The FINANCIAL — Mastercard on December 12 announced findings from new research into those who are financially excluded across Europe, finding a third (33%) are employed full time and 35% are aged 18-34.
138 million Europeans are financially cut off from society – without a bank account or payment methods. Challenging common perceptions, this estimate is behind the Mastercard research into who these people are and why they are excluded.
Surprisingly, 87% of the financially excluded people surveyed have lived in the same country their whole lives. The findings also revealed that 38% pay their rent in cash and, incredibly, 88% of those surveyed pay for all of their other amenities in cash.
However, among this same section of society, the research uncovered a vastly increased proliferation of technology. Access to technology via smartphone usage has significantly increased, from 29% in 2013 to 49% in 2016. Yet, a quarter (27%) still find they are unable to access financial products and services, highlighting a definitive disconnect between those using technology and those accessing financial products and services.
A constant need to rely on cash leaves these people extremely vulnerable to loss or theft of money, payment disputes – as there is no electronic trail or proof or purchase, and a complete inability to prepay or schedule payments ahead of time. This section of society may then seek unsuitable, alternative payment methods, due to cash-flow issues, which can lead to debt.
Commenting on the findings, Ann Cairns, President International Markets for MasterCard, said: “For many people the concept of exclusion is often seen as a developing markets problem but today’s report shows clearly that this is as much of a problem in the perceived developed markets of Europe as it is around the world. Exclusion has a serious impact on a person’s quality of life, denying them basic benefits and choice including increased protection, convenience and access to the global economy. That the tools and technology are readily available to those who are in need of inclusion demonstrates that this is a solvable problem and one that partnership, education and innovation can easily solve.”
The research suggests the main reasons behind the absence of a full bank account or banking services are a lack of knowledge, and mistrust of the banking sector. A fifth (20%) do not want a bank account at all and a further 10% say they do not trust banks with their money. Together with innovation and education, digital prepaid solutions and electronic payments can help to bridge the gap between technology and financial services.
Ann Cairns added: “While the findings on financial inclusion are troubling, given the sharp increase in access to technology like smart phones, it is clear that the road to financial inclusion is a digital one. By tapping into the rapid rise in technology, we can develop new solutions to ensure everyone in Europe has access to the financial system. This will directly improve millions of lives and benefit us all by encouraging a fairer, more equal society.”