The poorest countries in the world

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Rating: 4.9/5 (voted 120)

Alexey Nosovsky

A representative of the Legal Department at iWorld. Author of articles on Migration Law.

Update: 26 April 2024 11 minutes read
World's poorest countries

As of 2023, the list of the world’s poorest countries encompasses nations across Africa, Latin and Central America, Europe, and Asia. Poverty is generally defined by a nation’s socio-economic condition where individuals struggle to meet the basic requirements for subsistence and work capacity. The state’s well-being and the people’s welfare hinge on factors such as the availability of natural resources, the quality of life index, economic level, and human development.

Poor countries worldwide face significant challenges, including a low level of healthcare, limited access to education, political instability, insufficient social protection for the impoverished, minimal purchasing power, high mortality rates, and widespread unemployment. The World Bank projects that by the end of 2022, approximately 676 million people will be living in extreme poverty, with a significant portion of the citizens in African nations below the poverty line allocating most of their expenditures to food.

Evaluation criteria for the ranking of the poorest countries of the world

A country is identified as poor based on specific criteria, and since 1990, the World Bank has been actively engaged in the development of impoverished nations, working towards establishing a common standard for poverty measurement. The internationally recognized poverty line, established by the World Bank, is set at $2.15 per person per day at purchasing power parity, using 2017 prices as a reference. The United Nations (UN) utilizes various criteria to assess and designate countries as Least Developed Countries (LDCs), including:

  1. Extended Real Quality of Life Index. This assessment considers factors such as environmental pollution, health indicators, literacy and education rates, the ratio of house prices to income, cost of living, political freedom and security, climatic and geographic conditions, purchasing power, and material well-being. The Netherlands boasts the highest quality of life index, while Nigeria has the lowest.
  2. Economic Vulnerability Index. This index gauges the impact of factors such as population, natural resources, geography, environment, external influences, economic structure, disasters, and trade shocks on a country’s economy. Palau, the Marshall Islands, and Kiribati exhibit high vulnerability indices.
  3. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per Capita. GDP serves as a macroeconomic indicator reflecting the level of economic development and activity within a state. It represents the total market value of all services and goods produced in a year, measured in USD. The GDP per capita is calculated by dividing the GDP by the total population. In addition to GDP, the Gross National Income (GNI) indicator is considered, derived by dividing the country’s total profit by the number of inhabitants, accounting for receipts from abroad. In 2023, low-income countries are classified by the World Bank as those with a GNI below USD 1085 per person. Luxembourg, Singapore, Ireland, and Switzerland have the highest GDP levels, with Burundi ranking at the bottom.

The majority of the world’s poorest countries are concentrated in the African region, and the ranking of Least Developed Countries undergoes annual revisions. Germany, Italy, and Romania are among the most sought-after countries for immigration.

World’s poorest countries by GDP per capita

As of now, the roster of the world’s poorest countries comprises 47 nations. In 2021, the World Bank conducted a ranking based on the «nominal gross domestic product per capita», with Monaco and Luxembourg securing the top positions. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, as of 2023, Burundi holds the designation of the poorest country globally, considering criteria such as money (GDP) and other indicators, with a quality of life index at 36.55 and an economic vulnerability of 38.7.

The poorest countries in Europe

According to the International Monetary Fund as of April 2023, the list of the poorest countries in Europe includes:

Country GDP per capita in USD Unemployment rate in % Ranking among European countries
Kosovo 12 636,10 20,70 48
Moldova 14 589,52 3,5 43
Bosnia and Herzegovina 15 555,67 17,20 41
Albania 15 599,43 10 45
Northern Macedonia 17 317,65 15,25 40

The Republic of Kosovo stands as the poorest country in Europe, grappling with the highest unemployment rate among the working-age population. With 17.6% of the population below the poverty line and a quality of life index at 118, the economy, although gradually stabilizing, heavily relies on foreign aid. Demographic challenges, ethnic conflicts, and limited access to foreign trade relations continue to impede the country’s development.

Moldova faces an extreme poverty rate of 10.7%, with a quality of life index of 113 and an average monthly wage around USD 655. Social and economic issues play a pivotal role in the prevalence of poverty in the country.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, approximately 17% of the population resides below the poverty line, with a quality of life index at 128. The minimum wage in 2023 is set at 306 EUR. The country grapples with a complex political structure, an unbalanced economy, import dominance, and other challenges that hinder its progress toward becoming a developed European nation.

Albania has a poverty rate of 21.8%, coupled with a quality of life index of 99 and a current minimum wage of 290 EUR. Inefficiencies in agriculture and a fragile economy contribute to the sluggish growth of living standards in the country.

The Republic of North Macedonia, characterized as a small agrarian-industrial state, has a quality of life index of 110. With a poverty rate of 21.8% and a minimum wage of 294 EUR, the country faces obstacles such as inter-ethnic conflicts, insufficient foreign funding, and an unstable political situation that hinder its economic growth.

The poorest countries in Asia

As of 2021, Afghanistan claims the top spot among the least developed Asian countries, boasting a GDP of USD 368.75. In 2023, the countries ranked as the poorest based on GDP per capita (purchasing power parity) are:

Country GDP per capita in USD Percentage of population below the poverty line Place in the world ranking
Yemen 1815,48 80 198
Timor-Leste (East Timor) 2909,31 41,8 155
Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal 4101,66 25,2 182
Tajikistan 4169,79 26,3 190
Republic of the Union of Myanmar 4215 24,8 181

Yemen shares its borders with Oman and Saudi Arabia, and it grapples with a purchasing power index of 16.74. The country faces severe challenges, including water shortages, prolonged military conflicts, food scarcity, and inadequate healthcare, resulting in a humanitarian crisis. A staggering 75% of Yemeni children suffer from malnutrition, and over half of the population faces food insecurity.

