Around the world, cash transfer programs are being implemented by governments in response to COVID-19. Pakistan introduced the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program, which requires mobile phones and national IDs to register. Using data from the 2018 Financial Inclusion Insights survey, we estimate large gender gaps in mobile phone ownership and national ID possession, leaving women are at risk of being disproportionately excluded from the program. To address this, the government should ensure women are more purposefully targeted, perhaps by reserving more slots for women or prioritizing women’s registrations.
As shown by the technical underpinnings of its Ehsaas emergency program, Pakistan has all of the necessary building blocks to roll out its digital payments system and expand access to mobile money. It should seize the opportunity.