(Discours disponible uniquement en anglais)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be here with you this morning to explore new ways of developing financial literacy and education, and to promote financial inclusion for children and youth.
There was an initial exchange of views at the First Child and Youth International Summit last April, at which participants from all over the world met. They committed to creating regional platforms and action plans to undertake financial activities for young people at both national and international levels.
Quite rightly. We should not focus only on developing countries. We can still do more in this field in the European region. I commend the regional stakeholders, from across Europe, who have gathered here today for this first regional meeting on the issue. Information and best practices will be exchanged. These will lead to recommendations on financial access and financial literacy, which will benefit not only children and young people, but adults too.
Preparing today's youth for tomorrow's responsibilities is a legitimate concern in European countries. In our affluent society, with all its opportunities to spend, it is more important than ever to teach young people how to be socially responsible and to acquire financial competency. It is well known that nowadays children and youth spend - in many ways - like adults. But they don't always realise the consequences of their spending choices. So we should help them to develop the ability to make critical financial decisions. Knowing how to manage money, to use credit effectively, save, invest, spend and make good financial choices, all requires sound financial understanding.
Young people need to know how to use their money effectively. But competence in managing money doesn't come naturally to everyone. Parents can be a first-hand resource, of course. Unfortunately though, not all parents have the ability or willingness to provide their children with financial knowhow. Peer education and social networks could play an increasing role, as children and youngsters frequently use these channels to exchange information and experiences. Schools, however, can definitely play a major, constructive role in teaching the appropriate financial skills.
If children's financial education starts early, their money management skills will improve over time, so that they can enjoy a higher standard of living in the long term. Financial literacy leads to positive financial behaviour and ultimately to empowerment. It can break the cycle of poverty, which is so often associated with those who have no access to financial services - the so-called unbanked. And here I would also like to mention the use of microfinance and its leverage effects.
Financial service providers, however, should make sure that they act in the general interest of their young users.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Few children understand financial matters well. It is therefore essential to focus on this issue. First of all, to protect them from their own enthusiasm and frequent lack of knowledge. Secondly, to avoid the kind of exploitation that could endanger their future.
More than ever before, in these times of economic crisis, people need to be cautious with their personal finances. Future employment, job security, income stability and welfare are all direct concerns for future generations.
Young people should be able to realise their dreams. You can help them to build a financially safe future for themselves. May your reflections during these two days contribute towards this goal.