Understanding How Digitally Addressing Liquidity Constraints Through Salary Advances Impacts Women’s Bargaining Power and Economic Empowerment


A gaping digital divide exists between men and women in the developing world. In 2015, globally 200 million fewer women than men owned a mobile phone and 250 million fewer women than men were internet-literate. As a result, as financial services have grown increasingly digital, women have been particularly left behind. Social and cultural constraints, such as greater rates of illiteracy and social seclusion, contribute to women’s comparatively low adoption of digital financial services.1 Yet multiple studies demonstrate the positive impacts of financial inclusion on women’s lives.2,3 In this context, the research team has developed an innovative way to circumvent cultural constraints and provide women with access to liquidity and thereby the benefits that financial access provides.


This study explores the impact of advanced digital pay on women’s economic empowerment. The research team hypothesizes that access to capital when required can enhance women’s ability to address household-level shocks, as well as increase women’s intra-household bargaining power, workplace performance, and sense of well-being. The study will take place in a single garment factory in Bangalore operated by Shahi Industries. A sample of 900 participants will be divided into a treatment and a control group. 450 participants will be randomly assigned to have the option to receive a digital salary advance, coupled with training on use of this platform. The 450 control participants will be paid via standard processes, whereby salaries will be transferred into workers’ bank accounts at the end of the month. In addition to measuring impacts on household-level bargaining power, the study will assess whether the intervention reduces the stress levels of women, improves their work efficiency and confidence levels, and reduces their dependence on informal debt. 

Proposed impact

Results will contribute to the literature on differential access to credit based on gender. Additionally, results will inform the empirical record with regard to the impact of financial autonomy on the bargaining power and decision making of women in the household. Positive impacts will result in Shahi Exports scaling up this intervention across its factories nationwide. Additionally, due to the competitive nature of the garment-factory industry, positive impacts could have implications for factory operations across South Asia. Finally, researchers hope that the pilot will inform a larger-scale study in the future. 


Mariscal, J., Mayne, G., Aneja, U., & Sorgner, A. (2019). Bridging the gender digital gap. Economics, 13(1). 

Hendriks, S. (2019). The role of financial inclusion in driving women’s economic empowerment. Development in Practice, 29(8), 1029–1038

Karlan, D., Kendall, J., Mann, R., Pande, R., Suri, T., & Zinman, J. (2016). Research and impacts of digital financial services. National Bureau of Economic Research.


Associated Institute: Good Business Lab

Associated Investigators: Achyuta Adhvaryu, University of Michigan; Anant Nyshadham, University of Michigan; Smit Gade, Good Business Lab; Aditya Jagati, Busara Center for Behavioral Economics; & Pooja Gupta, Busara Center for Behavioral Economics

Country: India

Implementation Partners: Busara Center for Behavioral Economics

WEE-DiFine thematic areas: access to finance; bargaining power