The 25 Most Miserable Places in the World

Business Insider

The misery index, a crude economic measure created by Arthur Orkum, sums a country's unemployment and inflation rates to assess conditions on the ground (the higher the number, the more miserable a country is). The reasoning: most citizens understand the pain of a high jobless rate and the soaring price of goods.

Business Insider totaled the figures for 197 countries and territories — from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe — to compile the 2013 Misery Index.

Note: Results are based on CIA World Factbook data, which estimates figures for countries and territories that do not have reliable local reporting agencies. The CIA World Factbook was last updated on February 11, 2013.



25. Mali

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Flickr/ravpix

Misery index score: 36.5
CPI inflation: 6.5%
Unemployment: 30%

One of the poorest countries in the world, Mali depends on gold mining and agricultural exports for revenue, which is why the country's fiscal status depends on gold and food prices. About 10% of the population is nomadic and about 80 percent of the working labor force is engaged in farming and fishing.
 

24. Mauritania


Misery index score: 37
CPI inflation: 7%
Unemployment: 30%

Half the population is still dependent on agriculture and livestock to earn a living, and poverty is rampant. The local economy depends heavily on commodities exports, mostly of iron ore. These exports are pretty much the only reason why Mauritianian economy grew 5 percent last year.
 

23. Iran


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Flickr/[CDS] SoHo

Misery index score: 39.1
CPI inflation: 23.6%
Unemployment: 15.5%

Price controls, subsidies, and other rigidities under mine private sector growth, and are proving to be a real drag on the economy, as is a rapidly depreciating currency. Which is why corruption is rampant, and illegal business activities abound. The economy is also heavily dependent on oil, and has suffered from international sanctions. Unemployment persists at double digit levels.
 

22. Maldives


Misery index score: 40.8
CPI inflation: 12.8%
Unemployment: 28%

It's a lovely place to vacation at, and a good thing too—tourism accounts for 30% of Maldives' GDP and more than 60 percent of foreign exchange receipts. But falling tourist arrivals and heavy government spending have taken a toll on the local economy, cause high inflation and an unemployment rate that's nearly double since 2010.
 

21. Gaza Strip


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REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Misery index score: 43.5
CPI inflation: 3.5%
Unemployment: 40%

Ever since Hamas seized control of the territory in June 2007, Israeli-imposed border closures have led to a deterioration of an already weak economy—more unemployment, elevated poverty rates and a sharp contraction of the private sector which relied primarily on exports.
 

20. Bosnia and Herzegovina


Misery index score: 45.5
CPI inflation: 2.2%
Unemployment: 43.3%

Inter-ethnic warfare between 1992 and 1995 caused unemployment to soar and production to plummet by 80 percent, and the country hasn't quite recovered ever since. The local currency is pegged to the euro, which keeps inflation in check. In 2011, a parliamentary deadlock left Bosnia without a state-level government for over a year, which caused the IMF to stop disbursing aid.
 

19. Yemen


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AP Photo/Hani Mohammed

Misery index score: 46.4
CPI inflation: 11.4%
Unemployment: 35%

Heavily dependent of declining oil resources, 25 percent of the country's GDP comes from petroleum. Yemeni GDP fell by more than 10 percent in 2011, but this decline slowed to 1.9 percent in 2012. The government is trying to diversify the economy, but has to deal with declining water resources, high unemployment, and a high population growth rate.
 

18. Haiti


Misery index score: 46.5
CPI inflation: 5.9%
Unemployment: 40.6%

Even before the earthquake in 2010, 80 percent of the Haitian population lived under the poverty line, and 54 percent in abject poverty, and large section of the population has poor access to education. The country is still recovering from the affects of the earthquake, and has to deal with rampant corruption.
 

