Thursday June 13, 2024

Financial inclusion increases worldwide

By Erum Zaidi
July 29, 2022

KARACHI: Financial inclusion increased globally last year despite the pandemic, giving women more financial security, privacy, and power, but women continue to be underserved in comparison to men in all financial market categories, from low-income to high-net-worth, global experts said on Thursday.

The gender difference in account ownership has shrunk for the first time since the Global Findex database’s launch in 2011. The gap has decreased from 7 to 4 percentage points globally and from 9 to 6 percentage points in low- and middle-income countries, since the most recent survey round in 2017.

The female market represents a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity, the experts from the World Bank, the Women’s Financial Inclusion Data Partnership (WFID), ConsumerCentrix, and Data 2X told journalists at a roundtable on Women’s Market Opportunity as a Result of Financial Inclusion that was held virtually.

Both the index and the six reports produced by the WFID show that collecting and using gender data creates a path forward to understanding the financial needs of women and create equitable policies, products and services that respond to them. And even more exciting is that the benefits of doing so are quantifiable.

The annual revenue opportunity of reaching unbanked or underserved women in these countries varies from approximately $350 million (in Kenya) to $970 million (in Bangladesh) and over $1 billion in Turkey.

The speakers discussed the progress made in financial inclusion, including the increase in access to digital money, the market opportunity, the benefits of building up financial resilience and how the public sector and financial institutions could achieve gender equality objectives and accelerate women’s economic power.

They also talked about a three-year gender data project in six countries (Bangladesh, Honduras, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkey). These countries were chosen because they are all committed to making progress in women’s financial inclusion and could serve as replication models for other nations.

The speakers hailed Pakistan’s central bank initiative to enhance financial inclusion. The State Bank of Pakistan has introduced a fully digitised solution for opening a bank account through smartphones or computers with only a Computerised National Identity Card and no other documentation requirements.

In terms of mobile banking, Pakistan is currently a very good example because it requires an I.D. in order to create a bank account. In Pakistan, where they have been using these digital IDs to transfer all the COVID-related social protection payments, the spread of digital IDs is currently a very good example, according to speakers.

Mayra Buvinic, a senior fellow with Data2X said women’s businesses, in particular, were hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than men’s businesses.

“Having access to capital is very important. So in the recovery, I think giving equal access to capital to women as well as men’s businesses is incredibly important. And the inflation that is happening around the world is even strengthening the need for financial services,” Buvinic said.

“We know from a significant number of studies that women, especially poor women, invest meager earnings in family well-being. So in a situation of recession and hunger, where poor families are suffering tremendously, giving women economic power will translate immediately into the greater will being poor for children,” she said.

The Global Index database has been the definitive source of data on global access to financial services, from payments to savings and borrowing, according to Leora Klapper, a lead economist in the finance and private sector research team of the development research group at the World Bank.

The 2021 edition, based on nationally representative surveys of over 125,000 adults and 123 economies during the pandemic, contains updated indicators on access and use of formal and informal financial services and digital payments, and offers insights into the behaviors that enable financial resilience, Klapper said.

The expansion of formal financial services created new economic opportunities, narrowing the gender gap in account ownership, and building households’ resilience to better manage financial shocks, according to the Global Findex 2021 database.??

Financial inclusion matters and is the cornerstone of development.?When people have a financial account, it enables them to take advantage of other financial services like saving, making payments, and accessing credit.

In developing countries today, 71 percent of people have an account, up from 42 percent a decade ago.?(Globally, 76 percent of adults around the world have an account today, up from 51 percent a decade ago.) These tremendous gains are also now more evenly distributed and come from a greater number of countries than ever before.?