Monitoring Financial Inclusion in the UK

Project lead: Professor Karen Rowlingson

View the Financial Inclusion Monitor 2020

Since 2013, the Financial Inclusion Monitoring Reports from the Universities of Birmingham/Lincoln have kept financial inclusion on the agenda at times when the topic was achieving much less prominence than hitherto. 

Most importantly, the reports continue to maintain a reliable source of trend data on different aspects of financial inclusion after the Treasury (through its Financial Inclusion Taskforce) stopped producing and supporting research on financial inclusion, including research on the number of people unbanked.  Our research in this field has shown that progress on reducing financial exclusion varies over time and there are still significant levels of financial exclusion in relation to affordable credit, problem debt, savings and pensions.   

Our research has been quoted by a range of more recently-active bodies including the Financial Inclusion Commission and the House of Lords Select Committee on Financial Exclusion.  Our data, and the lobbying it has enabled, has now contributed to the appointment, in June 2017, of two government ministers with responsibility for financial inclusion: the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, Mr Guy Opperman MP; and the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Mr John Glen MP.  The project aims to continue this work, to ensure there is a reliable set of data for the future which can drive policy change, and also measure the impact of any such change.

The project relates financial inclusion to the ability to achieve:

  • A secure income which meets a minimum standard
  • Access to appropriate and well-regulated financial services, particularly transactional bank accounts, savings accounts, affordable credit, pensions and insurance products. 
  • Access to free and appropriate advice and education, particularly for those with debt problems.
Barrow Cadbury Trust

Friends Provident

Research objectives

  • Monitoring key indicators of financial inclusion, these are:
  1. Employment levels and types
  2. The state of the national economy
  3. Income/poverty
  4. Subjective financial wellbeing
  5. Bank accounts
  6. Savings
  7. Pensions
  8. Borrowing
  9. Problem debt
  10. Insurance
  • Undertaking secondary analysis of existing data sources comprising of the Labour Force Survey (LFS), Family Resources Survey (FRS), Wealth and Assets Survey (WAS), British Household Panel Survey and Understanding Society (BHPS and US), as well as data on credit and debt.
  • Producing an online annual financial inclusion monitoring report.

Research team

  • Professor Karen Rowlingson, Professor of Social Policy and Deputy Head of College of Social Sciences, University of Birmingham

  • Stephen McKay, Distinguished Professor of Social Research at the University of Lincoln

  • Louise Overton, Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Birmingham

Outputs and impact

As part of the project, Karen is an active member of the national ‘End High Cost Credit Alliance’, led by the actor Michael Sheen and launched in March 2018. The alliance will continue to influence public debate and lobby for changes in regulation and policy, financial education, workforce training and fairer alternatives to high cost credit.

Karen’s work on the project was also central to her appointment as the specialist advisor to the House of Lords Select Committee on Financial Exclusion 2016-17 which reported in March 2017.

The project’s annual Financial Inclusion Reports were widely reported on in national and regional print and online media. The 2016 report, for example, was covered by The Independent, The Sunday Express, The Sun and the i newspaper. It featured in 300 local newspapers, on BBC West Midlands Radio, Coventry and Warwickshire Radio, Yahoo News and AOL news. The research has also reached national television and radio audiences. The 2016 report was featured as an item on Sky News TV. Karen appeared on ITV’s Tonight programme in March 2017, and on BBC 4’s You and Yours in February 2018.

Publications

CHASM International Fellow Scheme

Professor Karen Rowlingson secured funding for Dr Irni Johan to visit the University of Birmingham as a CHASM International Fellow.  Irni completed her doctoral degree at the University in early 2018.  Her thesis explored ‘The financial knowledge, attitudes and behaviour of university students in Indonesia’.  Irni’s main research interests include personal finance, financial education and consumer behaviour. Below, Professor Rowlingson gives an account of Irni’s productive visit to CHASM:

Irni gave her seminar on the first day of her fellowship and the feedback from this was very helpful when working on the paper we are developing.  We also met with Lindsey Appleyard, CHASM Associate, to discuss the paper and then myself and Irni worked intensively together on all aspects of the paper including the data analysis.  The paper is now drafted and the three of us are making some final edits before sending off to a journal for review.  In the context of increasing financialisation across the globe, the paper critically reviews the concepts of financial capability and inclusion, and the relationship between the two.  It then applies this critical approach to an analysis of data on financial capability and inclusion in Southeast Asia.   We argue that financial capability and inclusion are complex concepts which need to be understood in the context of the particular society and economy within which they are being discussed.  And while existing research shows a correlation between growth and financial capability/inclusion, this should not lead to simplistic assumptions but, again, needs to be considered alongside other evidence, for example, a correlation between inequality and financial capability/inclusion. 

Irni also attended the CHASM annual conference and a conference on Developments in Alternative Finance run by Professor Hisham Farag and co-sponsored by Birmingham Business School on Birmingham Business School and the Journal of Corporate Finance.  She also took part in discussions about establishing a network on Southeast Asian Social Policy and we also discussed potential collaboration between the University of Birmingham and Bogor Agricultural University in Indonesia.’

Further details


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