Financial Inclusion In Thailand
Financial inclusion enables individuals and businesses access to useful, affordable and tailored financial products and services, playing a major role in driving economic and inclusive growth. Despite notable progress in global financial inclusion, large disparities still remain in low and middle-income countries. Almost 50% of the adult population lack access to bank accounts, and less than 10% of the population borrow from formal institutions in 2017. Identifying these gaps, banks and other financial institutions can strategize ways to close them.
FINANCIAL INCLUSION IN THAILAND
Thailand currently ranks fifth in the top quartile of financial inclusion in Asia, placing it in the frontier benchmark of the region. According to the Global Findex report, Thailand had 82% access to formal financial services. Research reveals a gender discrepancy in financial inclusion, with men generally having greater access than that for women. Nevertheless, in Thailand, significant advancement has led to near gender parity whereby account ownership at financial institutions are approximately 84% for men and 80% for women. The country has made significant strides during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the widespread adoption of QR code and wireless transactions. The increased adoption of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and the introduction of various fintech products improved overall financial inclusion. However, the majority of these new features adversely widened the gap between financial institutions and the aging population. The country became an aging society in 2005, with 10.3% of the population aged 60 and above, according the National Statistical Office (NSO) of Thailand. This underscores the urgency for the gap to be filled.
THE GAP TO BE FILLED: AN AGING POPULATION
While Thailand has achieved considerable progress in financial inclusion compared to other Asian counterparts, there are still gaps to be addressed and vulnerable groups to be included in financial transactions, especially in the digital era. In Thailand, approximately half of the population without bank accounts belong in the elderly demographic, with more than a third of non account holders aged 60 and over. Within this group, digital financial inclusion remains low, with merely 7% having a mobile banking application. Even among those who own mobile phones, only 16.8% of the sample utilizes mobile banking apps. This depicts Thailand’s greatest challenge within financial inclusion, as limited technological skills of its aging population has led to distrust and lower technological adoption. It is imperative to address this now to prevent future disparities and the risk of a widening gap. Given the significant proportion of the elderly demographic in Thailand, neglecting their financial inclusion only poses risks in the future.
One major challenge for the Thai aging population is their limited knowledge and experience with utilizing the internet and mobile phones. BRANDi has undertaken projects across 4 key dimensions that could help bridge this gap. These initiatives include the creation of a savings fund to offer financial growth for self-employed individuals, the development of a comprehensive plan to incentivize savings and promote prudent financial habits among civil servants, the construction of strategic tools tailored to meet the needs and alleviate the pain points faced by a substantial population of elderly farmers, and strengthening the financial foundation for grassroots. Ultimately our aim is to play our part in bridging this knowledge and literacy gap, thus enhancing financial inclusion for all.
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