MICROFINANCE PUBLICATION ROUND-UP: Financial Literacy, Gender Disparity in the Solomon Islands; Savings Groups’ Impact in Ghana, Malawi, Uganda; Financial Inclusion Survey in Vanuatu

“Case Study: SolTuna – Tuna Processing, Solomon Islands;” published by the International Finance Corporation; September 2016; 20 pages; available at:

This case study investigates the connections between financial literacy and the reduction of absenteeism and other problems at SolTuna, a tuna processing plant in the Solomon Islands. Many of the workers at SolTuna have low levels of literacy and numeracy and have not held a formal job previously. The reasons cited for staff absenteeism and resignations include lack of childcare, limited access to health facilities and gender-based violence. About 64 percent of women in the country aged 15 to 49 are victims of physical or sexual abuse. The rate is lower, however, among women with jobs, so decreasing resignations from SolTuna may reduce the rate at which women are victimized.

To address high rates of absenteeism and resignation, SolTuna partnered with the World Bank to provide employees with training in financial literacy. Thirty-one percent of the participating workers reported that they had money left at the end of the month, up from 14 percent before the training. SolTuna also brought in staff of Papua New Guinea-based Bank South Pacific to help workers establish deposit accounts to protect their earnings from others – often the men in their lives.

Although about two thirds of the company’s employees are women, certain jobs were held disproportionately by men. As part of the program, 10 female workers were trained to become forklift drivers. In addition, measures were taken to improve worker-management communication.

Before the program, during the first five months of 2015, staff were absent at a rate of 32 percent. That rate fell to 18 percent during the same period of 2016. As a result, SolTuna plans to enroll more workers in financial-literacy courses, hoping to reduce absenteeism further and increase job loyalty.

“Impact of Savings Groups on the Lives of the Poor;” by Dean Karlan, Beniamino Savonitto, Bram Thuysbaert and Christopher Udry; published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America; February 10, 2017; 6 pages; available at:

Based on an analysis of savings-led microfinance programs in rural Ghana, Malawi and Uganda, the authors conclude that these programs help improve household businesses and empower women. However, they find no evidence that people increased consumption as a result of participating.

Compared to the control group, however, participants did fare better in times of damaging rains. Participating households also saved 35 percent (USD 14) more than they had previously. Female members of these groups accessed credit more often, with 42 percent of women securing a loan during one year compared to 31 percent in the control group.

“Financial Services Demand Side Survey Vanuatu,” published by the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme, 2016, 52 pages, available at:

This study examines financial inclusion on the island nation of Vanuatu based on a survey conducted in June 2016. Almost one third of the people surveyed are financially excluded. Compared to those in other industries, agricultural workers rely more on cash and are less likely to use formal financial services. This is regardless of income level; almost a quarter of the wealthiest agricultural workers do not have a bank account. One cause of this may be that these workers tend to live further from urban areas.

Workers in all sectors in Vanuatu use informal services such as saving clubs and borrowing from employers, family, shopkeepers and moneylenders. Among those with formal bank accounts, 17 percent had not used their accounts in the past 12 months. The most common purpose for savings is education, and housing is the main reason for borrowing. Another finding is that although women are less likely to own a bank account than men, women use their accounts more often.

By Sascha Strobl, Research Associate

Sources and Additional Resources:

[1] Financial Literacy Training, Domestic Violence in the Solomon Islands

[2] Savings groups boost inclusion, empowerment among rural poor in 3-countries

[3] One-third of Adults in Vanuatu Are Financially Excluded

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