17. Swaziland


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Wikimedia Commons

Misery index score: 48.4
CPI inflation: 8.4%
Unemployment: 40%

Swaziland is heavily dependent on South Africa—that were 60 percent of its exports go, and 90 percent of its imports come from. The global economic crisis hit Swaziland exports hard, and declining revenue has pushed the country into fiscal crisis. The local currency is pegged to the South African rand, so inflation isn't too bad, but the country suffers from high unemployment.
 

16. Afghanistan


Misery index score: 48.8
CPI inflation: 13.8%
Unemployment: 35%

Afghanistan is still recovering from decade of conflict and still has to deal with high levels of corruption, weak government capacity, and poor public infrastructure. Foreign aid, agriculture and a growing service sector industry are helping the country recover, but it still suffers from high inflation and unemployment.
 

15. Marshall Islands


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Misery index score: 48.9
CPI inflation: 12.9%
Unemployment: 36%

The best thing the local economy has going for is assistance from the U.S. government. Tourism is its best hope for economic growth, but currently employs only 10 percent of the labor force. Government downsizing, drought, a drop in construction, the decline in tourism, and less income from the renewal of fishing vessel licenses have been a drag on the economy.
 

14. Senegal


Misery index score: 49.5
CPI inflation: 1.5%
Unemployment: 48%

Despite receiving a lot of foreign aid, Senegal suffers from unreliable power supply, which has led to public protests and is partly the cause of high unemployment.
 

13. Kenya


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All rights are to Nuru International

Misery index score: 50.1
CPI inflation: 10.1%
Unemployment: 40%

Corruption and reliance on a few specific primary goods whose prices have remained low have been holding Kenya's economy back. Unemployment has historically been very high, and remains so. However, oil was discovered in Kenya in March 2012, which might help revive its sagging economy.
 

12. Lesotho


Misery index score: 51.1
CPI inflation: 6.1%
Unemployment: 45%

Lesotho has the third highest GINI coefficient in the world, which means that income inequality is particularly high here. Growth is expected to increase due to major infrastructure projects, but weak manufacturing and agriculture sectors are a drag on the economy. Rampant unemployment is also a big problem.
 

11. Sudan


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Misery index score: 51.5
CPI inflation: 31.5%
Unemployment: 20%

The secession of South Sudan in July 2011, the region of the country that had been responsible for about three-fourths of the former-Sudan's oil production, was a huge blow to Sudan's economy. The country is currently trying to find new ways to generate revenue, not very successfully. Sudan introduced a new currency, called the Sudanese pound, but the value of the currency has been falling since its introduction. Rising inflation, which hit 47 percent in November on an annualized basis, is a huge problem.
 

10. Syria

Misery index score: 51.7
CPI inflation: 33.7%
Unemployment: 18%

Syria's economy is still getting slammed by the conflict that began in 2011. In 2012, Syrian GDP contracted because of international sanctions and reduced domestic consumption and production. In addition to a rising unemployment rate—it rose by more than three percentage points in 2012, the country is also experiencing high inflation as the Syrian pound continues to fall.
 

9. Kosovo

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REUTERS/Bojan Slavkovic

Misery index score: 53.6
CPI inflation: 8.3%
Unemployment: 45.3%

The poorest country in Europe, the average annual per capita income is $7,400. Remittances from other European countries, primarily Switzerland, Germany and the Nordic countries account for 18 percent of GDP. Though Kosovo's economy has show significant process in transitioning to a market-based system in the past few year, rampant unemployment remains a problem.
 

8. Nepal


Misery index score: 54.3
CPI inflation: 8.3%
Unemployment: 46%

One of the least developed countries in the world, about a quarter of Nepal's population lives below the poverty line. Agriculture drives the Nepalese economy, accounting for more than a third of its GDP. Civil strife, labor unrest, its landlocked geographic location and susceptibility to natural disaster exacerbate its already weak economy.
 

