The 25 Most Miserable Places In The World

yemenProtesters climb a fence surrounding the U.S. embassy in Sanaa September 13, 2012.

Photo: Mohamed Al-Sayaghi/Reuters

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

Misery index score: 36.5

CPI inflation: 6.5%

Unemployment: 30%

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

Source: CIA Factbook

24. Mauritania

Misery index score: 37

CPI inflation: 7%

Unemployment: 30%

Half of 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 nearly the sole reason the Mauritanian economy grew five per cent last year.

Source: CIA Factbook

23. Iran

Misery index score: 39.1

CPI inflation: 23.6%

Unemployment: 15.5%

Price controls, subsidies, and other rigidities undermine private sector growth and are proving to be a real drag on the economy, as is a rapidly-depreciating currency. This leads to rampant corruption 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.

Source: CIA Factbook

22. Maldives

Misery index score: 40.8

CPI inflation: 12.8%

Unemployment: 28%

It's a lovely place to vacation, and a good thing, too -- tourism accounts for 30 per cent of Maldives' GDP and more than 60 per cent of foreign exchange receipts. However, recent drops in tourism and heavy government spending have taken a toll on the local economy, causing high inflation and an unemployment rate that's nearly doubled since 2010.

Source: CIA Factbook

21. Gaza Strip

Misery index score: 43.5

CPI inflation: 3.5%

Unemployment: 40%

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

Source: CIA Factbook

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 per cent, and the country hasn't quite recovered 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.

Source: CIA Factbook

19. Yemen

Misery index score: 46.4

CPI inflation: 11.4%

Unemployment: 35%

Heavily dependent on declining oil resources, 25 per cent of Yemen's GDP comes from petroleum. The country's GDP fell by more than 10 per cent in 2011, but this decline slowed to 1.9 per cent 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.

Source: CIA Factbook

18. Haiti

Misery index score: 46.5

CPI inflation: 5.9%

Unemployment: 40.6%

Even before the earthquake in 2010, 80 per cent of the Haitian population lived below the poverty line and 54 per cent in abject poverty. A large section of the population has poor access to education. The country is still recovering from the effects of the earthquake and also has to deal with rampant corruption.

Source: CIA Factbook

17. Swaziland

Misery index score: 48.4

CPI inflation: 8.4%

Unemployment: 40%

Swaziland is heavily dependent on South Africa -- that's where 60 per cent of its exports go and 90 per cent 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.

Source: CIA Factbook

16. Afghanistan

Misery index score: 48.8

CPI inflation: 13.8%

Unemployment: 35%

Afghanistan is still recovering from decades of conflict and 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.

Source: CIA Factbook

15. Marshall Islands

Misery index score: 48.9

CPI inflation: 12.9%

Unemployment: 36%

The best thing the local economy has going for it is assistance from the U.S. government. Tourism is its best hope for economic growth, but currently it employs only 10 per cent of the labour 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.

Source: CIA Factbook

14. Senegal

Misery index score: 49.5

CPI inflation: 1.5%

Unemployment: 48%

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

Source: CIA Factbook

13. Kenya

Misery index score: 50.1

CPI inflation: 10.1%

Unemployment: 40%

Kenya's economy is held back by corruption and its reliance on a few specific primary goods on which prices have remained low. 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.

Source: CIA Factbook

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.

Source: CIA Factbook

11. Sudan

Misery index score: 51.5

CPI inflation: 31.5%

Unemployment: 20%

The secession of South Sudan -- the region of the country that was responsible for about three-fourths of the former-Sudan's oil production -- in July 2011, was a huge blow to Sudan's economy. The country is currently trying to find new ways to generate revenue, though 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 per cent in November on an annualized basis, is a huge problem.

Source: CIA Factbook

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.

Source: CIA Factbook

9. Kosovo

Misery index score: 53.6

CPI inflation: 8.3%

Unemployment: 45.3%

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

Source: CIA Factbook

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. Its landlocked geographic location, susceptibility to natural disaster, civil strife, and labour unrest exacerbate its already weak economy.

Source: CIA Factbook

7. Namibia

Misery index score: 57

CPI inflation: 5.8%

Unemployment: 51.2%

Though heavily dependent on its mineral resources -- Namibia exports diamonds, uranium, and gold -- the mining sector employs only 3 per cent of the country's labour 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 holds the world record for the highest GINI coefficient at 70.7 per cent.

Source: CIA Factbook

6. Djibouti

Misery index score: 63.3

CPI inflation: 4.3%

Unemployment: 59%

Thanks to scant 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 makes it even more difficult for the country to pay its debts.

Source: CIA Factbook

5. Turkmenistan

Misery index score: 70.5

CPI inflation: 10.5%

Unemployment: 60%

Agriculture employs half the country's workforce but accounts for only eight per cent of Turkmenistan's revenue. The country suffers from rampant corruption and mismanagement by 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.'

Source: CIA Factbook

4. Belarus

Misery index score: 71

CPI inflation: 70%

Unemployment: 1%

Belarus spiraled into a financial crisis in 2011 as the government enforced salary hikes while energy costs surged. Despite receiving bailout funds and selling assets, the Belarusian ruble lost 60 per cent of its value in 2012.

However, thanks to a government that employs nearly half of its labour force, Belarus has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world.

Source: CIA Factbook

3. Burkina Faso

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 depends on agriculture, primarily cotton and gold. The country is still reeling from the after-effects of a severe drought in 2011 which decimated grazing lands and harvests. The country suffers from rampant unemployment.

Even so, things are better than they used to be. According to the 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.'

Source: CIA Factbook

2. Liberia

Misery index score: 90.5

CPI inflation: 5.5%

Unemployment: 85%

Liberia's economy is in shambles due to civil war and government mismanagement. In 2010, $5 billion worth of international debt was permanently eliminated. The country's rich natural resources have helped the economy grow. But due to its heavy exposure to commodities, which can be volatile, much of its labour force have been unable to find steady work.

Source: CIA Factbook

1. Zimbabwe

Misery index score: 103.3

CPI inflation: 8.3%

Unemployment: 95%

Zimbabwe has struggled with violence, corruption, and political intimidation among other things. Meanwhile, the economy has suffered due to poor agricultural harvests and low diamond revenues. To make matters worse, the country's infrastructure is lacking and its regulatory structure is insufficient.

Zimbabwe experienced hyperinflation through 2009 as its government printed money to fund its deficit. At 8.3 per cent, the current rate of inflation is considered tame.

Source: CIA Factbook

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