microPension Foundation to advance pension and social security inclusion

Micro Pension Foundation co-hosts a financial counselling session at Sullimula Paniya tribal village (India). Photo courtesy of Micro Pension Foundation — Read the press release announcing Micro Pension Fondation’s Campaign Commitment (the link connects to the ESAF press release) — Read their Commitment letter (the link connects to the ESAF letter) —Watch the recording of the E-workshop co-hosted with the Center for Financial Inclusion, Micro Pension Foundation and HelpAge International, (hyperlink https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFzTaAlc7To)

microPension Foundation co-hosts a financial counseling session at Sullimula Paniya tribal village (India). Photo courtesy of microPension Foundation
Read the press release announcing microPension Foundation’s Campaign Commitment
Read their Commitment letter
Watch the recording of the E-workshop co-hosted with the Center for Financial Inclusion, Micro Pension Foundation and HelpAge International

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The Microcredit Summit Campaign welcomes microPension Foundation (mPF) as the 58th organization to make a Campaign Commitment. mPF commits to provide an integrated, contributions-led micropension solutions for 25,000 domestic help workers in India and work to further social security inclusion for low-income informal sector workers. With this Commitment, mPF joins a global coalition to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

The non-profit mPF is a specialized pension and social security inclusion R&D hub established in 2012 through an inception grant from VISA, Inc. mPF develops, field-tests, and mainstreams innovative and scalable technology-led solutions to enable secure, convenient, and affordable access to contributory pension and social security programs by low-income unbanked workers.

microPension Foundation joins our coalition and commits to the following:

  • By encouraging mass-scale civil society action to achieve pension and social security inclusion by motivating P2P action using the first global e-commerce social security platform titled “gift-a-pension.” This web-platform enables middle and upper-middle income households to enroll their domestic help (cooks, drivers, maids, guards) for an integrated pension, insurance, and micropayment solution through the Internet.
    Employers use electronic financial literacy tools (FAQs, animations, films, calculators) to explain pension and social security concepts and product features to their home help. Domestic help who do not have a bank account are provided a bank-issued prepaid card for channeling periodic micropension contributions to regulated pension funds and life insurers.
    By December 2016, the microPension Foundation will aim to achieve coverage of 25,000 domestic help employed by middle and upper-middle income households in India. The microPension Foundation will also identify and work with like-minded institutions in other developing countries to implement the Gift-a-Pension platform in other countries.
  • The microPension Foundation will collaborate with a specialized social security solutions enterprise to launch a new social security gateway named microPension-in-a-Box (mPIB). This gateway will enable governments, regulators, multilateral and bilateral aid agencies, MFIs, cooperatives, NGOs, and social enterprises more generally to offer an integrated social security program based on portable, individual pension and insurance accounts to their citizens, clients, or beneficiaries.
    With the Microcredit Summit Campaign, the microPension Foundation and the new solutions enterprise will launch a global road-show in mid-2016 to show-case the mPIB solution to Campaign partners and to build a global partnership-led implementation network.

gift a pension photo_275x338mPF will encourage, enable, and assist Campaign partners and other stakeholders to launch integrated, contributions-based micropension and microinsurance programs for low income excluded individuals. With this strategy, mPF seeks to multiply the impact of the social security inclusion effort and create a global micro-social security marketplace which will enable low-income, informal sector workers to achieve a secure and dignified old age through thrift and self-help.

Executive Director of Micro Pension Foundation, Parul Khanna, explains why they are committing with the Microcredit Summit Campaign:

“We are extremely excited about the huge potential global impact of the Microcredit Summit Campaign and are delighted to be a partner in this process. The mPF team is committed to work closely with the Campaign and fellow partners in the coming years to empower and enable low-income excluded women to achieve a financially secure and dignified old age.”

Read the Commitment Letter from Micro Pension Foundation.

