More Women Are Financially Included in India Than Ever Before
India’s Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) programme has brought more individuals into the formal financial fold than any other inclusion-related intervention attempted to date. The level of financial inclusion among Indian adults increased by 20% between 2014 and 2015, an unparalleled rate of growth across the eight countries tracked by InterMedia’s Financial Inclusion Insights (FII) research programme.
FII data suggests that PMJDY has contributed to equalising financial inclusion across demographics groups. Particularly encouraging, PMJDY is facilitating greater financial inclusion for the traditionally under-banked segments of Indian society – those living below the poverty line, those in rural areas and women. Due in large part to PMJDY, the rate of financial inclusion for Indian women, for example, increased by 24% between 2014 and 2015, compared with an increase of 14% among men. Despite not explicitly targeting women, it’s evident that PMJDY was particularly impactful for enabling women’s ability to access financial services.
There are several possible explanations for this trend. One is that women’s level of financial inclusion started from a relatively lower base (in 2013 prior to the start of PMJDY, 39% of women had bank accounts compared with 55% of men). Thus, there was simply more room for growth among women. It is also likely that by requiring banks to provide accounts with attractive features, such as a zero minimum balance and an overdraft facility, and advertising the existence of those accounts, the program lowered social barriers to account access, which disproportionately affected women. As women were informed they had a right to a bank account that was within their financial reach, many women decided to open accounts.