LDCs in Facts and Figures 2018


The 47 least developed countries are low-income countries that suffer from severe structural handicaps to growth, particularly low human resources and high economic vulnerability. 


  • In 2017, the combined population of LDCs stood at roughly 1 billion.
  • It is projected to increase by 33% between 2017 and 2030 and to reach 1.9 billion persons in 2050 .


  • In 2017, the GDP of LDCs was US$ 951.75, which accounted only for 1.26% of total world’s GDP. Per capita GDP of LDCs reached an average of US$ 1,125.
  • LDC economies grew at a rate of 4.9% in 2017, after plateauing at 4.2% and 4.3% in the period 2015-16. This upward trend is expected to continue in the near term owing to favourable external economic conditions. 
  • Levels of external indebtedness have increased. External debt averaged a 33.13% of LDCs’ GNI in 2016. 92% of the external long-term debt stock was held by the public sector, therefore putting a large economic burden on to the governments.
  • Domestic resource mobilisation in LDCs continues to be behind the world average. Government revenue increased to 19.8% of GDP in 2016, up from 16% in 2012. 
  • Savings in LDCs declined from 17.5% of GDP in 2012 to 13.3% in 2016, triggered by lower commodity revenues and growth. Only 27% of adults in LDCs have bank accounts, which is almost half the percentage for developing countries.

Productive Capacity

  • The contribution of manufacturing value added in LDC economies increased from 11.8% in 2011 to 13.2% in 2016. 
  • Services account for almost half of the growth in the LDCs, while agriculture accounts for around a quarter.
  • Between 2011 and 2016 the rates of mobile cellular subscriptions increased from 42% to 68%. 
  • In 2016 Internet penetration reached almost 16%, up from 5% in 2011.
  • Access to electricity nearly doubled from 21.6% in 2000 to 38.3% in 2014 and 44.8% in 2016.


  • In 2017, the share of LDCs in exports of goods and services stood at 0.9% of global exports, marking an increase by 13% after three years of continued negative growth. The LDCs’ share was still far from the target of 2% of global exports called for in the IPoA and SDG target 17.11.
  • Primary commodities accounted for just under half of LDC merchandise exports, down from 73% in 2005, while manufactured products accounted for 40 per cent (up from 21% in 2005), driven largely by export growth of clothing products, which accounted for 29% of LDC merchandise exports in 2016. Agricultural products accounted for 13% in 2016. 
  • In 2016, the top merchandise exporter within the LDCs was Bangladesh (share of 24%), followed by Angola (17%), and Myanmar (8%).


  • The proportion of people in the LDCs living on less than $1.90 per day decreased from 38.9% in 2010 to 33.7% in 2013.
  • It is estimated that 24% – 210 million people – live with hunger in LDCs.


  • According to the latest national figures, 19 million children of primary school age in LDCs are not enrolled in primary education.
  • In 2013, the pupil-teacher ratio in primary education in LDCs was 41 students per teacher as opposed to 27 students per teacher in all developing countries. In secondary education the ratio stood at 26 pupils per teacher in LDCs and 19 in all developing countries.


  • Although high, maternal mortality rates are decreasing in LDCs. In 2011, the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births was 502. In 2015, this number fell to 444 amongst all LDCs.
  • Infant mortality rates in LDCs are also decreasing – in 2016, the infant mortality rate was 47.88 per 1,000 live births, compared to 56.05 only 5 years earlier.


  • Water and sanitation services are under-provided in LDCs, even compared with other developing countries. Rural areas are particularly behind.  Only 61% of LDC population in rural areas used an improved water source in 2015.
  • In some LDCs over 95% of wastewater is released into the environment without treatment, compared to a worldwide figure of 80%.


  • In 2017, the average rate of women holding office in LDCs increased to 19%, from 18% in 2011. 
  • LDCs have achieved near parity in primary (48% female) and secondary (44% female) education. However, male students continue to dominate tertiary education (34% female).
  • Although progress has been made, LDCs are far from reaching gender equality in terms of access to skills, land, technology and finance to enhance economic opportunities and prevalence of child marriage and sexual violence.

Foreign Direct Investment and Remittances

  • FDI flows to the LDCs decreased by 13% in 2016, and 17% in 2017 to USD 26 billion. 
  • Reflecting the global trend, remittances to the LDCs fell for a second consecutive year, to $37 billion in 2017, down by 2.6% compared with the 2016 peak of $37.9 billion.

official development assistance (oda)

  • ODA to LDCs from OECD DAC countries increased by 4% in real terms, reaching $26 billion in 2017, after years of declines.
  • For nine DAC members, aid to the LDCs decreased from 2015 to 2016. However the overall share of ODA to the LDCs in donor’s GNI increased slightly from 0.08 per cent in 2015 to 0.09 per cent in 2016.
  • Only 7 donor countries met the ODA target of giving 0.15% of their GNI to LDCs in 2016. That is down from 9 in 2013. Five of them exceeded 0.20 per cent of GNI.


Sources: SG Report on the Implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action A/73/80 of 23 April 2018.