Financial Inclusion, Financial Literacy and Economically Vulnerable Populations in the Middle East and North Africa
46 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2018 Last revised: 22 Jun 2018
Date Written: June 15, 2018
Research finds many large disparities still in financial inclusion around the world. One region that is often overlooked is the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), which appears to be lagging all other developing regions when it comes to financial inclusion. We use data from the 2014 World Bank Global Findex and supplement it with indicators of financial literacy and other macroeconomic characteristics to investigate the factors that shape financial inclusion in the MENA region. We focus on those groups that have been traditionally vulnerable – women, youth, the less educated, and the poor – and in the case of MENA, the Syrian refugees. Financial inclusion is measured comprehensively in terms of both savings and borrowing behaviors. The findings show that economically vulnerable populations are significantly less likely to be financially included both in terms of savings and borrowing. Moreover, the gaps in financial inclusion are particularly large for women and youth as compared to other regions. Further, households living in MENA countries with higher levels of financial literacy are more likely to be engaged in positive savings behaviors and less likely to be borrowing, especially from informal sources. Financial literacy, however, does not relate to all individuals in the MENA region equally, especially among those populations most vulnerable. Other macro characteristics associated with a country’s financial and technological infrastructure, economic development, political stability and legal rights also matter, but perhaps not as much as a country’s level of financial literacy. The findings have important implications for public and private stakeholders who are working to design policies aimed at improving access to financial services in the MENA region, especially via financial literacy. Vulnerable groups in the MENA region likely require more targeted interventions that address their specific barriers to financial inclusion, as well as more targeted financial literacy initiatives that are tailored to meet their specific needs. Efforts such as these are particularly important for a region suffering from political, economic, and social conflict that makes financial inclusion an even more urgent, yet challenging, goal.
Keywords: Financial Inclusion, Financial Literacy, Economically Vulnerable Populations, Refugees, Middle East, North Africa
JEL Classification: D14, D31, G23, J11, O17, O53, R20
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation