What is the North-South Gap

The North-South divide is a socio-economic and political categorization of countries. The generalization of the Cold War era places countries in two distinct groups; The North and the South. The North is composed of all the countries of the First World and most of the countries of the Second World, while the South is composed of Third World countries. This categorization ignores the geographical location of countries with some southern hemisphere countries such as Australia and New Zealand labeled as part of the North.


The origin of the dividing countries in the North-South Gap arose during the Cold War of the 20th century. During this period, countries were mainly classified according to their alignment between East Russia and the American West. Eastern countries like the Soviet Union and China that were classified as Second World countries. In the west, the United States and its allies were labeled as First World countries. This division has left out many countries that were poorer than the First World and Second World countries. Poor countries were finally labeled as third world countries. This categorization was later abandoned after the Second World countries joined the First World countries.

The North (First World Countries)

The North of the Divide is composed of countries that have developed economies and represent over 90% of all manufacturing industries in the world. Although these countries represent only a quarter of the total global population, they control 80% of the total income earned worldwide. All G8 members come from the North and four permanent members of the UN Security Council. About 95% of the population in Northern countries has sufficient basic needs and access to functioning educational systems. Countries that include the North include the United States, Canada, all Western European countries, Australia, New Zealand, as well as developed countries in Asia such as Japan and South Korea.

The South (Third World Countries)

The South is composed of countries with developing economies that were initially called Third World countries during the Cold War. An important feature of the southern countries is the relatively low GDP and the high population. The Third World represents only one fifth of the income earned globally, but represents over three quarters of the world population. Another common feature of southern countries is the lack of basic services. Only 5% of the population is able to access basic needs such as food and housing. The economies of most Southern countries depend on imports from the North and have low technological penetration. The countries that make up the South come mainly from Africa, South America and Asia, while all the countries of the


The North-South divide is criticized for being a way to separate people along economic lines and is seen as a factor in the growing gap between developed and developing economies. However, several measures have been put in place to contract the North-South divide, including the lobbies for international free trade and globalization. The United Nations has been at the forefront of reducing the North-South divide through policies highlighted in its Millennium Development Goals.

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