Economic Development


Approximately 2.4 billion people live on less than US$2 a day. Above 20% of people in the developing world live on or below US$1.25 a day.* So, even if they are entrepreneurial, banks refuse to grant loans due to their lack of collateral or credit history.

The world’s poorest citizens – those who most desperately need more income – are typically excluded from economic opportunities because of the:

  • Lack of education, business acumen and skills
  • Lack of job opportunities
  • Lack of capital
  • Inability to access markets
  • Lack access to basic financial services

Societal challenges persist as well, such as:

  • Weak institutions and poor infrastructure
  • Millions of poor do not own or have rights to the land they live and work on

Women are the most affected, as they are not paid as much as men and are often discriminated against. Gender norms often relegate women to household roles and exclude them from decision-making on household expenditure.

Moreover, 80% of female workers in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia are considered to be in unsafe and vulnerable employment.** These figures highlight the need to emancipate women, by ensuring they have quality education and fair rights in employment. After all, research has shown that when women earn income, they invest a substantial portion into their families.

However, though poverty appears insurmountable, there are proven strategies that curb the issue, empowering people to better provide for themselves and their families.

*World Bank Sees Progress Against Extreme Poverty, But Flags Vulnerabilities, 2012
** UN Women, 2014

Saven Vong, 49, used to force her 14-year-old son to work as a construction worker, to help out with the family’s meagre income. She did not think that there was anything wrong with that. Today, she is a protection committee member and also a self-help group leader in her village.

Find out what happened to Saven to cause this positive transformation.

View video “The Fish Farmer”

Microfinance provides the economic engine to enable the world’s poorest communities to turn business ideas and opportunities into successful businesses. These relatively small sums provide start-up capital and funding for growth. Microfinance services improve children’s health and education, establishing the foundation to build a promising future. Poor women will also be empowered to create real and lasting change with the training and support we provide.

Countries where we implement microfinance schemes include Vietnam, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.


Three types of microfinance


Small sums of money, often just a few hundred dollars, are lent to people with no measurable credit history, assets to secure the loans or access to mainstream financial providers. After repayment, funds are recycled to other borrowers.


Savings programmes enable those without reliable income to have savings should the need arise. Accounts ensure security of funds and pay a small bonus on the savings.


Basic health insurance helps provide funds when a family member is sick or worse, dies.

Microfinance institutions (MFIs), initiated by World Vision in 1993, essentially boosted the economic status of poor entrepreneurs through community-managed savings and loans groups.

Loans provided to support clients are typically repaid within six to nine months. Repayment rates are normally in excess of 98% and loans repaid are recycled and used to support others; same money, same community. This way of working ensures families can support themselves with successful economic activity long after World Vision has moved to support another community.

85% of these clients are women, who are empowered through the program to contribute more to their society. They use approximately 92 cents of each dollar of extra income to improve their children’s health and education.


Success Story

Vu Thi Tham from Tien Lu ADP in Vietnam was the sole provider of her 4 year old son. Both of them lived on only 700,000 VND (~S$31) and it was difficult for them to get by. To make ends meet, she sought for another source of income and decided to raise a sow. However, she could not get a loan as she did not have any assets and the local moneylenders charge very high interest. When World Vision launched the micro-finance scheme, Tham applied and received 7 million dong which helped her buy a small cow.

Filled with hope and determined to provide for her son, she shared: “With the loan from World Vision, I am motivated to work harder. I am so thankful to World Vision who gave me a new business opportunity and allowed me to better care for my son. I hope to repay it within one and a half years.”