Are the Philippines a Third World Country?

Are the Philippines a Third World Country

Historically, the term ‘third world was used to describe countries that were not aligned to either the Communist Bloc or NATO. However, it is now used to describe economically inferior countries. Third world countries are considered economically inferior to the First and Second World countries. If you plan on visiting the Philippines, you may have questions about how it is classified.

Are the Philippines a Third World country? Yes, they are. The country fits the definition by both historical and modern definitions. It is a developing country with a high infant mortality rate, limited access to health care, and a low GDP per capita.

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Even though the Philippines is a third world country, it has a lot to offer. It is a top player in the outsourcing industry and an attraction for many tourists.

The literacy rate is high and it is rich in both human and natural resources. Whether you plan on visiting the country or you are a curious citizen, you may have questions about why it is a Third World country. Keep reading to learn more.

Few countries in Asia are as underdeveloped as the Philippines. In 2009, over 26% of the population lived under the poverty line.

Many citizens lack access to basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. At the beginning of 2019, the country’s economic growth was slowed down as a result of decelerating investment growth and lack of public spending.

The main causes of poverty in the region include; an unmanaged population growth increased inflation during crisis periods, low economic growth in the past decades, a poorly developed agricultural sector, and persistent inequality in income.

Other problems in the country include:


Corruption is one of the biggest problems in the Philippines. There are many cases of corruption in both local and national governments. Extortion and bribery are common in many parts of the Philippines. The Marcos’ regime in the Philippines was named ‘the biggest corruption of all time.’ while he was president, the country suffered while he continued to steal from government funds. The president stole billions of dollars.


The education system in the Philippines faces a few challenges. Even though public education is free, its quality is inferior to private education. Even though the government has increased education funding, the quality is still low.

According to a 2004 survey by NSO, 12.6 million youth were out of school. The most common causes of failure to get education include high levels of poverty and child labour. Many children engaged in child labour work under unsafe conditions.

Unemployment Rates

Many Filipinos are unemployed. In 2019, about 4.5% of the population was unemployed. More than two million citizens are unemployed. However, the rate of unemployment continues to drop over the years.

Crime Rate

Even though the crime rate in the Philippines is fairly low, there are many cases of crime in certain areas. The country ranks 137 out of 163 countries based on the Global Peace Index rating. Generally, certain areas as safer than others. However, you should always be vigilant in the country. Some of the most common crimes include; robbery, kidnappings, theft, and assault.

Access to Health Care

Even though the Philippines has made significant steps in availing quality healthcare to its citizens, there is still a lot to be done. Many Filipinos have poor access to health care.

About eight out of 10 citizens have never had a physical examination or medical check-up. There is limited access to health insurance and health facilities.

What Are the Most Dangerous Cities in the Philippines?

Even though the Philippines are safe, there are a few cities that you may want to avoid.

Even though most people are polite and friendly, certain areas may be dangerous for travellers. Some of them include;

  1. Basilan Province

This is one of the most dangerous parts of the Philippines. Tourists rarely visit it without security personnel. Abu Sayyaf used the island for their ‘lairs.’ Many followers still hang out there.

  1. Marawi

Avoid Marawi where possible. The lakeside city is dangerous and there are many reports of murder, physical assault, and murder. Over 60 troops died in the city and hundreds of inhabitants fled. It is a dangerous city, especially for tourists.

  1. Jolo Province

This island is known to have many members of the Abu Sayyaf group. The rebel group is known for robberies, kidnapping tourists, and petty theft. The group has its base in Jolo. Easy access to the sea makes it easy for them to get away after committing crimes. It is one of the most dangerous parts of the Philippines.

Travellers face a high risk of kidnapping in many parts of the Philippines. The country has terror groups that like to kidnap tourists for ransom. Most of the kidnappings happen in;

  • Lanao del Norte Province
  • Sarangani Province
  • General Santos City
  • North Cotabato Province
  • South Cotabato Province
  • Pangutaran Island
  • Zamboanga City

Even though there are many unsafe places in the Philippines, there are lots of safe places as well. If you stick to popular tourist destinations, you will be safe. Stay away from secluded areas and get travel insurance.

What Are the Main Attractions in the Philippines?

The Philippines is a beautiful country at the eastern end of Asia. The beautiful country has over 7,000 islands and numerous indigenous tribes. It has friendly people, beautiful beaches, an interesting cuisine, and plenty of historic sites. Some of the main attractions include;

  1. Tubbataha Reef

The Tubbataha Reef is one of the main attractions in the country. It is a marine sanctuary under the protection of the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park. It has beautiful coral walls and it offers great views. The reef has two main atolls; the North Atoll and the South Atoll. They are separated by a deep, wide, channel.

  1. Mayon Volcano

The Mayon Volcano is one of the country’s main attractions. It is the most active volcano in the country.

It is a great choice for tourists that enjoy bird watching, climbing, and hiking. Its beautiful symmetrical cone shape makes it great for photographers.

  1. San Agustin Church, Manila

The church in Manila was built in 1589. It has survived two fires and seven earthquakes and is the oldest church in the country. Its interior is designed to look like a Latin cross and the main entrance has some beautiful carvings. The church attracts visitors from all over the world.

  1. Boracay

Boracay is at the centre of the country’s beach tourism. It is a paradise for travellers that enjoy long and beautiful white-sand beaches. The view remains picturesque from dusk to dawn. Visitors can enjoy views of tall coconut palms, white beaches, and the gentle sea. There are lots of restaurants and resorts nearby.

  1. Bohol

Bohol is known for its magnificent Chocolate Hills. The unique formations are shaped like chocolate mounds and they are very beautiful during the dry season. There are 1,200 beautiful hills and Bohol has thick jungles with beautiful rivers.

What Is Unique About the Philippines?

One of the most incredible things about the Philippines is that it is made up of islands. The country has about 7500 islands and is the world’s second-largest archipelago. Almost 5,000 of the islands are unnamed. Other interesting things about the Philippines include;

  1. In the country, there are about 175 languages. Four of them have no living speakers. The official languages in the Philippines are English and Filipino. In some parts of the country, people speak Ilocano and Cebuano.
  2. The first LGBTQ political party was from the Philippines. Ang Ladlad was created by Danton Remoto. However, the company’s campaigning efforts are limited because they have limited finances
  3. Filipinos love boxing. It is one of the country’s favourite sports. Manny Pacquiao fights are treated like national events. According to the country’s police, crime rates drop significantly in Metro Manila when he has a match.
  4. According to Time Magazine, Filipinos are the highest selfie-takers in the world. They are enthusiastic about social media and many of them have a large social media following. Most of the population is tech-savvy and people of all ages use social media.
  5. About 11% of the Philippine population works overseas. The country is the world’s leading supplier of nurses. About 25% of overseas nurses are from the Philippines
  6. The Philippines is the world’s biggest exporter of coconuts. The country ships off approximately 19.5 million tons of coconuts every year.
  7. Jeepneys are the most common form of transportation in the Philippines. They are colourful and mostly crowded. The word jeepney is derived from the words jeep and knee. It describes the way that passengers sit close together.
  8. Manila has the highest population density of all cities in the world. Even though it is a fairly small city, the population is about 1,660,714.

There are many reasons why the Philippines is considered a Third world country. The country faces issues such as congestion, high poverty rates, high levels of crime, and corruption.

About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.