Classification of economies

There is no established convention for the designation of "developing", "transition" and "developed" countries or areas in the United Nations system. The designation of economies used in this handbook is the classification used by UNCTAD. The differentiation between developing and developed economies follows, in general, the definition of the M49 classification ( United Nations, 2017d ). However, there are exceptions. Notably, the group ‘Transition economies’ that was established to take account of the particular circumstances of that group of economies; shaped by socialism and the transition to a market economy. The geographic locations of developing, transition and developed economies are depicted by the map below.

World by development status

Throughout the handbook, the group of developing economies is further broken down into the following three regions: "Africa", "America", "Asia and Oceania". Furthermore, whenever possible, data are also presented for the following eight groups:

  • developing economies excluding China,
  • developing economies excluding LDCs,
  • LDCs, according to the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and the Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) ( United Nations, 2017e),
  • LLDCs, according to UN-OHRLLS (ibid.),
  • SIDS according to UNCTAD (2017d),
  • HIPC, according to the International Monetary Fund (2017),
  • Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS),
  • Group of Twenty (G20) (Germany, 2017).

The UNCTADstat classification page ( UNCTAD, 2017a) provides the lists of the economies included in the different groups.

Classification of goods

For breakdowns of international merchandise trade by product, UNCTADstat applies the SITC, Revision 3, (United Nations, 2017f ) and various aggregates compiled on the basis of that classification. In this handbook, reference is made to the following five product groups:

  • All food items (SITC divisions: 0, 1, 22, 4),
  • Agricultural raw materials (SITC division 2 without 22, 27 and 28),
  • Ores, metals, precious stones and non-monetary gold (SITC divisions: 27, 28, 68, 667, 971),
  • Fuels (SITC division 3),
  • Manufactured goods (SITC divisions: 5, 6, 7, 8 without 667 and 68).

Classification of services

The breakdowns by service category in section 2.2 are based on the Extended Balance of Payments Services (EBOPS) 2010 classification ( United Nations et al., 2012 ). The EBOPS categories have been grouped as shown in the table below.

Table 1 Grouping of service categories on the basis of EBOPS 2010


EBOPS 2010

Trade in services by category page, figures 1 and 2







Other services

Insurance and pension services

Insurance, pension, financial services

Financial services

Charges for the use of intellectual property n.i.e.

Intellectual property, other business services

Other business services

Telecommunications, computer and information services

Telecommunications, computer and information services

Personal, cultural and recreational services

Other categories

Government goods and services n.i.e.


Services not allocated

Goods-related services

Manufacturing services on physical inputs owned by others

Maintenance and repair services n.i.e.

Classification of economic activities

In section 3.1, gross value added is broken down by the three broad groups of economic activities below, in accordance with the International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities (ISIC), Revision 3 ( United Nations, 2017g):

  • Agriculture, comprising: agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing (ISIC divisions 01–05),
  • Industry, comprising: mining and quarrying, manufacturing, electricity, gas and water supply, construction (ISIC divisions 10–45),
  • Services, comprising all other economic activities (ISIC divisions: 50–99).