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, 2018c). 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 now in 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, 2018d),
    • LLDCs, according to UN-OHRLLS (ibid.),
    • Small island developing States (SIDS) according to UNCTAD (2018d),
    • HIPCs, according to the International Monetary Fund (2018),
    • Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS),
    • Group of Twenty (G20) (Argentina, 2018).

    The UNCTADstat classification page (UNCTAD, 2018a) 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, 1991) and various aggregates compiled on the basis of that classification. In this handbook, in merchandise trade by product page, reference is made to the following five product groups:

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

    For the measurement of movements in commodity prices, the FMCPI is disaggregated by commodity groups constructed from HS 2007 (World Customs Organization, 2006). For the correspondence between these commodity groups and HS headings and for the individual price quotations represented therein, see UNCTAD (2018e).

    Classification of services

    The breakdowns by service category 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 1Grouping of service categories


    EBOPS 2010

    Trade in services by category page







    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 Gross domestic product page, 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, 1989):

    • 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).