The Global Findex is a massive database that tracks account ownership and use, savings, and payments around the world. Here are some of the key results from the newly released wave of 2014 data.
What is the big picture? Where is progress being made?
The global push toward financial inclusion is gaining strength. Sixty-two percent of the world’s adult population has an account, up from 51 percent in 2011. Three years ago, 2.5 billion adults were unbanked, compared to 2 billion today.
People in emerging countries are rushing to join the financial system.54 percent of adults in the developing world have an account –an increase of 13 percentage points from 2011. Countries which saw especially impressive account growth include: Tanzania (17 percent to 40 percent), Indonesia (20 percent to 36 percent), India (35 percent to 53 percent), China (64 percent to 79 percent), and Mexico (27 percent to 39 percent).
Mobile money is expanding access to financial services. In 5 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa – Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe – more adults have only a mobile money account than an account at a financial institution. Account ownership in Tanzania increased 23 percentage points to 40 percent — and all that growth came from mobile money accounts. In Kenya, 58 percent of adults have a mobile money account, the world’s highest rate.
Is there any progress among the poor?
Yes… In developing economies, account ownership rose disproportionately among adults living in the poorest 40 percent of households. 46 percent of these adults have an account – an increase of 17 percentage points compared to 2011. Countries where account ownership among the poor more than doubled include Botswana, Argentina, Vietnam, Zambia, and Peru. Meanwhile, account ownership among adults in the richest 60 percent of households increased by just 11 percentage points – to 60 percent.
But there’s still a long way to go. In developing countries, more than half of adults in the poorest 40 percent of households are still unbanked. Indonesia struggles here, with about 78 percent of these adults lacking access to an account.
How are women doing?
It’s complicated. In every region, more women have an account now than before. Worldwide,account penetration among women rose from 47 percent in 2011 to 58 percent in 2014. Mexico made stunning progress, closing its gender gap in just three years. In 2011, women in Mexico were 11 percentage points less likely to have an account than men; now, 39 percent of women and 39 percent of men have an account.
But women are still underserved. Globally, 1.1 billion women have no access to the financial system, including about 245 million women in India.
Regionally, the gender gap is largest in South Asia, where 37 percent of women have an account compared to 55 percent of men — an 18 percentage point difference.
What are some ways to expand access to financial services and reduce the use of cash in the system?
Governments and businesses could slash the number of unbanked adults by digitizing wages and transfers. More than 20 percent of the unbanked – more than 400 million adults globally – receive wages or government transfer payments in cash.
- 27 percent of adults receive wage payments in developing countries, and only 41 percent of them use an account to do so.
- Digitizing government wages and social transfers could increase the number of adults with an account by up to 160 million, including about 65 million in East Asia and the Pacific.
- Moving private-sector wages from cash into accounts could bring up to 280 million adults into the financial system, among them almost 85 million adults in South Asia.
Move cash remittances into accounts. In developing countries, 26 percent of adults report sending or receiving domestic remittances – 14 percent in cash and a further 5 percent through an over the counter commercial service rather than through an account.
- Shifting cash or over the counter remittances payments into accounts could increase the number of adults with an account by up to 370 million – including 105 million adults in East Asia and the Pacific.
Bank the farmers. In developing countries, 440 million unbanked adults receive cash payments for the sale of agricultural products, including 125 million in Sub-Saharan Africa and 105 million in South Asia.
- 23 percent of adults in developing countries receive such payments, almost exclusively in cash.
- East Africa is the only region where a significant share of agricultural payments are made digitally: In Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya, over 10 percent of adults receive payment for the sale of agricultural products into an account, usually a mobile money account.
Beyond basic access, are people using their accounts?
Yes. People are using their accounts to make or receive digital payments. In developing countries, 26 percent of adults – or almost half of account holders – use their account to make or receive a payment. Debit cards are also catching on. About a quarter of adults with an account in developing countries use their debit card to make direct payments, including 54 percent of account holders in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Turkey, about 19 percent of adults make payments through the internet.
Accounts are finally overtaking dodgy informal savings methods. In developing countries, 39 percent of account holders use their accounts to save, including 70 percent of account holders in Indonesia. In Sub-Saharan Africa— where more than 60 percent of adults saved in the past year, and a quarter of savers use an account—16 percent of adults save at a formal financial institution. Research shows that accounts both provide a safe place to keep savings and enable economic growth.
Yet, loads of people never use their account at all. 20 percent of account holders in developing countries report having made zero deposits and zero withdrawals in the past year and therefore have what we define as dormant accounts. This includes more than 40 percent of account holders in India.
And massive numbers of accounts are chronically under-used. 1.3 billion adults with an account in developing countries still pay their trash collection, water, and electric bills in cash. Over half a billion adults pay school fees in cash despite having and account. Under-use of accounts is especially widespread in East Asia and the Pacific, where 705 million account-owning adults still pay utility bills or school fees in cash, while 155 million send or receive domestic remittances in cash. The challenge is for governments and businesses to come up with digital products that make accounts cheaper and easier to use than cash.
This article is published in collaboration with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
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Author: Jake Kendall is the Deputy Director of Research and Innovation on the Financial Services for the Poor team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Leora Klapper is a Lead Economist in the Development Research Group at the World Bank, in Washington D.C.
Image: A man walks past buildings at the central business district of Singapore. REUTERS/Nicky Loh.