Being able to prove who you are matters. Identification is a right, an instrument of protection, and a gateway to access services, benefits, and opportunities.  Yet, many people around the world —particularly those living in lower-income countries and members of marginalized and vulnerable groups— do not have official identification to prove who they are. To tackle this challenge, it is important for the global community to gain a clearer view of who does and does not have an official ID. Since 2016, ID4D has produced global ID coverage estimates and data to help fill this gap. 

The latest edition of the ID4D Global Dataset draws on new data sources such as representative survey-based data on ID ownership from the ID4D-Findex survey, an expanded set of administrative data provided by ID authorities, and associated improvements to the methodology for calculating the global ID coverage gap. The updated estimate indicates that approximately 850 million people around the world do not have an official ID.



Globally, an estimated 850 million people do not have official identification—primarily people in lower-income countries and marginalized and vulnerable groups.  

  • Most people without an ID live in low-income (LIC) and lower-middle-income (LMIC) economies in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.  
  • Over half the population without official identification are children whose births have not been registered.  
  • Women living in LICs are 8 percentage points less likely to have an ID than men, although some improvements have been made in the gender gap in some economies over the last four years. 
  • The gap in ID ownership is also significant for other vulnerable groups: adults in LICs are less likely to have an ID when they are below 25 years old, have only primary schooling or less, are out of the workforce, are in the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution, and live in rural areas.

Multiple barriers contribute to difficulties obtaining an ID.  

  • Among adults living in low-income countries (LICs), the most frequently cited reason for not having an ID was documentary requirements (46 percent), followed by distance to registration points (44 percent), and high cost (40 percent).
  • Such issues are compounded when cumbersome registration procedures require multiple visits, either by design or due to problems with understaffing or absenteeism, long-wait times, unclear policies or procedures, or technical failures.  

Not having an ID can negatively impact people’s access to services and fulfillment of rights.   

  • Globally, around 1 in 3 of those without an ID reported difficulty using financial services, receiving financial support from the government, applying for a job, and voting in elections.  
  • Nearly 40 percent of those without an ID reported difficulties obtaining a SIM card or mobile phone service, while around 25 percent had problems receiving medical care.

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Forward Look


Although we estimate that around 850 million people do not have the official identification they need, that is not to say that the other 7 billion people around the globe have good ID (inclusive, trusted, verifiable and fit-for-purpose), or that ID practitioners should be motivated by ID and civil registration (CR) system coverage alone. The ID4D Global Coverage Estimate is part of a broader body of analytic work and a series drawing on new data collected for the 2021 ID4D Global Dataset by the World Bank’s ID4D Initiative that aims to provide a better understanding of key features of ID and civil registration systems across the world today.  

Stay tuned for forthcoming papers (to be released in 2023) that will offer a deeper dive into broader set of system features related to accessibility, digital capabilities, and links to service delivery, and the publication of a new set of associated data.


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Principles on Identification

Ensuring universal access to identification, from birth to death, is Principle #1. To explore all, visit: https://www.idprinciples.org/.


850 million people globally don’t have ID—why this matters and what we can do about it

Imagine not being able to prove who you are—no birth certificate, no passport, no driver’s license or national ID. 

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Beyond Coverage

Explore ID4D’s research and publications on improving accessibility, data protection, the responsible use of digital technology and much more.

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