Global Financial Inclusion Index from Principal® Develops Benchmark for Financial Security and Inclusion Across Global Economies

New research analyzes and ranks 42 markets on public and private sector indicators of financial inclusion
Sep 21, 2022 2:45 PM ET
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DES MOINES, Iowa, September 21, 2022 /3BL Media/ --Singapore is the world’s most financially inclusive market, alongside the U.S., Nordic Europe, and Hong Kong, according to the inaugural Global Financial Inclusion Index (Index) sponsored by Principal Financial Group®. The research, conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research and released today, examines how well a market’s respective government, financial system, and employers provide relevant tools, services, and guidance to enable greater levels of financial inclusion.

“Financial inclusion is foundational to global economic progress. As an organization focused on helping more people gain access to financial security, we believe inclusion is an integral component of a market’s ability to prepare for and recover from adversity, grow sustainably, and build a brighter future,” said Dan Houston, chairman, president, and CEO for Principal®. “The Global Financial Inclusion Index provides a rigorous, data-driven framework to track financial inclusion on a global scale. Through this we can identify the structural gaps in financial inclusivity and take steps to address them, along with many others, to help build a more productive and protected workforce and society.”

The Index examines 42 markets and scores them across three pillars — government support, financial system support, and employer support — using datapoints across public and survey-based sources.

  • The government support pillar examines the degree to which governments promote and enable financial inclusion, considering data on public pension support, deposit and consumer protections, employment, education, and financial literacy levels, and online connectivity.
  • The financial system support pillar reviews the availability and uptake of various financial products, services, and education, considering data on access to bank accounts and credit, maturation of financial technology and use of real-time payments, and the overall effectiveness of the financial services industry in promoting confidence and small to medium sized business growth.
  • The employer support pillar evaluates the availability and impact of employer programs to improve employee financial wellbeing and inclusion across various dimensions such as employee pension contributions, employee insurance programs, and financial guidance.

In its first year, the Index is helping to develop a benchmark for financial security and inclusion across global economies.

Key findings

  • In general, developed economies tend to pool towards the higher end of the Index, and emerging and developing economies cluster at the bottom. Six of the top 10 markets for financial inclusion are European and, within this group, four are Nordic. Europe’s larger economies rank at the bottom of the table, with Italy as a particular outlier at 37th. The lower half of the ranking consists mainly of countries in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. Argentina ranks last.
  • Economies that provide strong support from their government and financial system tend to provide a lower level of employer support – and the reverse is also true. Developed economies typically score well for government and financial system support, whereas emerging economies generally score better for employer support.
  • When considering this research on an investment basis, the markets analyzed can be broadly grouped into four categories – mature, forward-looking economies; mature, backward-looking economies; young, forward-looking economies; and reliant economies – each of which provides an indication of several of the short-, medium- and long-term risks to which economies are exposed. There are some outliers to these categories – primarily some of the largest economies including the U.S., China, and India – which do not fit neatly into a single category.
  • The findings suggest financial inclusion may be a powerful indicator of next generation capital and wealth markets globally. When performance in each pillar is strong, it helps promote business growth and confidence and may lead to accelerated development of a capital market. These three pillars can provide insights into its overall economic maturity and development of a market and suggest ways to drive progress.
  • Markets which rank highly for financial inclusion tend to also perform well on other societal factors such as food security, productivity, economic and social resilience, standards of living, and climate change adaption. There are strong, positive correlations between the Index rankings and the rankings of markets in several other indices which track the key factors affecting global populations today.

“The Index provides a data-driven, horizontal view for developed and emerging markets to learn from each other when it comes to fostering a financially inclusive citizenry,” said Kay Neufeld, head of forecasting and thought leadership at the Centre for Economics and Business Research. “We tracked the Index against metrics that follow some of the most significant trends facing society today – like food insecurity and climate change – and recognized a clear relationship between financial inclusion and those factors that contribute to a successful society.”

