A major bank boss has lamented revelations that nearly three million Australians are excluded from affordable financial services, calling the result "simply unacceptable".
A joint study by NAB and The Centre for Social Impact (CSI) has found 17.2% of Australians are either fully or severely excluded from affordable or appropriate financial services such as moderate amounts of credit, general insurance or even a simple transaction account.
The result is up from 15.6% in 2010, and NAB chief executive Cameron Clyne said the results were alarming.
"In a country with a banking system and economy as strong as ours, it is simply unacceptable that nearly three million Australians are financially excluded from affordable financial services," he said.
Clyne argued that combating financial exclusion would benefit the overall economy.
"Financial inclusion has an obvious and invaluable social impact, but there is also a very strong economic case, like greater workforce participation, reduced welfare and health costs that validate and confirm its importance," Clyne said.
The report has claimed that cost serves as the primary barrier to accessing financial services. According to the study, basic financial services carry an annual cost of $1,794, effectively excluding many lower-income Australians. Communication difficulties and the lack of proper identification documents also served as a barrier.
Among the financially excluded, many are seeking services merely to pay for necessities, the report revealed.
"The report also shows that the list of current credit needs of consumers facing financial exclusion is dominated by regular expenses, such as food, rent and utility payments," CSI lead researcher Chris Connolly said.