COVID-19 leads to a global increase in the use of digital payments

Three-quarters of adults now have a bank or mobile money account; the gender gap in account ownership is narrowing

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2022— 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 to save, strengthening the financial ecosystem.

Despite advances, many adults around the world still do not have a reliable source of emergency money. 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.

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