The data for the ranking of the 15 countries with the lowest annual salaries was provided by the International Monetary Fund, using the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capital, converted through the purchasing power parity (PPP). This converts the salaries of different countries into US Dollars of actual purchasing power, setting a level playing field, despite exchange rate and inflation differences. As can be expected the majority of the countries in this list hail from the African continent and are emerging and developing countries. In most cases, educational opportunities are limited, as is social mobility. Similarly, economic and political stability are major issues curtailing economic development, which in turn has a negative effect on state provision of basic services, including health care.
#15 Ethiopia ($1259)
Ethiopia is located in the Horn of Africa and is home to 90 million inhabitants, making it the most populated landlocked country in the world. The capital is Addis Ababa. The Ethiopian economy was doing well and flourishing until suffering a major setback recently due to high inflation. The country is not able to rely on agriculture for economic growth due to draught. With 14 major rivers (including the Nile) flowing into Ethiopia’s water table and the largest water reserves in Africa, it is ironic that the country does not have the irrigation systems in place to make use of it.
#14 Guinea ($1162)
Guinea has a population of 10.5 million, with the capital Conakry being the most populated town. Agriculture is responsible for the employment of around 80% of the working population and the economy has strong potential for growth, through the agricultural and fishing sectors. In addition, Guinea boasts vast reserves of natural resources including diamonds and gold, which are usually untapped. Furthermore Guinea is the world’s second largest producer of bauxite. Today youth unemployment is the country’s biggest problem which still needs to be addressed. The aftermaths of the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak also draws a gloomy future.
#13 Togo ($1146)
This small West African country has a population of 6.7 million, and its capital city is Lome. The economy is still based on agriculture due to the favorable climate. Efforts to grow the economy and attract foreign investments have been hampered by political instability. In 1994 Togo’s currency, the Central African franc, was devaluated by 50%, which called for some adjusments in the economy. Still further changes would be necessary in the government’s financial policy. Today, Togo can be considered a regional trade center with cocoa beans being its main export product. Maybe with the soaring cocoa bean prices Togo’s economy will also rise.
#12 Mali ($1137)
It is estimated that half of Mali’s population of 14.5 million lives beneath the poverty line. The capital city is Bamako. Mali’s economy relies mostly on agriculture and fishing, as well as its natural resources, particularly gold and salt. The country has managed to make efficient use of hydroelectricity, which covers half of the energy consumption of the country.
#11 Afghanistan ($1072)
As can be expected, Afghanistan’s poverty is due mainly to war and lack of foreign investment. With a population of 32 million people, agricultural production remains the key economic sector. Recent improvements have been made to the transportation infrastructure, which has improved the quality of life and the economy of the country, particularly the capital city Kabul. In recent years, over 5 million expatriates have returned to Afghanistan, bringing in new blood, ideas and investment, which is helping boost the economy.
#10 Madagascar ($972)
This South East African country is the 4th largest island in the world and has a population of 22 million people. Antananarivo is the capital city. The uprisings of 2009 negatively affected the economy which is still struggling to recover today. Approximately 69 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The economy is centered round agriculture and manufacturing. Tourism (particularly eco-tourism) was earmarked as one of the potential areas through which to grow the economy, however, this was stunted by the instability and political crises of the nation.
#9 Malawi ($893)
This South East African state has a population of 16.7 million. Most of the population (around 85%) remains rural, and the country’s economy is therefore agriculture-based. Over one-third of GDP and 90% of export revenues come from this industry. The country has poor health services with a high infant mortality rate and a low life expectancy rate, also due to the prevalence of the HIV virus and AIDS. Lilongwe is the capital city.
#8 Niger ($853)
The West African country’s capital is Niamey and has a population of 17.1 million people. The unfriendly, arid and infertile landscape contributes to the country’s difficult situation, which does not even benefit from a basic home-grown agricultural industry. Poor health services within the country makes life even more difficult for the local population. Another reason for the lack of progress may be the fact that quality education is not easily accessible for the majority.
#7 Central African Republic ($828)
The capital city of the Central African Republic is Bangui. The country’s population is of 4.2 million. The country’s natural mineral resources cannot be exploited due to general anarchy prevailing in the country, to the extent that it has become a non-state. While diamonds make up the largest and most important export good for the country, it is estimated that around 40% of diamonds leave the country through the black market.
#6 Eritrea ($792)
The Eritrean capital is Asmara. The country has a population of 6 million people, and obtained independence from Ethiopia in 1991. With hard work and good planning, Eritrea has managed to become one of the fastest-growing economies of the decade. The growth is also due to the opening of gold and silver mines as well as a large cement factory. The country has ample natural resources to exploit.
#5 Liberia ($716)
The Liberian capital is Monrovia and is the most populated city, hosting a large portion of the country’s 3.7 million people. The country’s economic development and growth has been stunted by severe political and economic instability, particularly due to internal conflicts plaguing the country. It is estimated that 85% of the population lives below the poverty line and that the employment rate is of only 15%.
#4 Burundi ($649)
This East African country has a population of 8.7 million. Internal war and institutional corruption have curtailed any economic growth and warded off international investment. The country’s poverty has been exacerbated by the widespread HIV/AIDS virus and poor health services. While the country is resource-poor, the economy remains reliant on the agricultural industry, which employs over 90% of the population.
#3 Zimbabwe ($590)
With a population of 13 million, Zimbabwe’s economy relies on mining exports, agriculture, and tourism. Although the Zimbabwean land is rich in gold, platinum and has the world’s largest diamond field, corruption just can’t let the country thrive. Another reason why it’s not easy to earn well in Zimbabwe is that taxes and tariffs are set very high for those who want to start their own business. While tourism is a declining sector due to poaching and deforestation, agriculture may be a relief for the country’s future.
#2 Congo – Kinshasa ($395)
The Central African country of Congo has a population of 75 million. The economy has suffered from the Battleground of Second Congo War in 1998, which resulted in a large amount of displaced people, who fled to avoid the atrocities of war. Its natural resources are considered to be the richest of the world with unmined raw minerals which are estimated to be worth over US$24 trillion.
#1 North Korea
North Korea has a population of 25 million, which live in one of the most closed and centralized world economies. The collapse of the Soviet Union – a major North Korean trading partner – together with several natural disasters have negatively affected the country’s economy. The government then put an economic restructuring plan into action so as to address the situation. However, since little official economic data is forthcoming, and due to the strong black market in the country, average salaries are kept very low. This is also reinforced by the fact that North Korea has a poor reputation for human rights, therefore prompting low pays and limited employee rights.