When people talk about the poorest or underdeveloped countries of the world, they often refer to them with the general term Third World, and they think everybody knows what they are talking about. The term Third World was originally coined in times of the Cold War to distinguish those nations that are neither aligned with the West (NATO) nor with the East, the Communist bloc. Today the term is often used to describe the developing countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania.
Third World countries included nations in Asia and Africa that were not aligned with either the United States or the Soviet Union. Now, in part because the Soviet Union no longer exists, the definition of Third World is outdated and considered offensive.
India is considered to be a Third World country and is also a developing country today. India has a high poverty rate, corruption, an outdated caste system, and other significant issues that have stunted its development.
A developing country (or a low and middle-income country (LMIC), less developed country, less economically developed country (LEDC), medium-industrialized country or underdeveloped country) is a country with a less developed industrial base (industries) and a low Human Development Index (HDI) relative to other countries.
However, this definition is not universally agreed upon. There is also no clear agreement on which countries fit this category. A nation’s GDP per capita, compared with other nations, can also be a reference point. In general, the United Nations accepts any country’s claim of itself being “developing”.
The term “developing” describes a currently observed situation and not a changing dynamic or expected progress direction. Since the late 1990s, developing countries tended to demonstrate higher growth rates than developed countries.
Developing countries tend to have some characteristics in common. For example, with regards to health risks, they commonly have: low levels of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene; energy poverty; high levels of pollution (e.g. air pollution, indoor air pollution, water pollution); high proportion of people with tropical and infectious diseases (neglected tropical diseases); a high number of road traffic accidents; and generally poor infrastructure.
Often, there is also widespread poverty, low education levels, inadequate access to family planning services, many informal settlements, corruption at all government levels, and a lack of so-called good governance. Global warming (climate change) is expected to impact developing countries more than wealthier countries, as most of them have a high “climate vulnerability“.
About a third of the world lives on less than $2 a day. The poorest half of the world – 3.5 billion people – own only 0.71% of the world’s wealth between them. A billion people live in chronic hunger.
Developing countries are countries that have a low standard living; these countries usually have a low gross national income per capita even though they are in an economical development. They also have a high gross domestic product per capita. Another economic measure is also industrialization.
However, there is a set of common characteristics of underdeveloped economies such as low per capita income, low levels of living, high rate of population growth, illiteracy, technical backwardness, capital deficiency, dependence on backward agriculture, high level of unemployment, unfavourable institutions and so on.
These countries often accrue a copious amount of debt from foreign countries because of the constant aid they need from other countries to keep their economy afloat and provide some financial stability to the citizens of the country.
The definition of a third world country has evolved from the political meaning during the Cold War to the economic meaning of today. Today’s meaning refers to countries that are in financial trouble and need help from other countries to keep their economy sustainable, at least for a short time.
“Third World” remains the most common of the original designations, but its meaning has changed from “non-aligned” and become more of a blanket term for the developing world. Since it’s partially a relic of the Cold War, many modern academics consider the “Third World” label to be outdated. Terms such as “developing countries” and “low and lower-middle-income countries” are now often used in its place.