The More the Merrier? What Happens When More People Use Financial Services

By Ratna Sahay, Martin Cihak, Papa N’Diaye, Adolfo Barajas, and Srobona Mitra

(Version in FrançaisEspañolعربي)

A growing number of policymakers see financial inclusion—greater access to financial services throughout a country’s population—as a way to promote and make economic development work for society. More than 60 countries have adopted national financial inclusion targets and strategies. Opening bank accounts for all in India and encouraging mobile payments platforms in Peru are just two examples. Evidence for individuals and firms suggests that greater access to financial services indeed makes a difference in investment, food security, health outcomes, and other aspects of daily life. Our study looks at the benefits to the economy as a whole.

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Foreign Help Wanted: Easing Japan’s Labor Shortages

By Giovanni Ganelli and Naoko Miake

(Version in 日本語)

Take a walk in Tokyo, and you will see the sign スタッフ募集中, or “Staff Wanted”, outside many restaurants and convenience stores. These businesses often find it impossible to recruit the workers they need. According to recent statistics, for each job seeker in Japan applying to work as a waiter, there are more than three available positions. Home helpers and long-term caregivers are equally in demand. If you want to work as a security guard, you can choose from around five openings, and for some positions in the construction business the job-to-applicant ratio is over six.

Japan’s labor shortages are the result of both a shrinking population—which limits the overall pool of workers—and skill mismatches. The reduced supply of labor is one of the factors bringing down medium-term potential growth, which the International Monetary Fund estimates at just 0.6 percent. Labor market shortages are also bad for short-term growth, because they reduce the effectiveness of the monetary and fiscal stimulus that the authorities are using to try to boost demand.

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Reigniting Strong and Inclusive Growth in Brazil

2014MDNEW_04By Christine Lagarde 

(Versions in Español and Português)

Brazil has made remarkable social gains over the past decade and a half. Millions of families have been lifted from extreme poverty, and access to education and health has improved thanks to a series of well-targeted social interventions, such as Bolsa Familia, the conditional cash transfer program. I was privileged to see some of this tangible progress during my visit to Brazil last week.

I met with Tereza Campello, Brazil’s Minister for Social Development, who explained the network of social programs in the country, and guided us on a visit to Complexo do Alemão—a neighborhood and a group of favelas in the North Zone of Rio de Janeiro. We got there after a ride on the recently built cable car, which links several neighborhoods on the hills to the North Zone. This is a great example of infrastructure that has contributed immensely to improving the economic opportunities of people, who now have a quick way to move around and connect to the larger city. The stations themselves are also focal points of the efforts aimed at improving the daily lives of the people of Rio de Janeiro, since they house important services such as the youth center, a social assistance center, a public library, a training center for micro-entrepreneurs, and even a small branch of the bank that distributes the Bolsa Familia monthly grants.

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Spring Meetings Redux!

DSC_7906By Sabina Bhatia

Washington is at its best in the spring. Green shoots pop out, daffodils and magnolias are in full bloom and the cherry blossoms cast a pink halo over the city. After a long, cold winter, there is hope everywhere.

And so it was with the 2015 Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank. Hope was in the air—would the global economy avoid the “new mediocre” from becoming the “new reality?” Would Greece reach agreement with its creditors? Would there be progress on IMF governance reform?

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What Advanced Economies Can Do to Rise Above the “New Mediocre”

By Era Dabla-Norris, Vikram Haksar, and Kalpana Kochhar

Global growth remains anemic more than five years after the global financial crisis. If nothing is done, the prospect of settling into a “new mediocre” will become reality, especially in advanced economies.

In many advanced economies, accommodative monetary policies, growth-friendly fiscal frameworks, and efforts to tackle private debt overhang and improve tax revenues and compliance are essential to lift economic growth in the short term.

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Seizing India’s Moment

By iMFdirect

As many countries around the world are grappling with low growth, India has been marching in the opposite direction.  The IMF’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde gave a speech at Lady Sri Ram College in New Delhi to talk about the global economy, India’s economy, and how quality of growth can benefit women, the poor, and the youth of India.

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Fair Play—Equal Laws for Equal Working Opportunity for Women

2014MDNEW_04By Christine Lagarde 

(Versions in 中文, Français, 日本語Русскийعربي and Español)

Leveling the legal playing field for women holds real promise for the world—in both human and economic terms. Unfortunately, that promise remains largely ignored and its potential untapped. In too many countries, too many legal restrictions conspire against women to be economically active—to work.

What can be done to remove these barriers?  A new study done by IMF economists seeks to answer that question.

The bottom line? It’s about a fair, level playing field.

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