Financial inclusion is on the rise globally, accelerated by mobile phones and the internet, but gains have been uneven across countries, a new World Bank report finds.
69 percent of adults worldwide (3.8 billion people) have an account at a bank or mobile money provider. This is up from 62 percent in 2014 and just 51 percent in 2011. Between 2014 and 2017, 515 million adults obtained an account, according to the Global
While in some economies account ownership has surged, progress has been slower elsewhere, often held back by large disparities between men and women and between the rich and poor. The gap between men and women in developing economies remains unchanged at nine percent since 2011.
Financial inclusion allows people to save for family needs, borrow to support a business, or build a cushion against an emergency. Having access to financial services is a critical step towards reducing both poverty and inequality,” said Jim Yong Kim, president, World Bank Group. “New data on mobile phone ownership and internet access show unprecedented opportunities to use technology to achieve universal financial inclusion.”
Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where the share of adults with a mobile money account exceeds ten percent. This was also true in 2014. At that time East Africa was the region’s mobile money hub. But mobile money accounts have since spread to new parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
For example, adults with mobile money accounts has now surpassed 30 percent in Ivory Coast and 40 percent in Gabon. Mobile money accounts have also taken off outside Africa, with around 20 percent or more of adults in Bangladesh, Iran, Mongolia and Paraguay having accounts.
WHO REMAINS UNBANKED AND WHY?
Around 1.7 billion adults worldwide remain unbanked. In high-income economies, six percent of adults do not have a financial account. In developing economies 46 percent do not. Indeed, nearly half of those without an account live in just seven countries: Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan.
Women are over-represented among the unbanked. As are poorer people and those with low education. Those not active in the labour force are more likely to be unbanked. While about 37 percent of adults in the developing world are out of the labour force, 47 percent of unbanked adults are.
The 2017 Global Findex survey asked unbanked adults why they did not have a financial account. The most common reason was having too little money to use an account. This was cited by two-thirds of respondents.
A quarter said cost and distance were barriers. A similar proportion said that they did not have an account because a family member already had one. Lack of documentation and distrust in the financial system were reasons cited by 20 percent of respondents. A small proportion (six percent) cited religious concerns.
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT AND PRIVATE SECTOR
Governments can play a significant role in increasing financial inclusion. Paying government wages, pensions and social benefits directly into accounts could bring formal financial services to up to 100 million more adults globally. 95 million of these adults live in developing economies.
Of the 60 million unbanked adults worldwide who receive government transfers in cash, two-thirds have a mobile phone. Even bigger opportunities are available in the private sector. Around 230 million unbanked adults work in the private sector and get paid in cash only. 78 percent of these workers have a mobile phone.
In the agricultural sector, around 235 million unbanked farmers worldwide receive cash payments for produce. 59 percent of them have a mobile phone and could receive digital payment. Digitising agricultural business supply chains also helps farmers build payment and credit histories. And in turn expands access to credit, insurance and other
Switching from cash to digital payments can also reduce corruption and improve efficiency for governments. For example, in India the leakage of funds for pension payment dropped by 47 percent when the payments were made through biometric smart cards rather than in cash.
The Global Findex database includes data on how people in 144 countries use financial services. It is based on more than 150,000 interviews.