Gender Gap Persists for Bank-Account Holders

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A persistent gap between the portion of men and women who have bank accounts is confounding experts despite huge leaps in access to banking services and the financial system globally.

The World Bank’s latest global financial-inclusion report released Wednesday showed that while 700 million adults around the world became first-time bank-account holders over the past three years, increasing the access to formal financial institutions, women are still lagging behind. China and India accounted for roughly half of the increase, with 355 million new account holders.

The report showed that 58% of women globally banked in 2014, compared with 65% of men. That is an 11-percentage-point increase for both genders since the initial survey in 2011, but the gap between men and women has remained steady at seven percentage points globally—and nine percentage points in developing economies. The report found that 1.1 billion women still have no access or don’t use the financial system.

In some parts of the world, the gender gap in account ownership is attributed to cultural factors, with women managing homes while men earn money outside the household, or women reporting a preference for using other people’s accounts instead of opening one of their own. But researchers say they expected more women to participate in the banking system as services have become more readily available and as efforts have been made to draw more women into the fold.

The report, titled “The Global Findex Database 2014: Measuring Financial Inclusion Around the World,” says that governments, financial institutions and nonprofit organizations have taken extensive steps to decrease the number of people without bank accounts, and the expansion of services such as digitized payments and mobile-payment platforms has eased access to banks. Even so, the report notes how far behind women still are.

Overall, data showed that globally 62% of adults have a bank account, up from 51% in 2011. Three years ago, of the world’s five billion adults, about 2.5 billion of them had an account. Now, 3.2 billion adults have an account and two billion don’t.

Source: The Wall Street Journal (link opens in a new window)

financial inclusion