Insights & Analyses

1 billion people still lack legal identification, with women and poor at greatest disadvantage

April 26, 2018

The latest data from the World Bank Group’s 2018 ID4D Global Dataset has found that one billion people worldwide lack legal proof of identity, potentially blocking them from access to financial services and the larger connected world.

Of those who lack proper identification, the vast majority — 81 percent — live in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the newly released data reveals.

Those without identification are also extremely likely to be poor, as 63 percent live in lower-middle income economies, and another 28 percent are in low-income economies.

Women are also more likely to be affected by lack of ID than men, the study found. Nowhere is that more evident than in low-income countries, where over 45 percent of women lack a foundational form of identification, compared to 30 percent of men.

ID4D noted that systemic barriers for identification, particularly women, exist in many poorer countries, particularly Afghanistan and Pakistan. Notably, many countries charge high fees for proper identification, blocking out those without proper funds.

OWI Take: As we continue to struggle with identification issues in the modern world, it’s important to remember that the lack of proper identity is, for a huge swath of the world’s population, an even greater and more fundamental challenge. For these people, access to basic systems and services is impossible, presenting even higher barriers to a better life. And in the case of vaccinations and medicine, proper identification for the world’s 1 billion unidentified could be a matter of life and death.