Empowering Poor Urban Women in Bangladesh through Digital Financial Services: Does Wage Payment via Mobile Money translate into Economic Empowerment?


In developing economies, like Bangladesh, digital financial services (DFS) have created opportunities for financial inclusion for those who previously lacked access to formal financial services. Concurrently, opportunities for women’s participation in paid work have expanded in Bangladesh due to growth in the readymade garment industry and the service sector. Female domestic workers constitute a sizeable fraction of urban women in paid work.Most lack formal employment contracts, have limited trade union representation and limited financial bargaining power at home. However, the majority of these women have access to a mobile phone and, thus, can potentially access DFS. 


Working with HelloTask, a gig economy platform that connects female domestic workers to short-term opportunities in Dhaka, the research team will evaluate the role of DFS training and digital wage payments on women’s economic empowerment (WEE). The first treatment arm will be offered training on the use of DFS as well as wage payment via a mobile money account. The second treatment arm will be offered the same training but will alternatively receive their wages in cash. A control group will receive wages in cash and will not be offered the DFS training. Evaluation will be based on data collected through baseline and endline surveys and administrative data from HelloTask and bKash (DFS partner) to explore patterns of DFS usage.

Proposed impact

This study seeks to add to the growing body of knowledge on the causal mechanisms between DFS and WEE by exploring the role of digital payments on female labor force participation. Moreover, this study seeks to explore the impact of digital payments made to domestic workers on women’s mental financial accounting, control over finances due to increased privacy, and household expenditures as a result of increased labor force participation and greater control over finances.

Photo courtesy of HelloTask

1Smertnik, H. & Bailur, S. (2019). Bangladesh: Domestic workers and ID. Retrieved from


Associated Institute: University of Kent, Canterbury

Associated Investigators: Zaki Wahhaj, University of Kent; Maliha Rahanaz, University of Kent & BRAC University

Country: Bangladesh

Implementation Partners: HelloTask, Data Analysis and Technical Assistance (DATA)

WEE-DiFine thematic areas: access to finance; transaction costs; privacy