• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Navigation
  • Financial inclusion
    What is financial inclusion?


    Microfinance is a set of tools, approaches and strategies addressing the needs of people who are financially excluded. Microfinance offers low-income people access to basic financial services such as small loans, savings, insurance, bill-payment and money-transfer facilities, superannuation and financial advice. Microfinance seeks to provide fair, safe and ethical financial services for people who, because of their circumstances, are not able to access mainstream financial services. Its purpose is to alleviate and eliminate poverty. Therefore exploitative, predatory or unfair lenders are not included in the definition. 

    Financial exclusion is a process whereby a person, group or organisation lacks or is denied access to affordable, appropriate and fair financial products and services, with the result that their ability to participate fully in social and economic activities is reduced, financial hardship is increased, and poverty (measured by income, debt and assets) is exacerbated. Addressing financial exclusion is not merely about service provision; it also includes capacity building and structural change.

    Sustainability is about ensuring the continuity of services and programs that make a positive and ongoing contribution to addressing financial exclusion. It considers both financial and social objectives.

    See Burkett & Sheehan 2009  for more details

    Financial inclusion programs

    Product Need
    Personal credit Access to small amounts of credit (under $5,000) at fair and affordable rates, and with non-exploitative conditions.
    Micro-business credit Small amounts of start-up and growth capital with minimal or no security requirements.
    Saving Incentives for starting and maintaining small savings plans.
    Insurance Affordable small insurance policies to cover essentials (such as home contents), with payment arrangements that suit people living on low incomes.
    Remittance Affordable, safe and reliable options for remitting funds and depositing these funds in poorer overseas countries.
    Superannuation Mechanisms for ensuring opportunities for contributions (particularly employer contributions) for people living on low incomes who are employed casually.
    Financial advice Financial counseling for crisis management, but also advice regarding financial management on low incomes.
    Bill payment Mechanisms whereby people living on low incomes can breakdown bill payment into installments and access options such as direct deductions from Centrelink or split accounts at banks.

    Lessons from financial inclusion overseas

    International websites

    Much has been accomplished by organisations working overseas. The following websites offer further information on programs and work in other countries.