Brussels, 28 May 2008
Millions of Europeans face an increased risk of social exclusion through lack of access to basic financial services, according to a new study presented by the European Commission today. It reveals that 2 in 10 adults in EU-15 and almost half in EU-10 (47%) do not have a bank account while many more have no savings and lack access to credit. The results of the study will be discussed today at a high level conference in Brussels, bringing together the financial sector, consumer groups, public authorities and NGOs. The initiative follows the Single Market Review of November 2007, where the Commission announced its intention to ensure that, by a certain date, nobody is denied access to a basic bank account.
"Financial exclusion – a lack of access to adequate financial services – can stop people from participating fully in society, for example by preventing them from getting a job, if they cannot receive bank transfers" said Vladimír Špidla, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities." Public authorities – both at national and European level – have a responsibility to guarantee that all Europeans can access and adequately use the financial services they need."
Internal Market and Services Commissioner Charlie McCreevy added: "Well functioning markets, with clear rules and strong competition are indeed strong drivers of social inclusion. They provide jobs, higher salaries, growth and opportunities. They also stimulate business to look at ways in which they might be able to profitably serve what at first may appear unprofitable niches. The Commission seeks to get the balance right between the social and economic agenda. Those agendas need not conflict and one can stimulate the other."
Access to financial services is key to participation in economic and social life. Yet, in the EU-15 countries, two adults in ten lack access to transaction banking facilities; around three in ten have no savings and four in ten have no credit facilities, although rather fewer (less than one in ten) report having been refused credit. In contrast, one third of people in the new Member States (EU-10) are financially excluded, more than half have no transaction account, a similar proportion have no savings and almost three quarters have no immediate access to revolving credit.
People living on low incomes are primarily affected, while living in a deprived area increases the likelihood of being financially excluded, as does living in a rural area in new Member States. Financial exclusion forms part of a much wider social exclusion, faced by some groups who lack access to quality essential services such as jobs, housing, education or health care.
The study on "Financial services provision and prevention of financial inclusion" presented today provides data on the levels, causes and consequences of financial exclusion in the Member States. It also describes the diversity of policy responses developed in 14 different Member States in the field of transaction banking services, credit and savings. Finally, it proposes a series of potential policy responses. The study was carried out on behalf of the Commission by Réseau Financement Alternatif (Belgium), the University of Bristol (UK), the University of Milan (Italy) and the Warsaw School of Economics (Poland).
Today's conference will welcome over 400 participants from all over Europe and the world. The conference is in line with the vision promoted in the Renewed Social Agenda to be adopted by the Commission next month.
Study and conference on Financial inclusion - improving access to basic financial services
Link to VNR