The Microcredit Summit Campaign looks forward to welcoming our newest partners to the global coalition and sharing their progress towards the Commitment achievement at the 18th Microcredit Summit. The Campaign’s 100 Million Project is building a movement among financial service stakeholders committed to helping to end extreme poverty through: public statements of commitment to action, expanding practices to reliably measure movement out of extreme poverty, and promoting innovations and best practices to accelerate movement out of poverty.


We invite you to join microPension Foundation and…

Get Inspired. Set a Goal. Make a Commitment.

Join the movement to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty:

How to be disability inclusive and age friendly

Lucía Urtecho Calderón, client of Financiera FAMA, sells candy and candied fruits in Mercado Carlos Roberto Huembes, Nicaragua on December 13, 2012

Lucía Urtecho Calderón, client of Financiera FAMA, sells candy and candied fruits in Mercado Carlos Roberto Huembes, Nicaragua on December 13, 2012. Photo credit: Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion

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>>Authored by Sonja E. Kelly and Misha Dave, Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion

Almost a year ago now, the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion launched two Campaign Commitments for further research and action on the inclusion of persons with disabilities and older people in financial services. If there is one lesson we have learned from following through on these Commitments, it is that including these populations in financial services is in some ways easier than practitioners expect it to be but, in other ways, harder than it looks.

In our research on aging and financial inclusion, one of the key insights was that financial service providers of all sizes often apply age caps on credit products. However, many institutions we talked with did not know exactly where these standards came from. Some attributed them to concerns about life expectancy of older clients, some to institutional history (“that’s just the way we do it”), some to the increase of credit portfolio insurance it would incur, and some to a perception of older people as economically dormant.

Many of these concerns can be mitigated by better research and dispelling myths about the creditworthiness of older people. Easy, right? In fact, there are some institutions that apply creative ideas to providing credit to older people. Group guarantees and automatic withdrawal payments on loans from publicly administered pensions through government partnerships are both examples of this.

However, such institutions providing credit to older people seem to be the exception rather than the rule. Worse, convincing institutions to care about this population is not easy. One institution we spoke with in India was baffled by the idea of providing credit to people over the age of 55. “But they [the older people] could die and wouldn’t pay the loan,” the product developers insisted. Doing the research and articulating the issue was the easy part — now the hard work begins of advocating on behalf of older people.

Similar attitudinal barriers exist in financial institutions for serving persons with disabilities. Let’s take stock: over one billion people around the world — 1 in 7 of us — have a disability and four-fifths live in developing countries like India. Despite this and the fact that many microfinance institutions (MFIs) claim to be dedicated to “serving the world’s financially excluded people,” less than 1 percent of their clients are persons with disabilities.

In India, disabled persons have limited or no access to formal credit and other financial products for education, housing, skills development, business, and such. In addition, insurance companies in India do not cover assistive technology like wheel chairs and hearing aids that disabled persons need to be mobile, avoid further injury to themselves, and work and live full lives. The gap between demand and supply is enormous, and this creates a dangerous hotbed for informal credit and loan sharks to exploit an already vulnerable and marginalized population, dragging them further into poverty.

Disabled persons and older people have similar physical challenges (mobility, visual, and hearing impairment) and misperceptions about their capabilities to work and run businesses. Therefore, helping to financially include one group will serve to make positive changes for the other. Whether it be through changing attitudes and perceptions or implementing universal design principles in their operations, financial institutions can better serve all clients with physical challenges by becoming disability inclusive and friendly.

Equitas_PWD_Dhanalakshmi

Dhanalakshmi was not born blind. She was badly burnt and lost her vision 23 years ago when her husband poured acid over her, her two sisters, and mother. Dhanalakshmi’s loan group has fully included her by using very simple accommodation measures like reciting the MFI pledge aloud and taking turns to assist her to attend the meeting.

Through financial inclusion of disabled persons, we see a compelling story of social inclusion can be seen at the community level. Leveraging the group-based model in microfinance, disabled persons, mostly women, receive community support and social acceptance from other group members. Dhanalakshmi, an Equitas client, exemplifies this.

