Engaging Women in Mobile Money Markets


Bangladesh has low levels of female labour force participation (35 per cent) and gender discrimination limits female labourers to specific sectors of the economy, such as the garment industry. These jobs offer little to no flexibility for women who often have daily, unpaid domestic obligations to their families or homes. While mobile money markets are on the rise in Bangladesh, their use among women lags behind that of men and only a small share of mobile money agents are women. Employment as mobile money agents could provide flexible jobs for women and could make digital financial services (DFS) more accessible to female customers, who may be reluctant to transact with male agents. As such, identifying the role of female mobile money agents can potentially reveal opportunities for women to achieve financial independence and promote changing gender norms surrounding women’s labour.


The main objective of this project is to measure the effects of employing women as mobile money agents on (i) their skill accumulation and autonomy, (ii) the use of mobile money by women, (iii) the economic outcomes of the small businesses that offer mobile money services, and (iv) the business owners’ and customers’ attitudes towards female labour force participation. 

To answer these questions, the research team collaborates with bKash, the largest provider of mobile banking in Bangladesh. They will implement a randomized controlled trial (RCT) in which businesses receive a subsidy to hire an employee to manage mobile money transactions. The stores will be randomly allocated to one of three groups: control, male employee, or female employee. To select an employee, the business owners have to provide the names of four potential employees – two men and two women – from which the employee will be randomly selected. The primary data collection method will be baseline and endline surveys completed by the potential employees identified by the businesses, their spouses, the business owners, the owners of neighbouring businesses and a random selection of customers. This information will be complemented by administrative data on mobile money use.

Proposed impact:

Previous studies have demonstrated that gendered social norms limit women’s labour force participation. However, there is limited evidence on how increasing women’s employment opportunities might change societal attitudes towards her place in domestic and economic settings. This study offers a unique opportunity to identify how experiencing a woman at work might alter her communities’ attitudes toward the participation of women in the formal labour force. Additionally, the collaboration with bKash will contribute to the evidence base concerning how access to mobile money impacts women.


Associated Institute: Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA)

Associated Investigators: Jessica Goldberg, University of Maryland; Xavier Giné, World Bank Group; Lore Vandewalle, Geneva Graduate Institute; Anusuya Sivaram, University of Maryland; Carlotta Nani, Geneva Graduate Institute 

Country: Bangladesh

Implementation Partners: bKash

WEE-DiFine thematic areas: access to financial services, behavioral influence