New Delhi: In a strong defence of Aadhaar, the World Bank on Thursday said India’s “strong government” push to increase account ownership through biometric identification cards helped narrow both the gender gap and the gap between the rich and poor.
India has significantly reduced the gender gap in providing access to financial services with 77% women against 83% men having bank accounts, the World Bank said in its Global Findex database 2017 released on Thursday.
“In India three years ago, men were 20 percentage points more likely than women to have an account. Today, India’s gender gap has shrunk to 6 percentage points thanks to a strong government push to increase account ownership through biometric identification cards,” the report said.
According to government data, the total number of current and savings accounts in banks has risen from 122.3 crore in March 2015 to 157.1 crore in March 2017.
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.
Between 2014 and 2017, account ownership in India rose by more than 30 percentage points among women as well as among adults in the poorest 40% of households.
Among men and among adults in the wealthiest 60% of households, it increased by about 20 percentage points, the report said.
However, the World Bank noted that India has 190 million adults without a bank account despite the success of the ambitious Jan Dhan Yojana, making it the world’s second largest unbanked population after that of China (225 million).
Giving the example of India on how switching from cash to digital payments can reduce corruption and improve efficiency, the bank said in India, the leakage of funds for pension payments dropped by 47% (2.8 percentage points) when the payments were made through biometric smart cards rather than being handed out in cash.livemint