According to international studies that took place in both developing and developed countries, women have a lower level of financial skills and literacy. This may be mainly due to social patterns and gender inequalities regarding access to education, employment, entrepreneurship and the formal financial system. At the same time, women have longer life expectancy than men and longer pauses in their careers due to pregnancy and child upbringing, with a negative impact on the savings potential and the creation of adequate capital for retirement.
Recognizing the fact that women are the ones who make every day important decisions on the allocation of financial resources in a household and on the transmission of financial knowledge towards their children, their proper financial education is important for themselves, for their children and for the whole society. Increased financial education needs are identified particularly in vulnerable groups of women, such as under-educated, young, widows, divorced and low-income ones.
According to a series of recent international scientific studies, women often have less financial knowledge and less access to available financial products than men and are therefore classified as a vulnerable social group.
Women usually have the primary responsibility for their children upbringing from their infancy to childhood and therefore have longer career deviations during their working lives. They also receive important and day-to-day decisions about the allocation of their household resources and play an important role in transferring their habits and skills to their children. Therefore, they must have adequate financial skills not only for themselves, but also for the future generations.
At the same time, women at global level face asymmetric opportunities for access to financial opportunities vis-à-vis men, including lower access to higher education and a significantly lower rate of access to entrepreneurship and finance. Also, as the complexity of financial markets is growing, women need to acquire financial knowledge, self-confidence and skills to participate effectively in economic activities and financial decisions, both inside and outside of the households.
Recent studies by the OECD and other research centers show that women have less financial knowledge than men in a large number of developed and developing countries. Differences also occur in specific categories of women, such as young women, widows, less educated women and women with low income.
Additionally, women stand a weaker position than men in the labor market. In 2011, 60% of women were active in the labor force compared with 72% of men (on average in OECD countries). Approximately 25% of employed women worked part-time, while the corresponding percentage in men was just 9%. Discrepancies are also recorded in salaries, with women earning less money than men at a rate close to 15%. As women live longer than men but have a shorter career span and lower average income, they need appropriate financial knowledge to manage potential future risks.
Women also appear to be less well-informed and less interested in financial matters than men. They are, also, less certain than men for both their financial knowledge and their financial skills, especially in relation to complex financial issues.
Women, however, seem to be better than men in monitoring and recording their finances. However, they may be more vulnerable than men in some aspects of their financial behavior, including covering current expenses, saving and choosing financial products and consultants. They are also more likely than men to encounter problems in meeting daily expenses and tend to follow different problem-solving strategies to meet their needs. Besides, they tend to save smaller amounts than men, especially for retirement.
The potential needs and loopholes regarding women’s financial literacy may include:
The objective of achieving gender equality requires that relevant actions and policies will be undertaken. For this reason, efforts should be made to identify, consider and address barriers to women’s access to financial education and to improve their financial literacy, which may include:
Financial literacy is therefore needed not only to improve the knowledge of personal and family financial management but also to facilitate easier access to appropriate financial services and products as well as to develop and manage business activities and ultimately easier career advancement. It can also empower women to better assess the risks they have to manage, protect themselves from such risks, plan for their future, and take advantage of the various opportunities to create and increase their wealth and income.
Consequently, the contribution of financial education to greater participation of women in economic activities and the more appropriate use of financial products will lead to the empowerment of a previously untapped force that is expected to benefit the overall economic growth.
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