India accounts for 55% of new bank accounts opened globally

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The increase from 51 to 69 percent represents 1.2 billion more people with bank accounts than only six years earlier.

The figures were released as part of the World Bank's Global Findex Report, a study on financial inclusion released every three years that involves interviews or surveys of 150,000 people covering 144 countries representing 98 percent of the world's population.

It is heartening to see that of these 51.4 crore accounts, the number of Jan Dhan Accounts opened in India during the same period is about 28.17 crore, constituting nearly 55 per cent of the accounts opened globally during this period.

According to the government data sourced from the banks, the total number of Jan Dhan account holders has risen from 28.17 crore in March 2017 to 31.44 crore in March 2018. It may be noted that China has an unbanked population of 225 million adults, followed by India which is just 35 million short with 190 million.

Globally, 65% of women have an account compared with 72% of men, a gap of seven percentage points that has been unchanged since 2011, the World Bank report said.

The share of account owners with an inactive account varies across economies, but it is especially high in many South-Asian economies, but India has the highest percentage of such accounts, it said. These "mobile money" accounts, as they are sometimes known, are tied to a person's cell phone account instead of a bank, and allow users to transfer money to family or businesses. By making wage payments electronically, businesses in Latin America and the Caribbean could expand account ownership to as many as 30 million unbanked people.

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The World Bank notes that two-thirds of these people have a mobile phone, providing a potential platform to open an account in the future.

"Having access to financial services is a critical step towards reducing both poverty and inequality, and new data on mobile phone ownership and internet access show unprecedented opportunities to use technology to achieve universal financial inclusion".

Digital technology could take advantage of existing cash transactions to bring people into the financial system, the report finds. "While in some economies account ownership has surged, progress has been slower elsewhere, often held back by large disparities between men and women and between the rich and poor". Digital public pension payments could reduce the number of unbanked adults in Europe and Central Asia by up to 20 million.

Progress was driven by India, where a government policy to increase financial inclusion through biometric identification pushed the share with an account up to 80 per cent, with big gains among women and poorer adults.

This is unedited, unformatted feed from the Press Trust of India wire.