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Women lag behind men in financial access

Women lag behind men in financial access

By: Erum Zaidi

KARACHI: Women are 13 percent less than men to have bank borrowing and deposits, a State Bank report released on Monday night.

Finding large gender gaps in access to banking and finance, the SBP report reveals that the male borrowers dominate with a significant share of 87 percent in the total borrower base.

The State Bank of Pakistan has released a report titled “Access to Finance in Pakistan: Key indicator on gender-mix.” The report presents very gloomy picture of gender-wise distribution of number of borrowers in December 2013.

In four major sectors, 26 percent of women nationwide have access to microfinance banking, which makes up 78 percent of the overall women borrower base within the development finance sector but 74 percent of men do.

Women account for 15 percent share in housing sector, four percent in agriculture and the least two percent in the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sector, it showed.

Conversely, males hold 98 percent share in SMEs and 85 percent in housing sector, it reported.

According to the data available as of December 31, 2013, the development finance sector is serving 2.6 million borrowers with an outstanding portfolio of Rs606 billion.

The State Bank has been supporting development of an inclusive financial system in the country to ensure provision of financial services to all sectors of the economy, it said.

Nearly 90 percent of these women work in agriculture, elementary occupations and crafts sector. This presents an opportunity to the financial sector to increase its outreach among the economically active women population, the report said.

Access to financial services by women is lower in Pakistan but the momentum is building gradually for increasing women’s share in financial access.

Of the overall 2.577 borrower, men borrowers stand at 2.25 million, while women at 0.32 million. The highest number of women borrowers with 0.25 million is concentrated in agriculture finance, it reported.

Dr Muhammad Yaqub, former governor of the central bank, said that the lopsided distribution of bank credit should not surprise anybody.

It reflects the traditional role assigned to women, their economic status and the general pattern of ownership of assets and management of businesses in Pakistan.

“We have a long way to go in bringing about equality and parity between men and women in other aspects of life before looking for a change in the use of bank credit between male and female population of the country,” he said.

Dr Yaqub said, “The process needs to start with a change in attitudes and about the role of women in the society, bringing about parity in educational opportunities, granting of equal rights to women in businesses and economic activities and accepting them as equally productive members of the society.”

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