Dhanalakshmi was not born blind. She was badly burnt and lost her vision 23 years ago when her husband poured acid over her, her two sisters, and mother. While her sisters recovered with minor injuries, got married, and have families of their own, Dhanalakshmi lost her vision and sustained major burns on the right-hand side. Constrained by her disability, she confined herself to her home for many years.

Four years ago, Dhanalakshmi joined Equitas as a member. She took out a small loan and started her garments business, buying clothes from the wholesaler and selling them door-to-door. Dhanalakshmi’s group has fully included her by using very simple accommodation measures like reciting the MFI pledge aloud and taking turns to assist her to attend the meeting. This has given her the confidence and the ability to support herself and her mother financially. Along with economic independence, she has also been socially accepted by people around her.

Group members often help support disabled persons in their businesses, as well. For example, they may purchase raw materials, sell/distribute products, collect and repay loans on behalf of the disabled client. This inclusion is creating role models by empowering disabled persons to be economically self-sufficient while also empowering communities to break down social stigma and attitudinal barriers on what a disabled person can and cannot do.

To help further financial inclusion for persons with disabilities, CFI at Accion’s Disability Financial Inclusion Program in India has provided trainings and resources to sensitize and equip microfinance institutions to serve this marginalized and underserved population, recognizing that globally less than 1 percent of persons with disabilities are served by microfinance. The program provides disability awareness and sensitization trainings, inclusion assessments, and recommendations to make operations and processes more disability inclusive and friendly.

In the past two and half years, the program has helped sensitized three microfinance partners (Equitas, ESAF, and Annapurna Microfinance) in three states (Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Orissa). These three MFIs have financially included more than 30,000 low-income disabled persons, including over 2000 visually impaired, a severely excluded disability segment. Last year, the program won an award for its innovation in promoting accessibility and universal design to “ensure a life of equality and dignity for disabled persons.”

This year, we are expanding to three more financial partners in four new Indian states (Karnataka, West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh). One partner organization has a network of 33 sub partners providing social and as well as financial support, spreading the seed of inclusion across India. We are also developing strategies to expand disability inclusion with our partners and other stakeholders through advocacy and awareness. We are facilitating partnerships between the financial industry and disability organizations in India, many of which provide livelihoods training, skills development, and other social supports to disabled clients. In sum, we are helping provide a strong ecosystem for sustainable financial inclusion for persons with disabilities.

We remain convinced of the value of including persons with disabilities and older people in financial services outreach. Indeed, financial inclusion is a valuable instrument to equip people with the tools they need to manage and grow their income. As we continue to pursue this goal — despite how challenging it can be at times — we eagerly look forward the day when all people who can use financial services have access to a broad range of quality financial tools.

E-Workshop Recap: Helping Clients to Prepare for their Old Age

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On June 9th, the Microcredit Summit Campaign co-hosted with the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) an E-Workshop focusing on financial inclusion for the elderly. This is part of their 2014 Campaign Commitment to bring greater attention to the issue of aging and financial services and to further support the inclusion of those with disabilities. HelpAge International and Micro Pension Foundation helped make it a great discussion about opportunities for organizations (specifically microfinance institutions) to help clients prepare for their old age. The conversation looked both at the supply and demand sides of financial inclusion to better understand what is happening in clients’ lives and how best to approach these issues.

Watch the session recording:

Review the panelists’ slides:

Recap of the E-Workshop

Sonja Kelly from CFI introduced the focus of the session:

“Financial services needs change throughout the lifecycle, and if a client of microfinance services reaches their old age without having developed a plan to meeting their expense needs, it will be too late. Almost all participants in our webinar reported that they knew someone who had inadequately prepared for their older age. This common issue is one that microfinance can help to address by developing longer term savings products and pensions either in-house or through partnerships.”

