Is Brazil a Third World Country? (And Why It Doesn’t Matter)

Is Brazil a Third World Country? As a Brazilian born and bred, through my entire life I’ve learned in Brazilian schools that Brazil is not a first-world country. This classification is not used anymore but isn’t “taboo” or disrespectful talking about this way as some can say.

Brazil is considered a third-world country based on the historical classification, now categorized as a Developing Country, meaning that it has a low to medium standard of living, a developing industrial base, and an HDI varying between medium and high.

Now, if this fact worries you or somehow is preventing you of visiting Brazil, stick around and I’ll tell why Brazil being a “third world country” is not as bad as it sounds.

Brazil is a Third World Country, but It Doesn’t Matter

Brazil is a third-world country or a “developing country” mostly because of the social difference around here. Most of the cities in the country with more than 100 thousand inhabitants have excellent levels of life quality. If you look at the indexes of the southern and the southeast regions of Brazil, you’ll see amazing HDI indicators.

However, when you consider the northern regions, it puts the indicators down. Like in any other country, in poor areas is where most parts of the problems such as violence and health problems go up.

If you’re planning to travel to Brazil but you’re worried because it’s not a “First World Country”, you shouldn’t be. Most parts of the cities and places that tourists are visiting are in areas with high HDI levels, big cities that offer great infrastructure and security (if you use common sense).

Of course, safety and crime are things that can impact your travel decision, but this kind of things happens literally anywhere. I almost was robbed in Miami two times, a great city in the richest country in the planet.

So yes, there are thousands of problems here but nothing different from what happens literally anywhere, from the Filipines to the United States. That’s why this classification should not be bothering you.

Reasons why Brazil is still a Developing Country

As I said before what makes Brazil a “developing country” in the rankings is the social difference of the country. There’s a lot of places with indexes of developed countries, but other with awful levels of life quality.

Those are the three main reasons why Brazil is still a “developing country”:

  • Corruption
  • Education Levels
  • Fragile Economy


You probably have already seen on TV news about corruption in Brazil in the past years. This is a problem that is part of the lives of Brazilians for a long time.

Some time ago, we were given a glimpse of hope by one task force that was putting a lot of big politicians in jail (google for “Operação Lava Jato”). But have you ever seen rich and powerful people being kept in prison for a long time?

Just for you to have an idea of how things work around here, the convicted ex-president of Brazil, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, was released from jail by the supreme court, that just 2 years after his prison basically changed the law in his favor. And there’s more: they’re trying to put the judge that convicted him in jail.


Educational levels in Brazil are terrible. There’s public education to almost everyone, but the quality of it is not the best. This is not an opinion, it is a fact: Brazil is the 52 of 70 in the PISA ranking, the Programme for International Student Assessment.

This is by far the biggest GAP in Brazil that is preventing the country to grow in wealth and quality of life, things that will impact the most important international indexes.

Fragile Economy

Look, Brazil is not a poor country. Not at all! It’s the biggest economy in Latin America and before corona It was for years between the top 10 economies in the world. Also, the country is part of the BRICS, the top 5 emerging countries.

But even being a rich country, the structure of how the government spends this money is rotten. Between corruption and the inability of the politicians, Brazil is drowning in debts and suffering a lot of problems with its currency (look at trading rates) and inflation.

If You’re Planning to Live in Brazil, You Should Know

Now, if you’re motivated to learn more about Brazil because you’re planning to live here, you should know some important facts before:

  • If you can keep an income in a strong currency (USD, EUR, GBR) then you’ll live an amazing life in Brazil.

That’s good and bad at the same time. Good because at the current trading rates 1 USD buys about 6 Brazilian Reais (BRL), the current currency in Brazil. If you’re making about 3000 USD monthly, after trading to BRL you’ll be making more money than 99% of the Brazilians.

The sad part of this story is that a weak currency shows that the economy of the country is not going so well and that there’s a lot of inflation on the prices. Even so, the country is better now than 10 years ago, so It’s a process still on-going.

  • Brazil is hard as hell for entrepreneurs

Opening a business in Brazil is hard. There’s a lot of demand by the public and a river of money to be made. There’s only one problem: the government.

Our laws are very outdated and the bureaucracy is unprecedented. If you take a look at the main economic freedom indexes It may shock you: Brazil is considered “Mostly Unfree”, together with countries like Ghana, Cameroon, and Afghanistan, for example.

Too many rights and laws for the workers, not many incentives for companies. If you signed a contract with an employee agreeing to pay him 2 thousand bucks, it’ll probably cost you double to pay for all the things the laws demand.

Final considerations

Yes, Brazil is still a developing country or a third world country, call It whatever you want, but as a tourist or someone living in a good Brazilian city It’ll not affect you that much as it seems by TV headlines.

There are dangerous places around here, but it’s not like you’ll be killed for sure If you go out to the streets or be infected by diseases right after getting in the airport.

Being 100% honest, where I live, I feel a lot safer than in Miami or LA for example. If in the next years the government approves important laws to change the economy and education I’m pretty confident that Brazil can become a developed country, but that’s just the opinion of a proud optimistic Brazilian guy.


What’s up! I’m André, a Brazilian born and bred living in the South of Brazil in a little city called Guarapuava. I’m passionate about traveling and knowing different cultures and that’s why I love to share useful information about the Food, Travel, Facts, and Culture of my beloved country, Brazil.

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