Financial Inclusion in South Asia

Potato Farmers, Bangladesh.
Potato Farmers, Bangladesh. Photo by Khurshed Alam Rinku, 2013 CGAP Photo Contest.

South Asia, home to a population of over 1.9 billion, is grappling with financial exclusion. According to the Global Findex 2021 database, the region's financial inclusion rate is 68 percent, which falls below the average of 71 percent of developing economies. The share of adults with accounts has remained largely unchanged since 2017. However, the rising presence of mobile phones offers a unique opportunity to boost account ownership through mobile payments. According to the Global Findex, over half of the 430 million adults without accounts in the region own a mobile phone.

The gender gap in financial inclusion

Despite recent progress, South Asia still struggles with achieving gender equality in financial inclusion. While the gender gap in account ownership is the same as the world average at four percentage points, a significant gender disparity persists in digital payments. Even in India and Sri Lanka, the two countries with the highest rates of account ownership in the region and no financial inclusion gender gap, there remains a sizable 17 and 12 percentage point gender gap in digital payments

Financial resilience

Financial resilience is crucial for withstanding unexpected financial shocks, such as sudden job loss or unforeseen expenses. However, in South Asia, only 8 percent of the adult population reported being able to access emergency funds within 30 days without any difficulty. This percentage is significantly lower than the developing economy average of 27 percent.

Furthermore, while savings are considered the most reliable source of emergency funds, only 23 percent of adults in South Asia reported saving in the last year. This figure is significantly lower than the developing economy average of 42 percent. Addressing these issues is crucial in achieving financial resilience and promoting financial inclusion in the region.


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

Knowledge Resources by Country

Explore the knowledge resources we have available on the following countries in South Asia:

Afghanistan Maldives Pakistan
Bangladesh Nepal Sri Lanka
Bhutan India      
Learn about financial inclusion in other regions: 

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


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