Non-profit organisation Injaz Al-Arab has partnered with HSBC to unveil Saving for Good, an initiative to equip 1,950 low-income workers in the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Egypt with financial literacy skills.
The programme aims to improve the financial resilience of low-income workers during crises, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, by teaching them how to open bank accounts, budget and manage their savings.
“The initiative aims at upskilling low-income workers with financial literacy skills in the GCC and Egypt,” said Akef Aqrabawi, president and chief executive of Injaz Al-Arab.
“We know that small measures such as routine saving and prudent management of funds can help create a robust buffer during vulnerable times.”
Financial literacy skills have become increasingly important during the Covid-19 pandemic, including knowing about the importance of having a cash buffer of at least six to nine months' worth of expenses to protect against job loss or salary reduction.
According to a 2019 financial literacy survey by Visa, 43 per cent of respondents in the UAE aged between 16 and 24 admitted they were not ready to manage their own money. A separate Charles Schwab Financial Literacy Survey conducted last year found that 89 per cent of Americans agreed that a lack of financial education contributed to some of the biggest social issues, including poverty, lack of job opportunities, unemployment and wealth inequality.
Last year, the UAE's Authority of Social Contribution – Ma’an rolled out a new financial literacy programme that aims to educate Emiratis about smart money management. Ghaya (meaning goal in Arabic) is a three-month course that aims to educate and empower UAE citizens in Abu Dhabi on how to manage their finances and become financially independent.
The six-month Saving for Good programme will send between 80 to 100 HSBC volunteers to teach participants financial literacy skills.
It is hoped that at least 35 per cent of them will have opened savings accounts by the end of the course.
The participants have already been identified in the five countries through partnerships with employers.
The project will start next week, when Injaz chapters in the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Egypt begin training HSBC volunteers.
Participants in the programme will then begin their training, which includes six two-hour sessions, in September and October.
“Low-income individuals around the world and particularly in the Middle East can be highly vulnerable to social upheaval and economic shocks as many do not have safety nets,” Sabrin Rahman, managing director and head of sustainability for Europe and the Middle East at HSBC, said.
“With the added context of a global pandemic, it’s increasingly important that everyone irrespective of income level, has access to support and education that will strengthen their resilience to future shocks and stresses without compromising their own welfare and ability to take care of their families.”
A number of migrant workers in the GCC have been unable to return home and put on unpaid leave until further notice, and these outcomes can have varied consequences on their families, Dalia Ashhab, regional partnerships and development lead at Injaz Al-Arab, said.
“Saving for Good is a demand-driven programme that will provide low-income workers with self-development opportunities to improve their quality of life,” she added.