Financial Inclusion in Europe and Central Asia

A woman selling street food, Georgia.
Selling street food, Georgia. Photo by Tatiana Sharapova,  2016 CGAP Photo Contest.

The progress towards financial inclusion in Europe and Central Asia (ECA) has been impressive, with a surge in the number of adults with bank accounts. According to the latest edition of the Global Findex which provides data for 2021, the share of adults with a bank account in the region, excluding high-income economies, increased from 65 percent in 2017 to 78 percent in 2021, which is higher than the developing economy average of 71 percent. In addition, ECA has the lowest percentage of inactive accounts among developing economies, standing at only 3 percent compared to the 13 percent developing economy average.

The region has also witnessed a significant rise in digital payments, with 74 percent of adults making or receiving digital payments in the past year, up from 60 percent in 2017. This puts ECA among the top regions among developing economies for digital payments, with only East Asia and the Pacific surpassing it at 76 percent. 

However, there is still a notable digital divide in ECA by education level, with only 52 percent of adults with primary education or less making or receiving digital payments compared to 79 percent of those with secondary education or more. This considerable gap of 27 percentage points is the second largest among world regions.

According to the Global Findex Database, a significant barrier to financial inclusion in ECA is distrust of the financial system. About one-third of adults in the region who don’t have bank accounts mentioned distrust as their main reason for not having one, significantly higher than the developing country average of 23 percent.

Gender gap in financial inclusion

The gender gap in the ECA region for financial inclusion has remained unchanged since 2017, at a steady six percentage points. In addition, despite the increasing trend toward digital payments in the ECA region, in 2021, women were 8 percentage points less likely than men to make digital merchant payments.

Financial resilience

Financial resilience, which indicates the ability of people to bounce back from unforeseen expenses or sudden job loss, remains a challenge in ECA.  Only 26 percent of adults are able to access emergency funding within 30 days without difficulty, slightly lower than the developing economy average of 27 percent. Moreover, the savings rate in the region is one of the lowest in the world, with only 33 percent of adults having reported saving, compared to the developing economy average of 42 percent.

ECA has one of the highest levels of reliance on family and friends as a source of emergency funding, with 36 percent of adults indicating it as their primary source, only surpassed by the Middle East and North Africa region at 50 percent. Unfortunately, these informal channels can be less reliable and expose people to vulnerability in times of need. 


Key Financial Inclusion Data

Account Ownership

Percent of adults age 15+ with an account at a financial institution or through a mobile money provider
Source: Global Findex Database

Gender Gap in Account Ownership since 2011

Percent of adults age 15+ with an account. Regional data excludes high-income economies.
Source: Global Findex Database

Use of Financial Services

Percent of adults age 15+. Regional data excludes high-income economies.
Source: Global Findex Database
Learn about financial inclusion in other regions: 

East Asia & Pacific  |  Latin America & the Caribbean  |  Middle East & North Africa  |  North America  |  South Asia  |  Sub-Saharan Africa  |  Global