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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: 

Empowering women toward peace and stability

Hartwig Schafer's picture
Chorty Tabo, 25, holds her son, Simon. She fled South Sudan a year ago. She is part of a women’s association, working together in a hair salon in Meri refugee site in the DRC. © UNHCR/Colin Delfosse


More than 1.5 billion people worldwide live in areas plagued by violence and conflict. According to the UN, women in conflict-ridden countries are disproportionately affected. They are actively targeted as a tactic of war to humiliate, terrorize, punish, or forcibly displace them. In fact, women and girls are disproportionately exposed to sexual violence during conflict. And, as more men die, more women and families are left destitute. The World Bank Group is committed to doing more to prevent this cycle of violence against women, as set out in this IEG report.

Entrepreneurship is an important mechanism to help women rebuild their lives and dignity after conflict and during protracted conflict and crisis situations. Take the example of Chorty a war widow who successfully banded together with other war refugees from South Sudan to open a hair salon in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to the UNHCR story, the business is small, but the women are earning money to feed their children and take care of their families. These women are vital role models in their communities and give others hope to rebuild their lives.

Leveraging technology to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

Mahmoud Mohieldin's picture
A drone delivery project made Rwanda the first country in the world to use the drone technology at the service of saving lives. © Sarah Farhat/World Bank
A drone delivery project made Rwanda the first country in the world to use the drone technology at the service of saving lives. © Sarah Farhat/World Bank


Billions of people are connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge -- foreshadowing stunning possibilities.  This potential is multiplied by technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, big data processing, the internet of things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, blockchain, etc.
 
This so called 4th industrial revolution can help accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Indeed, Science, Technology and Innovation, together with Financing for Development, were identified by the UN as one of the two main “means of implementation” to achieve the SDGs by 2030 as it cuts across all SDGs as highlighted by International Telecommunication Union’s Fast Forward Progress Report – Leveraging Tech to Achieve the SDGs.

The global identification challenge: Who are the 1 billion people without proof of identity?

Vyjayanti T Desai's picture
Also available in: Français | Español
© Daniel Silva Yoshisato
© Daniel Silva Yoshisato


According to the World Bank Group’s 2018 #ID4D Global Dataset, an estimated one billion people around the globe face challenges in proving who they are. They struggle to access basic services – including access to finance and even a mobile phone – and may miss out on important economic opportunities, such as formal employment or owning a registered business. The implications of “providing legal identity for all, including birth registration” go beyond individual rights and opportunities: being able to reliably verify the identities of their population is critical for countries to deliver services efficiently, strengthen their ability to raise revenues, and foster growth in the private sector.

This week 1,600 delegates – government officials from 47 African countries, development partners, and the private sector – are gathered in Abuja, Nigeria for ID4Africa to help accelerate progress in closing the identification gap on the continent, where over half of the 1 billion ‘uncounted’ reside. Accurate data on who these people are is vital for all stakeholders to close this gap, and especially to “leave no one behind”.

How is your life different from that of your parents?

Venkat Gopalakrishnan's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | Español | 中文
© You Ji/World Bank
© You Ji/World Bank


Yunus owns a fabric store in Blantyre, Malawi. The store was founded by his grandfather, who immigrated to Malawi in 1927, and has now been in his family for three generations. Business is good, Yunus said, but that the cost of essential services like electricity and water has gone up since his grandfather and father owned the store. Even so, he remains optimistic.
 
Marija Bosheva is a student at an agriculture and forestry vocational high school in Kavadarci, Macedonia. Like many high school students around the world, she takes daily lessons in history, math, biology, and chemistry. However, unlike many of her peers, she is also studying oenology — the art of making wine.
 
Are you carrying on a family tradition, like Yunus? Do you work or study in an entirely new field that didn’t exist when your parents were your age? How has life changed for you compared to your parents or grandparents when they were your age, and how do you see your children’s lives and possibilities compared to your own? Are you in the same position vis a vis your peers as your parents were vis a vis theirs?
 
Share your story, using the hashtag #InheritPossibility.

Incorporating environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into fixed income investment

Joaquim Levy's picture
© Maria Fleischmann/World Bank
© Maria Fleischmann/World Bank


Sustainable investments –including socially responsible investing (SRI) and environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing – are gaining a foothold in mainstream financial markets. Asset owners and financial intermediaries increasingly seek to finance development that meets present needs without harming future generations. World Bank Group President Jim Kim has emphasized that our organization is well positioned to help institutional investors play a bigger role.

Globally, sustainable investments grew by a quarter over the last two years, to $23 trillion, according to the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance.  This is around one-quarter of professionally managed assets globally.
The focus of ESG investing has been on equity markets – given its roots in corporate governance and engagement, and with information most readily available on listed companies. 

A tipping point for solar energy?

Joaquim Levy's picture
Manik, a solar pump operator for Nusra works near the solar panels in Rohertek, Bangladesh. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank
Manik, a solar pump operator for Nusra works near the solar panels in Rohertek, Bangladesh. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

​Solar energy is poised to transform low-income economies, many of which are in the world’s sunniest regions. Solar’s growing share of the energy mix is being driven by better storage capacity and attractive generation costs. Large solar parks are now competitive with most alternatives; their average cost is below 5 cents per kilowatt-hour in some developing countries. Smaller-scale solar grids are also getting more competitive, opening new paths to financing this clean energy source. With rapid improvements in energy efficient lighting, refrigeration, water pumps, and other technologies for households, solar may soon be as game-changing as mobile phones have been in the last decade.

Solar’s potential is evident from its quick growth in India, where installed capacity recently topped 20 gigawatts (GW), putting the country closer to its ambitious target of 100 GW from clean energy by 2022 (an amount comparable to total installed capacity in the United Kingdom). Solar offers key advantages: facilities can be built quickly, do not need fuel to be transported to power plants, and can eliminate transmission costs where mini-grids or off-grid units are built to serve local communities. 
 

Even duller disasters? How earlier finance can save lives in emergencies

Nicola Ranger's picture
© International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank 2016
© World Bank


Putting in place the funding, systems, and plans before a disaster strikes can help dull the impact of disasters by enabling earlier, faster and more effective response and recovery.

But can we go further, making disasters even ‘duller’ by also releasing finance before a disaster strikes? 

UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, recently set out a compelling vision for how the humanitarian system can be improved. He argued that “disasters are predictable… we need to move from today’s approach where we watch disaster and tragedy build, gradually decide to respond, and then mobilise money and organisations to help, to an anticipatory approach, where we plan in advance for the next crises, putting the response plans and money for them before they arrive, and releasing the money and mobilising the response agencies as soon as they are needed…”

Amp up your 2018 Spring Meetings experience

Bassam Sebti's picture


Our 2018 Spring Meetings is just around the corner and it’s time to get organized. Mainstage speakers include representatives from top-notch institutions such as LinkedIn, Oxford University, Financial Times, Brookings Institution — in addition to influencers Bill Gates and Jeff Weiner.

Connect, engage and watch to take full advantage of everything the #WBGMeetings has to offer. 

Sports open doors to a world of opportunities for disabled youth

James Dooley Sullivan's picture

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