Globally, women have experienced the socioeconomic impacts from COVID-19 particularly severely. The pandemic led to a dramatic short-term downturn in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment (RMG) sector, an industry in which women predominate. Researchers worked with IPA to survey RMG workers during the first year of the pandemic, collecting short- to medium-term data on the crisis’ impacts on workers’ livelihoods.

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The price of digital financial services (DFS) can be an obstacle to its adoption and regular use, particularly in low-and-middle income countries (LMIC). In Bangladesh Innovations for Poverty Actions (IPA) is developing a transaction cost index (TCI) to measure the monetary and non-monetary costs of conducting DFS transactions. IPA researchers will test four methods to determine the most cost-effective way to accurately calculate real transaction costs.

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How do inexperienced consumers learn to use a new financial technology? Consumer financial products, such as bank and mobile money accounts, can significantly increase financial inclusion, yet inexperienced consumers of new financial technologies are often vulnerable to exploitation by financial intermediaries. Can an electronic bank or mobile money payroll system increase account usage and savings, while reducing consumer risks?

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Young people living in urban slums face several challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying lockouts. As part of the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) study, researchers conducted three rounds of surveys among 780 adolescent boys and girls in three urban slums in Bangladesh. The results showed an increased involvement of out-of-school adolescents in paid work during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those from poor households.

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The extended closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic is having a negative impact on adolescents. As part of the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) study, researchers conducted a panel survey (one round  pre-pandemic, and two rounds during) among 2,000 students in Bangladesh to understand the differentiated impact of the pandemic on male and female adolescents.

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A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that face masks can protect against COVID-19. There is, however, limited rigorous evidence on the extent to which mask-wearing is effective in reducing COVID-19 in a real-life situation with imperfect and inconsistent mask use.

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In recent years, the ready-made garment sector in Bangladesh has experienced rapid growth. Overall, most of these new jobs have gone to women, yet few women have been hired as managers. Researchers randomly assigned co-supervisors to production lines to evaluate the impact of exposing garment factory workers and supervisors to women managers on factory productivity, supervisor retention, and attitudes toward women.
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Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are severely limited by regulations outlawing formal work, in addition to movement restrictions that limit access to nearby informal work, potentially contributing to poor mental health outcomes. This randomized evaluation examined the effects of employment on psychosocial wellbeing and found that employment delivers significant psychosocial wellbeing, particularly among men.

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 Online job search platforms are increasingly common. However, there are still open questions on how to best design these platforms to improve job matching and employment. Researchers in Bangladesh partnered with a large online job search platform to evaluate the impact of increasing application time costs on applicant quality and employee retention.

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In rural Bangladesh, women living in extreme poverty face barriers to engaging in work that provides higher returns, such as livestock rearing. Researchers partnered with BRAC to evaluate their multi-faceted livelihood program known as the Graduation Approach, which aims to encourage occupational change among these women.

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A large and growing segment of the Bangladesh population are digital financial service users, yet little has been done to investigate the range and prevalence of consumer protection issues that occur with these services such as fraud, hidden fees, and ineffective complaints mechanisms. In other markets, evidence suggests some customer segments, for example women and lower income customers, may experience these issues at higher rates than the population at large.

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Digitizing government cash transfers may boost usage of formal financial services among vulnerable households and women’s economic empowerment, but poor delivery of these digital transfers could increase the risks that beneficiaries face. In this project, IPA is partnering with Aspire to Innovate (a2i), in Bangladesh to understand how beneficiaries, particularly women, are notified of and receive their payments.

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Rural to urban migration is an integral component of economic development, but there is limited evidence on the decision to migrate and little evidence on how emigration affects rural labor markets.

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Forcibly displaced people often live in overcrowded camps in countries with struggling health systems, making this population highly vulnerable to COVID‐19. In the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh, where large numbers of Rohingya refugees have settled in recent years after fleeing Myanmar, researchers worked with IPA to administer a phone-based survey to households in both refugee camps and nearby host communities.

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Cox's Bazar intervention

Despite the scale and persistence of forced displacement, little data and evidence exists to inform long-term policy responses. The arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees in southern Bangladesh beginning in August 2017 poses a significant policy question: how to integrate refugees into the host economy while simultaneously maintaining or improving the wellbeing of nationals.

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