For displaced migrants, running a small or medium enterprise may be a promising opportunity to attain a stable livelihood in their host country. However, they may need access to finance and business training to successfully run an enterprise. In Peru, researchers are delivering cash grants and business training to Venezuelan migrant entrepreneurs and assessing the impacts on the short- and long-term success of enterprises as well as migrants’ food security, health, and income.

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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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Evidence suggests that microloans often fail to improve outcomes for borrowers, but providing micro-enterprises with larger loans may be more effective in helping them grow, while increasing business opportunities for microfinance lenders and reducing poverty.

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Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) represent an important source of employment in many low- and middle-income countries. Therefore, finding the most effective measures to help SMEs respond and recover when faced with economic crises, like those triggered by COVID-19, is of high policy relevance.

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The typical firm in most low- and middle-income countries consists of a self-employed entrepreneur with no paid workers, raising questions about whether labor market barriers prevent firm owners from hiring additional labor. In Sri Lanka, researchers provided wage subsidies to randomly chosen microenterprises to determine if they would hire more workers, and whether the additional labor would benefit such firms.

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In low- and middle-income countries, women-owned enterprises are generally small in scale and provide limited income. Researchers evaluated the impact of a business training intervention, alone and combined with a cash grant, on the income and other business outcomes for self-employed women in Sri Lanka.

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Improving the productivity and export competitiveness of small and medium enterprises (SME) is a common path governments take to promote economic development. In Colombia, researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation to test whether improving management practices leads companies to export more, diversify what they are exporting and where they are exporting, and increase export productivity in the context of the “Colombia Productiva” program. 

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Access to quality jobs is a pressing concern in sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya, researchers partnered with the technology company Sama and Innovations for Poverty Action to conduct a randomized evaluation of Sama’s training and job referral programs. The training program provided youth from underserved communities with digital training, while the referral program provided trainees with a job referral to work with the company.

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Women are commonly underrepresented in the formal sector in low- and middle-income countries. Researchers introduced a recruitment drive for a firm in Malawi to evaluate the impact of referral-based hiring on women’s employment at the company. Results from the randomized evaluation indicate that men systematically referred fewer women, and women’s referral of other qualified women was not enough to offset men’s behavior.

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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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 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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What’s the impact of digital credit on micro, small and medium enterprises? Are there differential effects on enterprises owned by women? If so, why?

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A cocoa farmer in Sierra Leone

The amount of competition between intermediaries in agricultural markets has a large role in determining prices but can be very hard to measure. Where formal financial institutions are absent, intermediary traders often serve as a substitute source of credit for farmers.

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More than 60 percent of global workers are employed in the informal sector, facing more challenges and risks than their formal sector counterparts. While governments and organizations have implemented programs to encourage formalization, progress is slower than hoped in Colombia. Researchers studied whether access to information promoted formalization in a low-income community.

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Recent evidence has pointed to the importance of socio-emotional skills development for improving business outcomes and for helping to close the gender gap between male- and female-owned small businesses.

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