7. Namibia


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Misery index score: 57
CPI inflation: 5.8%
Unemployment: 51.2%

Heavily dependent of the its mineral resources, Namibia exports a lot of diamonds, uranium, and gold. However, the mining sector employs only 3 percent of the country's labor force. Since there isn't much else going on, almost half of Namibia's workers are without jobs. Income inequality is absurd here—even though the country boasts a high GDP per capita, Namibia has the highest GINI coefficients: 70.7%.
 

6. Djibouti


Misery index score: 63.3
CPI inflation: 4.3%
Unemployment: 59%

Thanks to scanty natural resources and little industry, unemployment in Djibouti is ridiculously high. The only reason inflation is low is because the Djiboutian franc is tied to the dollar. As a result, the Djiboutian franc is artificially high, which make it even more difficult for the country to pay its debts.
 

5. Turkmenistan


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Flickr/David Stanley

Misery index score: 70.5
CPI inflation: 10.5%
Unemployment: 60%

Agriculture accounts for only 8 percent of Turkmenistan's revenue, but employs half the country's workforce. The country suffers from rampant corruption and mismanagement from its authoritarian government. And it isn't going to get any better. According to the CIA Factbook, "Overall prospects in the near future are discouraging because of endemic corruption, a poor educational system, government misuse of oil and gas revenues, and Ashgabat's reluctance to adopt market-oriented reforms."
 

4. Belarus


Misery index score: 71
CPI inflation: 70%
Unemployment: 1%

In 2011, a financial crisis began in Belarus, triggered by government directed salary hikes unsupported by productivity trends. Despite receiving billions of dollars from the Russian-dominated Eurasian Economic Community Bail-out Fund, the Russian state-owned bank Sberbank, and selling the Beltranzgas to Russian state-owned Gazprom for $2.5 billion, to try and help stabilize the economy, the Belarusian ruble lost 60 percent of its value in 2012 and is still falling.

But at least almost every Belarusian looking for a job has one—with around 50 percent of the labor force employed by the government, the country boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world.
 

3. Burkina Faso


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REUTERS/Joe Penney

Misery index score: 81.5
CPI inflation: 4.5%
Unemployment: 77%

Burkina Faso has a large population and very limited natural resources. The country's economy depend on agriculture, cotton and gold. The country is still reeling from the after effects of a severe drought in 2011 which decimated grazing land and harvests, and the country suffers from rampant unemployment.

Even so, things are better than they used to be. According to CIA Factbook, "The risk of a mass exodus of the 3 to 4 million Burinabe who live and work in Cote D'Ivoire has dissipated and trade, power, and transport links are being restored."
 

2. Liberia


Misery index score: 90.5
CPI inflation: 5.5%
Unemployment: 85%

A low income country heavily reliant on foreign aid, Liberia's economy was destroyed by civil war and government mismanagement. In 2010, Liberia was so poor that countries that $5 billion of international debt was permanently eliminated. Thought the local economy has been growing at a fast pace in the past two year, it has been mostly because of rich natural resources and high commodity prices. Which is why 85 percent of the country's labor force cannot find steady employment.
 

1. Zimbabwe


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Misery index score: 103.3
CPI inflation: 8.3%
Unemployment: 95%

Several human rights organizations have called out the government of Zimbabwe of violating basic rights like freedom of assembly and the protection of the law. Violence and intimidation are common in political tactics, and political leaders have mostly failed to agree any any key outstanding governmental issues in the past few years. Zimbabwe's economic growth is slowing, in part because of poor harvests and low diamond revenues. According to the CIA Factbook, "the government of Zimbabwe still faces a number of difficult economic problems, including infrastructure and regulatory deficiencies, ongoing indigenization pressure, policy uncertainty, a large external debt burden, and insufficient formal employment."

The local unemployment rate is estimated to be 95 percent, though the CIA Factbook caveats that the true unemployment is "unknowable" under current economic conditions. Though the inflation rate has stabilized of late, Zimbabwe faced massive hyperinflation between 2003 and 2009.
 

Source: CIA Factbook

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