" and "developing" countries or areas in the United Nations system.
And it notes that:
The designations "developed" and "developing" are intended for statistical convenience and do not necessarily express a judgement about the stage reached by a particular country or area in the development process.
Terms linked to the concept developed country include "advanced country", "industrialized country", "'more developed country" (MDC), "more economically developed country" (MEDC), "Global North country", "first world country", and "post-industrial country". The term industrialized country may be somewhat ambiguous, as industrialisation is an ongoing process that is hard to define. The first industrialized country was the United Kingdom, followed by Belgium. Later it spread further to Germany, United States, France and other Western European countries. According to some economists such as Jeffrey Sachs, however, the current divide between the developed and developing world is largely a phenomenon of the 20th century.
Mathis Wackernagel calls the binary labeling of countries as "neither descriptive nor explanatory. It is merely a thoughtless and destructive endorsement of GDP fetish. In reality, there are not two types of countries, but over 200 different countries, all faced with the same laws of nature, yet each with unique features."
Country lists by various criteria
Human Development Index (HDI)
The UN HDI is a statistical measure that gauges a country's level of human development. While there is a strong correlation between having a high HDI score and being a prosperous economy, the UN points out that the HDI accounts for more than income or productivity. Unlike GDP per capita or per capita income, the HDI takes into account how income is turned "into education and health opportunities and therefore into higher levels of human development."
Many countries listed by IMF as "advanced", possess an HDI over 0.800, the threshold for "very high" human development. Many countries possessing an HDI of 0.800 and over are conversely listed by IMF as "advanced". Thus, many "advanced economies" are characterized by an HDI score of 0.800 or higher.
The 2019 Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Programme was released on 9 December 2019, and calculates HDI values based on estimates for 2018. Below is the list of the "very high human development" countries:
- = increase.
- = steady.
- = decrease.
- The number in parentheses represents the number of ranks the country has climbed (up or down) relative to the ranking in the year of 2017.
As a non-UN member, the government of Taiwan calculates its own HDI based on UNDP's 2010 methodology, which had a value of 0.911 in 2018, ranked 21 globally. Additionally, while the HDI for the Chinese special administrative region of Hong Kong is calculated by the UN, it is not for Macau. The Macanese government calculated the territory's HDI to be 0.868 in 2011. These values place both Taiwan and Macau well within the list of countries with "Very high human development". Furthermore, in 2009 a United Nations project calculated the HDI for all of its members, as well as Taiwan, Macau, and many dependent territories. The HDI values for the countries of San Marino and Monaco, which have not been included in official annual HDI reports, were found to be at 0.961 and 0.956 respectively. This places both countries firmly within the category of countries with "Very high human development" as well. The dependent territories with HDI values equivalent to "Very high human development" were: Jersey, Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Guernsey, Gibraltar, Norfolk Island, Faroe Islands, Isle of Man, British Virgin Islands, Falkland Islands, Aruba, Puerto Rico, Martinique, Greenland, and Guam. Of note, the HDI values in the 2009 report were calculated using the old HDI formula, while HDI values after the year 2010 are calculated with a different formula.
Some institutions have produced lists of developed countries: the UN (list shown above), the CIA, and some providers of stock market indices (the FTSE Group, MSCI, S&P, Dow Jones, STOXX, etc.). The latter is not included here because its association of developed countries with countries with both high incomes and developed markets is not deemed as directly relevant.[why?]
However, many other institutions have created more general lists referred to when discussing developed countries. For example, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) identifies 39 "advanced economies". The OECD's 37 members are known as the "developed countries club". The World Bank identifies 81 "high income countries". Other standards, such as the 30-50 Club (GDP per capita over $30,000 and population over 50 million) have been developed to categorize highly developed and influential countries.
World Bank high-income economies
According to the World Bank the following 82 countries (including territories) are classified as "high-income economies". As of the 2021 fiscal year, high-income economies are those that had a GNI per capita of $12,536 or more in 2019.