Eppu Mikkonen-Jeanneret, head of policy at HelpAge International, began the discussion introducing the shift in populations and subsequently labor markets, noting that there are currently about 800 million people who are over 60 around the world. In 15 years, there will be over 1.3 billion people over the age of 60, of which 60 percent will live in low- and middle-income countries.

The common perception is that the 60 percent in low- and middle-income countries either will not save for their old age or lack the capacity to do so. However, the Global Findex report, which looks at the demand side data of financial inclusion, shows otherwise. According to the report, almost 25 percent of all adults say they have saved for old age in the past year — though it is predominately happening in high-income OECD countries and in East Asia and the Pacific. “Around 40 percent of adults in these two regions reported saving for old age, a far greater share than the roughly 10 percent who reported doing so in all other regions” (The Global Findex Database 2014, page 47).

Eppu explained that 18 percent of the pyramid base reported having saved for old age and 60 percent of the top. Sonja Kelly (CFI) noted that the question now is whether they are doing so in safe and secure mechanisms.

Eppu  expanded on this issue following the session, saying,
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“The world is in the middle of demographic sea change; the global population is growing older. This is a result of hugely successful development. We are healthier and better educated, we have less children and we live longer. As a result, in just 15 years the population of 60 years and over will increase from 800m to 1.3b. Far from being a developed country trend, aging is actually fastest in the low and middle income countries. Where it took the European countries over 100 years to transit to an aging population, countries like Bangladesh will do this in just a few decades. In fact, 60 percent of the 1.3 billion people will live in the developing countries.

“We know that people in developing countries continue to work into old age even though the type of work may change. Many work in the informal sector and women especially carry on providing unpaid labour at home. Yet our thinking is locked in outdated associations with people in the 60s onwards as somehow inherently, homogeneously vulnerable. It’s time we embrace the change and take action. Financial inclusion of people across the life course, facilitating social pensions, linking pensions with other financial instruments, and working closely with older women and men will help us all to adjust to the new world.”

Parul Khanna, associate director of projects for Micro Pension Foundation, continued the conversation. She noted this:

“Globally, rapid advancements in technology, telecommunications, and banking outreach have had a powerful impact on the ability of governments to deliver targeted fiscal transfers to the poor, including pension benefits to the elderly. Simultaneously, technology and telecom are reshaping financial services access and delivery, especially among low income excluded households. Most developing countries have a large young workforce, a predominantly informal labour market with modest incomes and savings capacities, a huge pension coverage gap, low banking and formal finance penetration, and limited capacity for large scale fiscal transfers.”

Parul presented their Gift-a-Pension project, which provides micropensions to low-income domestic workers, and she called on participants and readers to take action:
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“Can we do something for informal workers around us…[those] who touch our lives every day? Our maids, drivers, security guards or our washerwomen? Or the guy who we buy our bread from every day? Or our barbers? That seems feasible, right?

“For example, it is possible for you to imagine going home today, and spending just a few minutes with your maid or driver to tell them about the importance of saving for old age. And then spending just 10 minutes on the internet to open their own pension account for them? If your answer is yes, then you have within you the power to gift 20 years of a dignified old age to your maid or driver. And if all did this, we could collectively, as a civil society, change the lives of 40 million domestic help forever. Which, incidentally, is more than the total population of Canada.

It took India 6 years to get 3 million low-income people to start a pension account. If each of us go home today and gift a pension to just 1 excluded person in our lives, we could reach from 3 million to 43 million by this weekend!  After all, just 10 minutes of your time can change 20 years of someone else’s life. You can be the change! Try now with Gift-a-Pension.


Thank you to all panelists for contributing to this important conversation about the importance of saving for old age and how organizations can simplify the process for their clients. We also wish to thank all participants who submitted thought-provoking questions and comments to help make the session interactive!

Related resources:

Film on the micro pension model

About Gift-A-Pension


CFI launched a Campaign Commitment in 2014! We invite you also to…

Get Inspired. Set a Goal. Make a Commitment.

Join the movement to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty.