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Global report shows big strides in reducing numbers of unbanked

China saw the greatest increase with 15 percent of adults brought into the banking system; South and East Asia and the Pacific followed, with 14 percent apiece.

From 2011 and 2014, 700 million people became account holders at banks, other financial institutions, or mobile money service providers, and the number of unbanked individuals dropped 20 percent to 2 billion adults, according to the 2014 Global Findex report.

Between 2011 and 2014, the percentage of adults with an account increased from 51 percent to 62 percent, a trend driven by a 13 percent rise in account ownership in developing countries and the role of technology.

In particular, mobile money accounts in Sub­Saharan Africa are helping to rapidly expand and scale up access to financial services, according to a World Bank press release.

“We have set a hugely ambitious goal — universal financial access by 2020 — and now we have evidence that we’re making major progress,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.

Still, the report noted, more than half of adults in the poorest 40 percent of households in developing countries were still without accounts in 2014.

Moreover, the gender gap in account ownership is not significantly narrowing: In 2011, 47 percent of women and 54 percent of men had an account; in 2014, 58 percent of women had an account, compared to 65 percent of men.

And in India, 43 percent of adults with an account made no deposits or withdrawals in the past year. Only 18 percent of adults in South Asia own a debit card, compared with 31 percent in developing countries on average.

Account ownership was up in all major regions, according to the Global Findex;

  • in East Asia and Pacific, adult account ownership rose to 69 percent, up from 55 percent three years earlier;
  • in China, 79 percent of adults owned an account in 2014, up from 64 percent in 2011;
  • in Europe and Central Asia, account ownership among adults increased from 43 percent in 2011 to 51 percent in 2014.
  • in Latin America and the Caribbean, 51 percent of adults now have an account, up from 39 percent in 2011, though 210 million remain unbanked;
  • in the Middle East, account ownership expanded to 14 percent of adults, up from 11 percent in 2011, though 85 million remain unbanked;
  • in South Asia, 46 percent now own an account, up from 32 percent three years ago; and
  • In sub-­Saharan Africa, 34 percent of adults now have an account, an increase from 24 percent in 2011. Findex reports that 12 percent of adults in the region have a mobile money account compared to just 2 percent globally.

Indicators in the Global Findex database are drawn from survey data covering more than 150,000 people in 143 economies. The survey was carried out over the 2014 calendar year by Gallup Inc.