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Out of the 195 sovereign states in the world, only 37 are designated as fully developed. These countries have achieved a high degree of prosperity and wealth. Examples of developed nations include the United States, the UK, France, Japan and Singapore.
Many people around the world look to developed nations as inspiration and a model by which their own country could follow. Sure, developed countries have some major advantages, but not everything is perfect. In fact, developed nations have a range of issues too…
Below is a breakdown of some of the main pros and cons developed countries face.
|Developed Country Advantages||Developed Country Disadvantages|
|High standard of living||Low population growth|
|Strong economies||Older populations|
|Efficient Institutions||Low economic growth|
|Robust political systems||Political polarisation|
|Good infrastructure||Rampant inequality|
|Strong defences||Materialist cultures|
…but that’s just an overview. Now, let’s look at each of these in more detail.
High Standard Of Living
A first advantage that developed countries have is that their citizens have a high standard of living.
Developed countries are wealthy. Their level of wealth means that people living within developed nations generally have a good standard of living. This means they have safe and decently secure employment, quality housing, and that their basic needs such as food and utilities are met. People in developed nations also generally have excess income to spend on things they enjoy.
As well as the people in developed nations having a higher standard of living, governments in developed countries are also able to run quality public services. This means, generally, across the developed world people have access to good schools, healthcare and social services. This further adds to their quality of life.
Many people see the good quality of life in developed countries as one of their biggest benefits.
A second advantage of developed countries is that they have strong economies.
Developed nations are the biggest economies in the world. Combined, the economies of the developed world make up nearly half of total global GDP. The strength of the economies of richer nations allows for development and attracts good businesses. It also incentivizes people to innovate, and acts as a pull for top talent from around the world to relocate to developed nations.
The strength of economies of developed nations also has the advantage of being more resilient. Although richer countries still experience economic crises, their economies are better able to whether turmoil and their governments have more resources to respond to economic trouble.
As well as the strength of developed nations economies, the size of their economies is also a benefit. Larger economies are more dynamic, meaning richer nations are able to create better jobs for people and generate more wealth. This is a huge advantage for developed countries.
A third advantage that developed countries have is their efficient institutions.
The institutions of a nation are key to its success. A country’s institutions include functions such as its political and legal systems, as well ingrained protections such as freedom of speech, association and of the press, as well as property and intellectual rights. The quality and ability of developed nations intuitions is one of the key factors that made them wealthy. They are also one of their major benefits. Strong and efficient institutions help a nation to function well, allowing for good governance.
Efficient institutions are key to making a country wealthy. They allow for economic growth, as well as act as a key draw for investors. The strong institutions in the developed world also reduce corruption. This not only has an economic benefit, but also improves citizens trust in the state and likelihood of starting businesses, investing or innovating.
Many people question why developed nations are richer than the majority of other countries. The quality of their institutions is a major factor. It is also one of their biggest advantages.
Robust Political Systems
Another advantage that developed countries have is their robust political systems.
A country’s political system dictates the way it is governed. As a country’s leaders get to choose how resources are allocated, which economic policies are adopted and a nation’s foreign policy, having good political elites is key for a nation to succeed. Developed nations do not have perfect politicians, many would argue far from it! But, the robustness of their political systems prevents many terrible political decisions. This is a huge advantage.
The political systems of developed nations have a range of checks and balances that prevent power being consolidated and ensure a degree of accountability from the country’s leaders. They also allow for a degree public participation in the political process, as well as incorporate feedback mechanisms that allow political leaders remain reactive. As a result, the political systems of developed countries are more robust and better able to withstand political crises. This is a major advantage that richer nations have.
One advantage that developed countries have is their good infrastructure.
Infrastructure – roads, railways, airports, utilities and tele-communication networks, is vital for moving people, goods and information around a country. It is also key for importing goods, running businesses and trading internationally, as well as providing a good quality of life to a country’s citizens. Developed countries have some of the best infrastructure in the world, and this is a massive benefit for them.
Developed nations use their wealth to invest in high quality infrastructure. They also have funds to maintain the infrastructure they have. Developed countries lead the world in designing new and more advanced infrastructure – this they utilize to improve their own connectivity, as well as exporting it to other countries.
The standard of the infrastructure in developed countries, combined with the ability to upkeep it and innovate, is a significant advantage for developed nations.
A final benefit that developed countries have is their defensive strength.
The developed nations of the world have some of the strongest militaries. They are able to use their wealth to recruit, train and equip professional armies that prove highly effective on the battlefield. They are also able to develop advanced military technologies that add further to their defensive capabilities. The strength of the armed forces developed nations have gives them a real advantage.
