See regional map I


Total area: 510,072,000 km²; 361,132,000 km² (70.8%) is water and 148,940,000 km² (29.2%) is land

Comparative area: land area about 16 times the size of the US

Land boundaries: 442,000 km

Coastline: 359,000 km

Maritime claims:

Contiguous zone: generally 24 nm, but varies from 4 nm to 24 nm
Continental shelf: generally 200 nm, but some are 200 meters in depth
Exclusive fishing zone: most are 200 nm, but varies from 12 nm to 200 nm
Extended economic zone: 200 nm, only Madagascar claims 150 nm
Territorial sea: generally 12 nm, but varies from 3 nm to 200 nm

Disputes: 13 international land boundary disputes—Argentina-Uruguay, Bangladesh-India, Brazil-Paraguay, Brazil-Uruguay, Cambodia-Vietnam, China-India, China-USSR, Ecuador-Peru, El Salvador-Honduras, French Guiana-Suriname, Guyana-Suriname, Guyana-Venezuela, Qatar-UAE

Climate: two large areas of polar climates separated by two rather narrow temperate zones from a wide equatorial band of tropical to subtropical climates

Terrain: highest elevation is Mt. Everest at 8,848 meters and lowest elevation is the Dead Sea at 392 meters below sea level; greatest ocean depth is the Marianas Trench at 10,924 meters

Natural resources: the oceans represent the last major frontier for the discovery and development of natural resources

Land use: 10% arable land; 1% permanent crops; 24% meadows and pastures; 31% forest and woodland; 34% other; includes 1.6% irrigated

Environment: large areas subject to severe weather (tropical cyclones), natural disasters (earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions), industrial disasters, pollution (air, water, acid rain, toxic substances), loss of vegetation (overgrazing, deforestation, desertification), loss of wildlife resources, soil degradation, soil depletion, erosion


Population: 5,316,644,000 (July 1990), growth rate 1.7% (1990)

Birth rate: 27 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 9 deaths/1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 70 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 60 years male, 64 years female (1990)

Total fertility rate: 3.4 children born/woman (1990)

Literacy: 77% men; 66% women (1980)

Labor force: 1,939,000,000 (1984)

Organized labor: NA


Administrative divisions: 248 nations, dependent areas, and other entities

Legal system: varies among each of the entities; 162 are parties to the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) or World Court

Diplomatic representation: there are 159 members of the UN


Overview: In 1989 the World economy grew at an estimated 3.0%, somewhat lower than the estimated 3.4% for 1988. The technologically advanced areas—North America, Japan, and Western Europe together account for 65% of the gross world product (GWP) of $20.3 trillion; these developed areas grew in the aggregate at 3.5%. In contrast, the Communist (Second World) countries typically grew at between 0% and 2%, accounting for 23% of GWP. Experience in the developing countries continued mixed, with the newly industrializing countries generally maintaining their rapid growth, and many others struggling with debt, inflation, and inadequate investment. The year 1989 ended with remarkable political upheavals in the Communist countries, which presumably will dislocate economic production still further. The addition of nearly 100 million people a year to an already overcrowded globe will exacerbate the problems of pollution, desertification, underemployment, and poverty throughout the 1990s.

GWP (gross world product): $20.3 trillion, per capita $3,870; real growth rate 3.0% (1989 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 5%, developed countries; 100%, developing countries with wide variations (1989 est.)

Unemployment rate: NA%

Exports: $2,694 billion (f.o.b., 1988); commodities—NA; partners—in value, about 70% of exports from industrial countries

Imports: $2,750 billion (c.i.f., 1988); commodities—NA; partners—in value, about 75% of imports by the industrial countries

External debt: $1,008 billion for less developed countries (1988 est.)

Industrial production: growth rate 5% (1989 est.)

Electricity: 2,838,680,000 kW capacity; 11,222,029 million kWh produced, 2,140 kWh per capita (1989)

Industries: chemicals, energy, machinery, electronics, metals, mining, textiles, food processing

Agriculture: cereals (wheat, maize, rice), sugar, livestock products, tropical crops, fruit, vegetables, fish

Aid: NA


Ports: Mina al Ahmadi (Kuwait), Chiba, Houston, Kawasaki, Kobe, Marseille, New Orleans, New York, Rotterdam, Yokohama

Defense Forces

Branches: ground, maritime, and air forces at all levels of technology

Military manpower: 29.15 million persons in the defense forces of the World (1987)

Defense expenditures: 5.4% of GWP, or $1.1 trillion (1989 est.)