South Asia has a population of 1.8 billion people, 1.3 billion of whom live in India. According to Global Findex Report 2017, 70 percent of adults in the region have an account with a financial institution or mobile money provider, up from 47 percent in 2014. Much of this growth was driven by India, where the government has actively promoted financial inclusion through biometric identification linked to basic savings accounts. However, South Asia also has the world’s highest share of inactive accounts, in which account owners reported making no deposits or withdrawals within the past year.
Regional variation is also significant. India and Sri Lanka have the region’s highest level of inclusion at 80 percent and 74 percent of adults with an account, while in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 15 percent and 21 percent, respectively, of adults have an account.
The financial inclusion gender gap also varies widely in the region. In India, the gap in the percentage of female vs. male account-holders saw significant improvement between 2014 and 2017, decreasing from 19.7 percentage points to 6.4. However, in the remaining countries of the region the gender gap stayed the same or increased, most notably in Bangladesh, where the gender gap went up almost 20 points from 2014 to 2017, and in Pakistan, where the gender gap increased by 11.4 percentage points.
Digital financial access is still relatively low in the region. Only 4.2 percent of adults have a mobile money account in South Asia, and only 27.8 percent of adults have made or received digital payments in the past year - the lowest of all regions in the world.