37 countries and territories in Europe:
- / Channel Islands
- Czech Republic
- Faroe Islands
- Isle of Man
- San Marino
- United Kingdom
21 countries and territories in the Americas:
16 countries and territories in Asia:
7 countries and territories in Oceania:
2 countries in Africa:
7 former high-income economies:
* Between 1994 and 2009, as a part of the Netherlands Antilles.
High-income OECD members
26 countries in Europe:
3 countries in the Americas:
3 countries in Asia:
2 countries in Oceania:
Development Assistance Committee members
There are 29 OECD member countries and the European Union—in the Development Assistance Committee (DAC), a group of the world's major donor countries that discuss issues surrounding development aid and poverty reduction in developing countries. The following OECD member countries are DAC members:
23 countries in Europe:
2 countries in the Americas:
2 countries in Asia:
2 countries in Oceania:
IMF advanced economies
According to the International Monetary Fund, 39 countries and territories are officially listed as "advanced economies", with the addition of 8 microstates and dependencies modified by the CIA which were omitted from the IMF version :
27 countries and dependencies in Europe classified by the IMF, 7 others given by the CIA :
- Czech Republic
- San Marino
- United Kingdom
7 countries and territories in Asia:
3 countries and territories in the Americas classified by the IMF, one territory given by the CIA :
2 countries in Oceania:
d The CIA has modified an older version of the IMF's list of 38 Advanced Economies, noting that the IMF's Advanced Economies list "would presumably also cover the following nine smaller countries of Andorra, Bermuda, Faroe Islands, Guernsey, Holy See, Jersey, Liechtenstein, Monaco, and San Marino[...]". San Marino was later included in the IMF's list.
Paris Club members
There are 22 permanent members in the Paris Club (French: Club de Paris), a group of officials from major creditor countries whose role is to find coordinated and sustainable solutions to the payment difficulties experienced by debtor countries.
15 countries in Europe:
3 countries in the Americas:
3 countries in Asia:
1 country in Oceania:
Comparative table (2021)
Comparative table of countries with a "very high" human development (0.800 or higher), according to UNDP; OECD members; "advanced" economies, according to the IMF; "high income" economies, according to the World Bank; and income per capita (purchasing power parity) higher than $22,000, according to the IMF.
|Countries||HDI||OECD||IMF||WB||Per capita PPP|
|Lithuania||Yes since 2005||Yes since 2018||Yes since 2015||Yes since 2012||Yes since 2011|
|Latvia||Yes since 2005||Yes since 2016||Yes since 2014||Yes since 2012||Yes since 2013|
|Estonia||Yes since 2003||Yes since 2010||Yes since 2011||Yes since 2006||Yes since 2010|
|Israel||Yes since 1991||Yes since 2010||Yes since 1997||Yes since 1987||Yes since 2004|
|Slovenia||Yes since 1998||Yes since 2010||Yes since 2007||Yes since 1997||Yes since 2004|
|Czech Republic||Yes since 2001||Yes since 1995||Yes since 2009||Yes since 2006||Yes since 2005|
|Slovakia||Yes since 2006||Yes since 2000||Yes since 2009||Yes since 2007||Yes since 2007|
|Portugal||Yes since 2005||Yes since 1961||Yes since 1989||Yes since 1994||Yes since 2004|
|South Korea||Yes since 1999||Yes since 1996||Yes since 1997||Yes since 2001||Yes since 2005|
|Greece||Yes since 2001||Yes since 1961||Yes since 1989||Yes since 1996||Yes since 2003|
|New Zealand||Yes before 1990||Yes since 1973||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 2000|
|Spain||Yes since 1995||Yes since 1961||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1999|
|Finland||Yes since 1994||Yes since 1969||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1997|
|Ireland||Yes since 1996||Yes since 1961||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1997|
|United Kingdom||Yes since 1992||Yes since 1961||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1997|
|Iceland||Yes before 1990||Yes since 1961||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1996|
|Italy||Yes since 1995||Yes since 1962||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1993|
|Sweden||Yes before 1990||Yes since 1961||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1995|
|Australia||Yes before 1990||Yes since 1971||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1994|
|Belgium||Yes before 1990||Yes since 1961||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1994|
|Canada||Yes before 1990||Yes since 1961||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1994|
|France||Yes since 1993||Yes since 1961||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1994|
|Austria||Yes since 1992||Yes since 1961||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1992|
|Germany||Yes before 1990||Yes since 1961||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1992|
|Japan||Yes before 1990||Yes since 1964||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1992|
|Luxembourg||Yes since 1992||Yes since 1961||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1985|
|Denmark||Yes since 1991||Yes since 1961||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1991|
|Netherlands||Yes before 1990||Yes since 1961||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1991|
|United States||Yes before 1990||Yes since 1961||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1989|
|Norway||Yes before 1990||Yes since 1961||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1985|
|Switzerland||Yes before 1990||Yes since 1961||Yes since 1945||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1984|
|Countries to be considered developed (1 pending recognition)|
|Countries||HDI||OECD||IMF||WB||Per capita PPP|
|Hungary||Yes since 2005||Yes since 1996||No||Yes since 2014||Yes since 2010|
|Chile||Yes since 2007||Yes since 2010||No||Yes since 2012||Yes since 2013|
|Poland||Yes since 2003||Yes since 1996||No||Yes since 2009||Yes since 2011|
|Malta||Yes since 2003||No||Yes since 2008||Yes since 2002||Yes since 2005|
|Cyprus||Yes since 2001||No||Yes since 2001||Yes since 1988||Yes since 2000|
|Singapore||Yes since 1999||No||Yes since 1997||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1990|
|In process (2 pending recognitions)|
|Countries||HDI||OECD||IMF||WB||per capita PPP|
|Panama||Yes since 2019||No||No||Yes since 2017||Yes since 2014|
|Romania||Yes since 2013||No||No||Yes since 2019||Yes since 2016|
|Croatia||Yes since 2007||No||No||Yes since 2017||Yes since 2014|
|Uruguay||Yes since 2014||No||No||Yes since 2012||Yes since 2016|
|Bahamas||Yes since 2016||No||No||Yes since 1987||Yes since 1997|
|Turkey||Yes since 2015||Yes since 1961||No||No||Yes since 2013|
|Kuwait||Yes since 2014||No||No||Yes since 1987||Yes before 1980|
|Bahrain||Yes since 2012||No||No||Yes since 2001||Yes since 1981|
|Oman||Yes since 2012||No||No||Yes since 2007||Yes since 1990|
|San Marino||No data||No||Yes since 2012||Yes since 2000||Yes before 1980|
|Saudi Arabia||Yes since 2010||No||No||Yes since 2004||Yes before 1980|
|United Arab Emirates||Yes since 2004||No||No||Yes since 1987||Yes before 1980|
|Brunei||Yes since 1999||No||No||Yes since 1990||Yes before 1980|
|Qatar||Yes since 1996||No||No||Yes since 1987||Yes before 1980|
|Mauritius||Yes since 2019||No||No||Yes since 2019||Yes since 2017|
|Countries||HDI||OECD||IMF||WB||per capita PPP|
|Bulgaria||Yes since 2015||No||No||No||Yes since 2018|
|Malaysia||Yes since 2016||No||No||No||Yes since 2012|
|Kazakhstan||Yes since 2015||No||No||No||Yes since 2013|
|Seychelles||No||No||No||Yes since 2014||Yes since 2013|
|Russia||Yes since 2013||No||No||No||Yes since 2011|
|Barbados||Yes since 2011||No||No||Yes since 2006||No|
|Trinidad and Tobago||No||No||No||Yes since 2006||Yes since 2005|
|Andorra||Yes since 2003||No||No||Yes since 1990||No data|
|Liechtenstein||Yes since 2000||No||No||Yes since 1994||No data|
|Colombia||No||Yes since 2020||No||No||No|
|Georgia||Yes since 2019||No||No||No||No|
|Costa Rica||Yes since 2019||Yes since 2021||No||No||No|
|Serbia||Yes since 2019||No||No||No||No|
|Nauru||No||No||No||Yes since 2019||No|
|Montenegro||Yes since 2013||No||No||No||No|
|Palau||Yes since 2013||No||No||No||No|
|Antigua and Barbuda||No||No||No||Yes since 2012||No|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||No||No||No||Yes since 2012||No|
|Belarus||Yes since 2012||No||No||No||No|
|Argentina||Yes since 2006||No||No||No||No|
|Mexico||No||Yes since 1994||No||No||No|
|Monaco||No data||No||No||Yes since 1994||No data|
The list below features some outstanding countries selected from the comparative table above with average data of quality (best place in rankings) and quantity (considered in how many of the 37 rankings) with an evaluation greater than 60%.
|Rank||Country||INDEX||QUALITY||QUANTITY||Quality of living||Quality of digital living||Cost of living||HDI||per capita PPP||Democracy||Peace||Prosperity||Corruption||Economic Freedom Heritage||Human Freedom Fraser||Politic/Social Freedom House||Competitiveness||Doing Business||Gay friendly||Energy transition||Environmental Performance||Green Future||Happiness||Social Progress||Global Talent||PISA science||PISA read||PISA maths||Mobile internet speed||Fixed internet speed||Resilience||Fragile state||Growth promise||E-gov||English skills||Cities in motion||Press freedom||Health||Rule of law||Good Government||Labor rights|
|top 100||> score 0.6||low top 100||> very high||>22000||full||< 1.8||2nd green on map||> score 70||> mostly free||> score 7.5||> score 90||> score 60||> score 60||> score 7||> score 70||> score 60||> green||> score 6.4||< tier 2||< 2nd quartile||> score 400||> score 400||> score 400||> 30mb||> 50mb||> score 90||> green||> score 6||> very high||> high||> relative high||< score 20||> score 60||> score 70||> score 0.6||< rating 2|
|36||United Arab Emirates||62,7%||0,71||0,54||74||31||-||31||11||-||-||42||21||14||-||-||25||16||-||-||-||-||25||-||22||49||47||51||1||30||-||29||22||21||-||-||-||-||-||24||-|
- Namely sovereign states, i.e., excluding Macau: In 2003, the government of Macau calculated its HDI as being 0.909 (the UN does not calculate Macau's HDI); In January 2007, the People's Daily Archived 7 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine reported (from China Modernization Report 2007): "In 2004... Macau... had reached the level of developed countries". The UNCTAD Archived 10 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine organisation (of the UN), as well as the CIA Archived 9 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine, classify Macau as a "developing" territory. The World Bank Archived 28 August 2019 at the Wayback Machine classifies Macau as a high income economy (along with developed economies as well as with few developing economies).
- In the 2018 Subnational Human Development Index (SHDI) Database, Taiwan's HDI was given as 0.880 among China's data. However, from 2019 onward, Taiwan and Hong Kong are no longer included in the SHDI Database among Chinese divisions. By contrast, the HDIs which published by the Statistical Bureau of Taiwan in its 2019 and 2020 reports were displayed as 0.911 in 2018, and 0.916 in 2019 respectively. The reason for the discrepancy is because there is no country data available for Taiwan in the UNDP database, and Taiwan is also excluded from its HDI data for China. The SHDI claimed that the data collection for Taiwan was also derived from the Taiwanese Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics ; the latter source is used as primary data in this article.
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- Geographically a part of Asia, geopolitically a part of Europe.
- Singapore is not a member of the OECD, and has reportedly turned down offers into joining it, meaning that such recognition will remain pending in the near future. However, the country is still considered by other institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations as developed, and membership to the OECD is not necessarily a criterion for developed status, as well as a country being a part of the OECD does not also mean that a country is developed (e.g. Colombia and Mexico). Singapore has a high-income economy, with the second-highest GDP per capita (PPP) in the world, as well as the highest Human Development Index rankings in the Asia-Pacific. In 2020, the country had also ranked first on the Human Capital Index.
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