More women in APEC benefit from digital financial services

More women in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) region have benefited from digital financial services amid the pandemic, contributing to a significant narrowing of the gender gap in these areas which is helping advance their economic opportunities, emerging
trend shows.

Rhea Crisologo Hernando, a senior researcher at the APEC Policy Support Unit (PSU), said the ease of access and usage of digital financial services encourages the shift to formalization of account ownership and conduct of daily transactions online, providing a crucial pathway towards improved financial and digital inclusion.

“Access to a bank or mobile money account is essential for women to be able to engage in available economic opportunities such as entrepreneurship, contribute to household income and have an equal voice in family decisions, and remain out of poverty,” she said in an
APEC bulletin.

Citing the World Bank global financial inclusion database and APEC PSU staff calculations, Hernando said the gender gap in account ownership at a bank or its equivalent has fallen to 1.6 percentage points in 2021 from as much as 5 percentage points a decade ago.

She said debit or credit card ownership follows the same trend.

Hernando said women are also starting to close the gap relative to men in terms of access to and use of digital financial services from 3.9 percent in 2017 to 1.3 percent in 2021.

There is likewise a noticeable narrowing of the gender gap in the use of a mobile phone or the internet to pay bills while the percentage of women buying something online has outpaced men in both years, she said.

“Greater inclusiveness in financial services has been critical to narrow considerably the gender gap in access to financial accounts and services within the APEC region,” she added.

In APEC, data from the 2021 World Bank Global Financial Inclusion Index show the pandemic expanded access to and use of digital services, particularly among women.

It indicated that around 77 percent of the region’s female population aged 15 years old and above made or received a digital payment in 2021, up by 14 percent from 2017 –a higher rate compared to the increase in usage by men at about 11 percent within a five-year period.

Hernando further said closing the gender gap in financial services needs to be complemented by reducing gaps in women’s access to education and skills development, participation in labor markets, and representation in leadership roles, both in the public and private
sector, among others.

“Closing the gender inequality in access and opportunities empowers women to participate equally and fully in economic, financial and social undertakings,” she added.

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