Global Financial Inclusion Index
  Top 10 Scoring Markets   Bottom 10 Scoring Markets
1 Singapore (68.9) 33 Turkey (36.1)
2 United States (68.3 34 South Africa (34.1)
3 Sweden (65.4) 35 Brazil (33.9)
4 Hong Kong (65.1) 36 Mexico (33.3)
5 Finland (64.7) 37 Italy (32.8)
6 Denmark (63.9) 38 Peru (32.7)
7 Australia (63.6) 39 Colombia (32.2)
8 Switzerland (63.4) 40 Nigeria (26.9)
9 Norway (63.1) 41 Ghana (22.2)
10 The Netherlands (59.8) 42 Argentina (19.2)

To read the full report and methodology, please click here.

To view a summary infographic, please click here.

About Principal Financial Group®

Principal Financial Group® (Nasdaq: PFG) is a global financial company with 18,500 employees1 passionate about improving the wealth and well-being of people and businesses. In business for more than 140 years, we’re helping more than 54 million customers1 plan, protect, invest, and retire, while working to support the communities where we do business, and build a diverse, inclusive workforce. Principal® is proud to be recognized as one of America’s 100 Most Sustainable Companies2, a member of the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index, and a Top 10 “Best Places to Work in Money Management3.” Learn more about Principal and our commitment to building a better future at

1 As of June 30, 2022
2 Barron’s, 2022
3 Pensions & Investments, 2021

About Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr)

The Centre for Economics and Business Research is an independent consultancy with a reputation for sound business advice based on thorough and insightful research. Since 1992, Cebr has been at the forefront of business and public interest research, providing analysis, forecasts and strategic advice to major UK and multinational companies, financial institutions, government departments and agencies and trade bodies. For further information about Cebr please visit

© 2022 Principal Financial Services, Inc.

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The Global Financial Inclusion Index is a proprietary model output based upon certain assumptions that may change, are not guaranteed, and should not be relied upon as a significant basis for an investment decision.

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©2022 Principal Financial Services, Inc.

Index Methodology:

The Global Financial Inclusion Index methodology, compiled by Cebr, combines various data sources into one unified measure of financial inclusion at the market level. Structurally, the Index is split into three pillars (government, financial system, employer support) which in turn consist of a varying number of indicators.

An indicator can consist of a single or multiple variables derived from a combination of publicly available quantitative data sources and survey-based data. The data points are combined to provide an indicator score, subsequent pillar score, and headline Index ranking.

Scores for each market are generated based on its performance as measured by the particular indicator. For each indicator, Cebr follows the same set of steps, assigning a value between 0 and 100 to each market. The values are relative to each other.

  • In order to account for outliers, we check each data point to determine if it falls outside of the mean +/- 2 standard deviations (SD) range. If it does, the market is assigned a value equal to either mean + 2 SD or mean – 2 SD.
  • For each indicator, scores are normalized within a range from 0 to 100. Given that a higher overall Index score indicates better performance, for indicators and sub-indicators where a lower figure signifies a better performance (e.g., estimates for informal employment output), the inverse of the data point or its negative equivalent is used.
  • Once scores are assigned between 0 and 100 to each market for each indicator based on the previous steps, the indicators are weighted to calculate the overall pillar score. These are then aggregated into the overall Index score.

Here, our default approach is to use an equal weighting for indicators and pillars, e.g., given that the Index has three pillars, each should receive a weight of 33%. However, there are cases when it can be justified to deviate from this default assumption. With the Index, we employed a weighted approach to give greater weight to the government and financial system support pillars.

This is because the employer support pillar is based exclusively on survey data. While the survey data is an important part of the data inputs required for the Index, Cebr acknowledged that the information based on robust secondary data sources should be attributed a greater weight, as it is more likely to reflect an objective assessment of the respective measures. For the same logic we have also assigned a lower weight to the survey-based indicators within pillars. This helps to minimize any potential bias introduced through market-specific answer patterns in the survey results.

This approach provides a unique market score for each metric, which allows us to present separate figures for each indicator and pillar as well as an overall market score.