As well as military strength, developed nations are able to effectively use diplomacy to help with their defense, and to forward their own strategic interests. As the richest countries in the world, developed nations are able to staff embassies, engage with international bodies such as the UN, leverage their wealth through loans and grants to poorer nations and utilize soft power. All of these aspects give developed countries significant advantages.
International Development Online Courses
If you want to know more about the advantages and disadvantages developed countries have, we highly recommend the online short course Sustainable Development in the 21st Century by Yonsei University. Delivered by former UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon, the course is a great introduction to the issues developing countries face. The link is to the course’s page.
We also think the online course Management of International Development: Towards Agenda 2030 is great. It looks at the current international development model as well as the trends that will be key to global development in the near future. Follow the link to the course’s page for more information.
If you are interested in the practical methods used on international development programmes, we recommend the online course How To Design & Fund International Development NGO Projects. The course teaches students the tools needed to establish and run impactful development projects. Click the link to visit the course’s page for more information.
Low Population Growth
A first disadvantage that developed countries have is their low population growth.
Across the developed world, birth rates are falling. As countries become industrialised, and wealthier, people have less children. However, in many developed nations, the number of children being born has fallen so low that the population is now shrinking. This causes a range of serious issues, from slowdowns in economic growth to demographic collapse.
Countries need their populations ideally to grow, or at least to stay stable. In many developed countries, there has been two or more generations where birth rates have remained low. Across the developed world, there is little chance now of reversing this population slowdown or even decline. This is a major issue developed nations face and one they are unlikely to be able to resolve.
A second disadvantage that developed countries have is their older populations.
As a result of their slow population growth, developed countries have rapidly aging populations. In fact, of the five oldest countries in the world, four are developed nations. There are a range of issues that come with having an older population – from lower economic growth to a heavier burden on the state due to health and social care costs.
Older people are generally less economically dynamic than younger people. They are also more likely to retain their wealth, and make safer investments, as they save their capital for retirement. Nations with older populations can struggle with expanding their economies. They can also have a range of social issues as the tax burden on younger people must be higher to provide services to the larger older population.
The average age of the population, and the limited number of young people by comparison, is a major issue for many developed countries.
Low Economic Growth
A further disadvantage that developed countries have is their low economic growth.
Although developed countries are wealthy, a major issue they have faced in recent decades is that their economies are barely growing. This means new businesses and jobs are not being created, productivity is not rising and people are not getting better off. Stagnant economies pose a significant disadvantage for developed nations.
Low economic growth is a major issue across the developed world. Developed countries have tried different approaches to expanding their economies, from increasing immigration to adopting deregulation, however generally these have had little effect.
The fact that developed countries seem unable to address their low economic performance is one of the biggest issues they face.
A major disadvantage that developed countries are facing is extreme political polarisation.
In the recent years, the political debate within many developed countries has moved towards the extremes. The centre-ground – commonly where political leaders could win by forming a consensus, has been mainly vacated. Across the developed world, political parties that are farther to the right and left have made gains and won elections. This poses a range of challenges for developed nations.
As well as shifts within the political discourse in developed countries, the general narrative has also become more polarized. People are now more engaged with fringe issues and less likely to find compromises. Social media and niche news outlets have further fueled this. As the debate around where societies should be heading heats up in many developed countries, politicians are less able to find consensus on policies and pollical deadlock becomes more likely.
Political polarization is a major problem for many developed countries, and is fast becoming a significant disadvantage for them.
An often-cited issue with developed countries is their rampant inequality.
Although developed countries have been able to provide a high standard of living for much of their population, there are still poor people in richer nations. The impoverished in developed countries may not be living in the destitution that those in developing nations are, but ‘first world poverty’ is a serious issue for many developed countries. Alongside this, inequality has been growing in the developed world in recent decades, adding to social unrest and political turmoil.
One factor leading to the growing inequality in developed countries is the stripping back of social protections. Welfare, social systems and benefits for people on low incomes and old age pensions have been reduced in many developed nations in recent decades. This has further added to, and potentially intrenched, inequality.
Many people see the inequality of developed countries as a significant issue that they are failing to address.
A final issue many people cite with developed countries is their materialist cultures.
People in developed nations may be, on average, the wealthiest in the world, but one by-product of this has been the adoption of a materialistic culture. Consumerism is rampant in the developed world and many people complain that traditional values have been lost. People also see a lack of wholesomeness in developed countries which often expresses itself in a scarcity of community and civil engagement.
Although consumerism and a focus on material goods is not a problem only found in the developed world, the comparative wealth of people in richer countries allows them to indulge more in commercialism. The rise in widespread mental illness, combined with a decrease in adherence to traditional morals, is cited by some people as a major downside of developed nations.
Regardless of someone’s personal views on materialism as a focus for people’s happiness, the fact that developed nations have economies highly based on consumption, and, by many metrics, lack a sense of community, is a disadvantage for them in many ways.