While there is much debate about the terminology and what constitutes a “developing” country, it is generally agreed that the economies of countries are categorized by statistical indices, such as per capita income, literacy, life expectancy, and so forth. The International Monetary Fund’s April 2009 World Economic Outlook report classifies about 150 out of the world’s almost 200 countries as “emerging and developing economies.”
The United Nations Statistics Division notes that “the designations ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ are intended for statistical convenience and do not necessarily express a judgment about the stage reached by a particular country or area in the development process.”
Often, “undeveloped” countries are more developed in the things that make higher-quality lives—more time for connecting with family, community, and friends, and a stronger connection with nature. While we in “developed” countries have an image of our life as better, we actually spend much of our working lives dreaming of the leisure, connection, and lack of focus on superficial things that many people in the developing world already have.
There’s a popular tale that involves a North American businessman giving advice to a Mexican fisherman. The businessman notes that the fisherman goes out in his boat for only half the day, catches the fish he needs, and spends the rest of his day with his family. He suggests that the Mexican invest in more boats, hire other fishermen, catch a lot of fish, and become “successful,” so that in 20 years, he will have the leisure time to go out in his boat for just the morning and spend the rest of the day with his family.