Despite having established exports of oil, gas, and precious stones, Myanmar (formerly Burma) remains underdeveloped, as per UN classification. With an unemployment rate of 5.5% and a life expectancy of 66.2 years, the country contends with high inflation, corruption, and deficient infrastructure, acting as primary contributors to its state of poverty.

The Democratic Republic of East Timor, also known as Timor-Leste, is a small island nation with a population of 1.34 million. It holds an Environmental and Economic Vulnerability Index of 38.7, and the literacy rate for individuals aged over 15 is 59%. The Human Capital Index stands at 69.5.

Tajikistan, characterized by a feeble economy, a low standard of living, and an average salary of 170 USD, relies significantly on labor migration to Russia. The purchasing power index in Tajikistan is 12.95.

The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal faces challenges such as low industrial development, restricted access to clean water, a high infant mortality rate, and inadequate food resources. With a quality of life index at 81 and a purchasing power index of 21.71, unfavorable natural conditions and an unstable political environment are major impediments to economic development.

The poorest countries of America

Countries in Central, South, and Latin America that are at the poverty line and exhibit low GDP per capita include:

Country GDP per capita in USD Poverty rate in % Place in the world ranking
Haiti 2668,18 58,5 171
Honduras 5853,47 4,56 154
Nicaragua 6197,92 24,9 168
Bolivia 8589,69 4 149
Ecuador 10982,20 3,9 117

Haiti, deemed the poorest country in the Americas, grapples with challenges rooted in its unfavorable geographical location and frequent natural disasters. The Human Capital Index stands at 66.2, with a significant portion of the population lacking access to fundamental necessities like electricity, sanitation, and running water. The nation finds itself entangled in an ongoing economic, humanitarian, and political crisis.

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The Republic of Honduras, relying heavily on agriculture with a focus on bananas and coffee, contends with an unemployment rate of 4.2%. Shockingly, around 50% of children don’t attend school, and one in ten individuals is illiterate. Contributing factors include pronounced social stratification, economic fragility, and limited access to critical infrastructure, education, and healthcare, shaping the landscape of poverty in Latin America.

Nicaragua, sharing borders with Costa Rica and Honduras, faces an unemployment rate of 7.52% and a purchasing power index of 20.13. While agricultural development relies on foreign direct investment, the average salary hovers around 307 USD.

Bolivia, witnessing substantial reductions in poverty and illiteracy rates since 2006, boasts a quality of life index of 96.16 and an unemployment rate of 4%. Despite holding significant natural gas reserves, Bolivia remains one of the Americas’ poorest agricultural nations.

The Republic of Ecuador, specializing in the export of agricultural products, oil, and natural resources, maintains an unemployment rate of 3.7 and a quality of life index of 121. Projections indicate a minimum wage of 450 USD in 2023.

The poorest countries of Africa

Africa boasts the highest count of least developed countries, with a total of 34 nations on the list, predominantly facing water stress.

Country GDP per capita in USD Poverty rate in % Place in the world ranking
Burundi 742,65 64,9 212
South Sudan 815,03 82,3 187
Central African Republic 933,53 61,9 209
Somalia 1126,60 70,73 210
Niger 1268,31 40,8 203

Burundi stands not only as the poorest country in Africa but also holds this unfortunate distinction globally. It shares borders with Congo, Tanzania, and Rwanda, with a population of approximately 13 million, making it one of the most densely populated countries on the African continent. The majority of its population resides below the poverty line. Burundi boasts reserves of vanadium, nickel ore, gold, peat, and platinum. Despite its agricultural focus, the state faces underdeveloped industry, economic decline, and internal instability exacerbated by regional conflicts and major natural disasters.

South Sudan’s economic landscape revolves around oil production and export. With a Human Capital Index of 22, the Republic contends with protracted military conflicts, political instability, underdeveloped infrastructure, and reliance on international investment, contributing to its challenges in combating poverty.

The Central African Republic, among the world’s most sparsely populated nations, struggles with the lowest Human Development Index and a 6.5% unemployment rate. Ongoing civil war, internal political conflicts, and insufficient development in healthcare and education contribute to the country’s economic stagnation and poverty.

The Federal Republic of Somalia faces an economic and environmental vulnerability index of 51.9, coupled with a 19.9% unemployment rate and a 24.3 human capital index. A humanitarian crisis unfolds due to civil war, adverse economic conditions, climatic disasters, and political instability.

The Republic of Niger, exporting commodities like oil, uranium, gold, and millet, grapples with a purchasing power index of 12.3 and a human capital index of 0.3. The proliferation of poverty in Niger is driven by challenging climatic conditions, a low level of education, and an unfavorable epidemiological situation.

The poorest city in the world

The title of the poorest city in the world, considering factors like purchasing power, and cost and standard of living, is held by Damascus, Syria. This assessment encompasses various elements, including safety, accessibility to healthcare and education, the capacity to fulfill basic human needs, pollution levels, and more.

The top 5 poorest cities in the world include:

City, country Quality of life index Purchasing power index Cost of living index
Damascus, Syria 30,7 4,13 29,89
Lagos, Nigeria 46,08 7,03 37,41
Tripoli, Libya 104,23 27,65 27,73
Algeria, Algeria 87,57 24,22 32,85
Karachi, Pakistan 76,7 21,93 17,53

How to move to a country with a high standard of living

Among the nations renowned for their high standard of living are the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Finland, Iceland, Austria, Australia, Norway, and Germany. Many of these countries are part of the European Union, providing accessible immigration pathways for individuals from abroad. To embark on this journey, prospective immigrants can seek guidance from an immigration specialist or international law professional.

are well-equipped to assist applicants in identifying the most fitting program tailored to their unique needs and aspirations.

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