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The gender gap in financial inclusion won’t budge. Here are three ways to shrink it

Kristalina Georgieva's picture
Marie Hortense Raharimalala visiting a bank agent in Antananarivo, Madagascar. A biometric fingerprint is used for identification. © Nyani Quarmyne/International Finance Corporation
Marie Hortense Raharimalala visiting a bank agent in Antananarivo, Madagascar. A biometric fingerprint is used for identification. © Nyani Quarmyne/International Finance Corporation


I opened my first bank account as a new student at the London School of Economics in 1987. This seemingly small act meant that I could manage my own finances, spend my own money, and make my own financial decisions. It meant freedom to decide for myself.

That financial freedom is still elusive to 980 million women around the world. And, worryingly, this does not seem to be improving. Our Global Findex database shows that while more and more women are opening bank accounts, a global gender gap of 7 percentage points still exists—and it has not moved since 2011.

There are some bright spots. In Bolivia, Cambodia, the Russian Federation, and South Africa, for example, account ownership is equal for men and women. And in Argentina, Indonesia, and the Philippines, the gap we see at the global level is reversed—women have more accounts than men. 

But there are also some very troubling, and persistent gaps. The same countries that had gender gaps in 2011 generally have them today. In Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Turkey, the gap in account ownership between men and women is almost 30 percentage points. Morocco, Mozambique, Peru, Rwanda, and Zambia also have double-digit differences between men and women.

One of the main reasons that both men and women cite for not having a financial account is that they simply are not earning enough to open one. We need to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to work, earn, and participate in his or her economy. This is at the core of our work at the World Bank Group, especially as we look at the skills people will need for the jobs of the future.

But there are some reasons that keep women specifically from opening accounts. The gender gap in financial inclusion can be traced back step by step through unequal opportunities, laws, and regulations that put an extra barrier on women’s ability to even open that simple bank account.

Countries have to do better in unraveling the complicated web that women face when they try to do something that for a man, is quite simple. How can we level it up? Let me suggest three things as a start: 

Divining the future of work

Simeon Djankov's picture
This page in: Español | Français

“I like work, it fascinates me,” said Jerome K Jerome. “I can sit and look at it for hours.” We concur with the author of “Three Men in a Boat’, a novel which so fascinated Late Victorian England that, within a year of publication, the number of vessels on the River Thames had doubled.

We too love work and we anticipate that our devotion to it will result in Jeromesque adulation. The early signs are good; our report is still in draft stage but it has already been downloaded more than 20,000 times. You can discover for yourself why it’s proving so popular by clicking here.

As economists our fascination with work has nothing to do with Jerome’s mirthful quip (but just think how many enduring jobs were created as a result of his fictitious river journey) and everything to do with untangling a riddle that is embedded in the zeitgeist. Google ‘the future of work’ and, in 0.56 seconds, 115,000,000 results appear.



We are living through transformative, perhaps epochal times, when the only thing we can be sure of is persisting uncertainty. What will our children do for a living? Never mind the kids, what about us -will we make it to retirement? And how will we pay for it? Will the robots rise against us?

Shifting the paradigm: Three routes to maximizing infrastructure finance for development

Frédéric Blanc-Brude's picture

Photo: Andreas Wecker | Flicker Creative Commons

By promoting better standards, methods and benchmarking, development finance institutions can move the mountain that is preventing institutional capital from flowing into infrastructure.
 
The World Bank Group's initiative to Maximize Finance for Development (MFD) aims to find solutions to crowd in all possible sources of finance, innovation, and expertise in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the case of infrastructure investment, a significant contribution to long-term sources of private finance is expected from institutional investors such as pension plans, life insurers, and sovereign wealth funds.
 
These investors have become increasingly interested in infrastructure investment in recent years, in search of new sources of returns, diversification, duration and inflation hedging. However, they cannot be expected to make a substantial and durable contribution to the long-term financing of infrastructure without three important changes:

Maximizing finance for climate action

Hartwig Schafer's picture
Also available in: Français 
Photo: World Bank / Simone D. McCourtie


Imagine a world where communities are better prepared to handle the threats that climate change poses to our homes, lives, and health. In this future world, there will be greater resilience built into infrastructure – including our roads, our cities, and towns. Imagine a world where all communities have access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy, waste management services, transport systems and sustainable forests and agricultural practices. Our societies will have smart and scalable solutions built into every sector of our economies.

An Accidental Health Economist Talks Education, Bill Gates, and why Impact Evaluation isn’t Enough

Daphna Berman's picture

Dean Jamison is one of the world’s leading global health economists, but the way he tells it, it was something of an accident. He started as an education economist at the World Bank in 1976, and he was a pioneer in using impact evaluations to study the effectiveness of distributing textbooks in Nicaragua and the Philippines.  Later on, Jamison received an invitation to join the World Bank’s first economic mission to China, where he was tasked with analyzing health issues. “I was eager to see the country and didn’t want to tell anyone how little I knew about health,” he admitted recently.  “But from that point on, I was a health economist.”

GIF: making climate-smart infrastructure bankable

Michael Tran's picture


Photo: only_kim / Shutterstock.com 

There are many drivers of climate change, but few would disagree that energy infrastructure built according to “business-as-usual” standards is a major one. Meeting the lofty goals set at the 2015 Paris Climate Accords requires powering our homes, businesses, and government agencies with a cleaner mix of energy that includes more renewable sources. It also requires promoting standards that encourage energy efficiency—for example, for appliances or building codes—as a low-cost and high-impact way to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 
 
The Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF) is playing a positive role by preparing bankable, climate-smart projects that help countries build low-carbon energy infrastructure and encourage greater energy-efficiency measures. The GIF both drives and leverages private sector investments in climate-smart projects by promoting good governance and standardization in project preparation and has a sizeable portfolio of climate-smart projects in the pipeline.

Getting the basics right: How to manage civil servants in developing countries

Jan-Hinrik Meyer-Sahling's picture
Graphic: World Bank

Editor's note: This blog post is part of a series for the 'Bureaucracy Lab', a World Bank initiative to better understand the world's public officials.

Governments can only be effective if the people in government – that is its civil servants – are motivated and able to implement policy and services well. In many developing countries, this remains a remote aspiration. Corruption, lack of staff motivation and poor performance are both popular stereotypes and real-world facts. For many decades, international aid programmes have invested in civil service reform to change this reality. The track record of these reform programs has unfortunately been poor.

The School Leadership Crisis Part 2: From Administrators to Instructional Leaders

Tracy Wilichowski's picture

How can a school principal be transformed into an instructional leader who provides meaningful feedback and targeted coaching? In this blog, the second in a two-part series, we explore how principals can use observation and feedback to support teachers.

Energy prices advanced, fertilizer prices declined in April -- Pink Sheet

John Baffes's picture
Energy commodity prices gained 8.2 percent in April, led by a 40 percent increase in U.S. natural gas prices, the World Bank’s Pink Sheet reported.

Non-energy prices advanced 1.8 percent while agricultural prices increased 1.7 percent on higher prices for wheat (up 11 percent), rice and cocoa (4 percent rises each), soybean meal and tea (4 percent gains each). Fertilizer prices decreased 0.7 percent, led by a 5 percent drop in urea.

Metals prices gained 2.3 percent, led by gains in aluminum (up 9 percent) and nickel (4 percent rise).


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