The 25 Most Miserable Places in the World

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

Flickr/ravpixMisery 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

Flickr/[CDS] SoHoMisery 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

REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu MustafaMisery 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

AP Photo/Hani MohammedMisery 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

Wikimedia CommonsMisery 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

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

All rights are to Nuru InternationalMisery 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

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.


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