The COVID-19 pandemic has boosted financial inclusion, driving a surge in digital payments as part of the global expansion of formal financial services. According to the Global Findex 2021 database, this expansion has created new economic opportunities, narrowing the gender gap in account ownership and building resilience at the household level to better manage financial shocks.
In 2021, 76% of adults worldwide now had an account at a bank, other financial institution or with a mobile money provider, up from 68% in 2017 and 51% in 2011. While in previous Findex surveys over the past decade, much of the growth was concentrated in India and China, this year’s survey found that account ownership percentage grew by double digits in 34 country since 2017.
The pandemic has also led to increased use of digital payments. In low- and middle-income economies (excluding China), more than 40% of adults who made payments in-store or online using a card, phone or internet did so for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The same is true for more than a third of adults in all low- and middle-income economies who paid a utility bill directly from a formal account. In India, more than 80 million adults made their first digital merchant payment after the onset of the pandemic, while in China, more than 100 million adults did so.
Two-thirds of adults worldwide now make or receive a digital payment, with the share in developing economies rising from 35% in 2014 to 57% in 2021. In developing economies, 71% have an account at a bank , another financial institution or with a mobile money provider, up from 63% in 2017 and 42% in 2011. Mobile money accounts have led to a huge increase in financial inclusion in sub-Saharan Africa.
“The digital revolution has catalyzed increased access to and use of financial services across the world, transforming the ways people make and receive payments, borrow and save,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass. “Creating an enabling policy environment, promoting the digitization of payments, and further expanding access to formal accounts and financial services for women and the poor are some of the policy priorities to mitigate development reversals from overlapping crises. In progress”.
For the first time since the launch of the Global Findex database in 2011, the survey found that the gender gap in account ownership had narrowed, helping women to have more privacy, security and control over their money. The gap has narrowed by 7 to 4 percentage points globally and by 9 to 6 percentage points in low- and middle-income countries since the last survey in 2017.
About 36% of adults in developing economies now receive a salary or government payment, a payment for the sale of agricultural products or a national payment into an account. Data suggests that receiving payment into an account instead of cash can jump-start people’s use of the formal financial system – when people receive digital payments, 83% have used their accounts to also make digital payments. Nearly two-thirds used their account for cash management, while around 40% used it for savings, further expanding the financial ecosystem.
Despite advances, many adults around the world still do not have a reliable source of emergency cash. Only about half of adults in low- and middle-income economies said they could access extra money for emergencies with little or no difficulty, and they typically turn to unreliable sources of finance, including family and friends.
“The world has a critical opportunity to build a more inclusive and resilient economy and provide a bridge to prosperity for billions of people,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundationone of the supporters of the Global Findex database. “By investing in digital public infrastructure and technologies for payment and identification systems and updating regulations to foster innovation and protect consumers, governments can build on the progress reported in the Findex and expanding access to financial services for all who need them.”
In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, lack of ID remains a significant barrier to having a mobile money account for 30% of adults without an account, suggesting an opportunity to invest in systems accessible and reliable identification. More than 80 million adults without accounts still receive cash government payments – digitizing some of these payments could be cheaper and reduce corruption. Increasing account ownership and usage will require trust in financial service providers, trust in the use of financial products, bespoke product design, and a strong and enforced consumer protection framework.
The Global Findex database, which surveyed how people in 123 economies use financial services throughout 2021, is produced by the World Bank every three years in collaboration with Gallup, Inc.
Regional Overviews of Global Findex 2021
In East Asia and the Pacific, financial inclusion is a two-part story of what is happening in China compared to other economies in the region. In China, 89% of adults have an account and 82% of adults use it to make digital merchant payments. Across the rest of the region, 59% of adults have an account and 23% of adults have made digital merchant payments, with 54% doing so for the first time after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Double-digit increases in account ownership were achieved in Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand, while the gender gap in the region remains small at 3 percentage points, but the gap between poor and rich adults is 10 percentage points.
In Europe and Central Asia, account ownership has increased by 13 percentage points since 2017 to 78% of adults. The use of digital payments is robust, as around three-quarters of adults have used an account to make or receive a digital payment. COVID-19 drove additional usage for the 10% of adults who made a digital merchant payment for the first time during the pandemic. Digital technology could further increase account usage for the 80 million banked adults who continued to make cash-only merchant payments, including 20 million banked adults in Russia and 19 million banked adults in Turkey. two largest economies in the region.
Latin America and the Caribbean saw an 18 percentage point increase in account ownership since 2017, the largest of any region in the developing world, resulting in 73% of adults having an account. Digital payments play a key role, as 40% of adults have paid a merchant digitally, including 14% of adults who did so for the first time during the pandemic. COVID-19 further drove digital adoption for the 15% of adults who made their first utility bill payment directly from their account for the first time during the pandemic, more than double the average for developing countries. Opportunities for even greater use of digital payments remain as 150 million banked adults have made cash-only merchant payments, including more than 50 million banked adults in Brazil and 16 million banked adults in Colombia. .
The Middle East and North Africa The region has made progress in closing the gender gap in account ownership from 17 percentage points in 2017 to 13 percentage points—42% of women now have an account compared to 54% of men. Opportunities abound to broadly increase account ownership by digitizing payments currently made in cash, including payments for agricultural products and private sector salaries (approximately 20 million accountless adults in the region have received salaries from the private sector in cash, including 10 million in the Arab Republic of Saudi Arabia). Egypt). Switching people to formal modes of saving is another opportunity given that around 14 million adults without accounts in the region, including 7 million women, have saved using semi-formal methods.
In South Asia, 68% of adults have an account, a share that hasn’t changed since 2017, although there is wide variation across the region. In India and Sri Lanka, for example, 78% and 89% of adults, respectively, have an account. Account usage has increased, however, driven by digital payments, as 34% of adults have used their account to make or receive a payment, up from 28% in 2017. Digital payments provide an opportunity to increase both the ownership and use of the account, given the predominance of cash, even among account holders, to make merchant payments.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, mobile money adoption has continued to rise, such that 33% of adults now have a mobile money account, a share three times higher than the global average of 10%. Although mobile money services were originally designed to allow people to send money to friends and family living elsewhere in the country, adoption and use has spread beyond from these origins, such that 3 out of 4 mobile account owners in 2021 made or received at least one payment that was not person-to-person and 15% of adults used their mobile money account to save. Opportunities to increase account ownership in the region include digitizing cash payments for the 65 million unaccounted adults receiving payments for agricultural produce, and expanding mobile phone ownership, as the Lack of a phone is cited as a barrier to adoption of mobile money accounts. Adults in the region are more concerned about paying school fees than adults in other regions, suggesting policy or product opportunities to enable education-focused savings.