The characteristics of underdeveloped countries
we can draw basic characteristics of underdeveloped countries, as given below.
i. Over dependence on the primary sector
ii. Low capital formation
iii. High poverty and malnutrition
iv. Under utilization of natural resources
v. Under utilization of labour
vi. Dualistic economic structure
vii. Technological backwardness
viii. Unchecked population growth
ix. Uneven urbanization and environmental degradation
x. Poor infrastructure
xi. Political instability and poor governance
i. Over dependence on the Primary Sector
Agriculture plays a predominant role in the economy of most of the underdeveloped countries. As agriculture is not technically advanced, it absorbs a larger labour force. This is because of the less progressive secondary and tertiary sectors, and the lack of capital formation. However, the contribution of the agricultural labour force in an underdeveloped
country is not significant compared to the agricultural labour force in developed countries. On an average, 60 per cent to 80 per cent of the population are engaged in agriculture in underdeveloped countries. The countries depending purely on agriculture are likely to be un-progressive because agriculture alone cannot provide sustainable employment to all its population. Development of the industrial sector, along with the agriculture sector would complement and supplement each other, and promotes faster economic development.
ii. Capital Formation
The underdeveloped countries face a chronic deficiency of capital. This shortage of capital is one of the factors responsible for low per capita income.
The underdeveloped countries can be termed capital poor, low saving, and low investment economies. This low level of capital formation is because of lacklustre inducements for investment, and a propensity to save. High population growth affects the saving capacity of the family. Therefore, the underdeveloped economy has a poor capacity to invest in the modernization of agriculture, opening industries, or investing in social overhead capital. Thus, the economy remains in a primitive state. There is a general lack of entrepreneurship among the people living in underdeveloped countries.
iii. High Poverty and Malnutrition
One of the important features of underdeveloped countries is the prevalence of poverty and malnutrition. Poverty and malnutrition are more seen in rural areas, where more than 70 per cent of its population resides. Few earning member and more consuming members affect the per capita income of families in these labour intensive economies. Lower income leads to lower purchasing power.
The nutritional anemia among the women and children in the developing countries are much higher, compared to developed countries. The consumption of less than the required calories has promoted nutritional anaemia. Therefore, both, adults and children, look stunted, and the morbidity rate is quite high. The maternal mortality rates in less developed countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, and Nepal is higher than developed countries.
iv. Under Utilization of Natural Resources
Many underdeveloped countries in the world have sizeable natural resources. However, all of these natural resources have not been adequately tapped and have remained either unutilized, or, underutilized. The eastern part of India is endowed with abundant mineral resources, Africa possess large hydro-power potential. Similarly, the potential of the forests of Africa and South Africa remains unexploited. It is said that focusing on river projects in India would enhance its irrigation potential.
v. Under Utilization of Labour
Generally, underdeveloped countries are labour surplus countries. Most of the labour, particularly in rural areas is unemployed, underemployed, or disguised unemployed as in the agriculture sector. This labour is grossly underutilized. They do not get the required days of employment, and remain idle despite their willingness to work. Underemployment and disguised unemployment affects per capita income. Many agricultural and casual labourers suffer from acute poverty and are unable to provide minimum education and basic health care facilities to their woman and children.
vi. Economic Structure
Another important feature of underdeveloped countries is dualism, where the traditional subsistence sector co-exists with the modern sector. The modern sector is found in the urban areas, and the traditional subsistence sector, in rural areas. There is hardly any technological diffusion from the modern sector to traditional sector. Besides this, other form of dualism found prevailing in these countries are regional dualism and cultural dualism. This dualism is a hurdle in the path of development. Inequality, in underdeveloped countries, is a function of dualism.
vii. Technological Backwardness
Technological backwardness in underdeveloped countries lead to economic backwardness. Many developing countries are still handicapped by very low levels of technological capabilities, owing to inadequate schooling, technical training, and experience. This low level of technological capabilities limits the rate of technological change and economic growth, and keeps developing countries dependent on outside knowledge and expertise.
viii. Unchecked Population Growth
High population growth affects the economic development of underdeveloped countries. The other feature of population growth in developing countries is that it is higher, among the lower income groups and in rural areas, as compared to high income groups and in urban areas. As a result of population growth, a sizable percentage of resources in high population growth underdeveloped countries are spent on consumption rather than on investment and capital formation. Overpopulation affects the income, employment, and capital formation scenario of underdeveloped countries.
ix. Urbanization and Environmental Degradation
Urbanization and urban population growth in underdeveloped countries are largely due to rural to urban migration. Some social scientists term it ‘the transgression of rural poverty to urban areas’. This uneven, migrated population resides mostly in urban slum areas that are deficient in basic amenities. This has an adverse impact on environmental sanitation, as well as the employment situation in urban areas. The money which is required to be spent on capital formation is directed toward urban renewal.
x. Poor Infrastructure
Underdeveloped countries are characterized by poor infrastructure. The quantity, as well as quality of infrastructure, such as roads, electricity, drinking water, etc. is poor as compared to developed countries. Infrastructure is the key to development. Besides, many underdeveloped countries are still to fulfil social infrastructure needs, such as, education and health institutions, because of capital deficiency. These countries are unable to invest in essential infrastructure like irrigation and hydroelectricity projects.
xi. Political Instability and Poor Governance
Many developing countries are marred by political instability. Examples of South Asian countries, like Pakistan and Bangladesh can be cited here. Besides political instability, regional separatism, ethnic and religious extremism, poses serious threats to the development of these developing countries. Lack of political and administrative will towards development is commonly observed in underdeveloped countries. The multiparty system and coalition politics are also gradually developing in these countries. Political stability and integrity, and good governance are prerequisites for rapid development. Corruption in politics and the bureaucracy impedes development in these countries.