We will use a randomized controlled trial designed to measure the effects of employing women as mobile money agents on the economic outcomes of the small businesses that offer mobile money services and on business owners' and customers' attitudes towards women's labor force participation; on the effects of working on the incomes, skill accumulation, and autonomy of women compared to men; and whether the availability of female mobile money agents increases the use of mobile money by female customers.
On the supply side, we partner with bKash, the largest provider of mobile money in Bangladesh. We interview owners of shops that offer mobile money and elicit a list of two men and two women that each owner would be willing to take on as an employee, in return for a temporary wage subsidy. We then randomly choose whether the shop will receive no subsidy, a subsidy for hiring a randomly-selected man from the list, or a subsidy for hiring a randomly-selected woman from the list. This generates variation at the business level in whether the business adds a new female or new male employee, and variation at the potential employee level at whether individuals receive job offers.
On the demand side, we partner with BRAC, whose microfinance program has nearly five million female borrowers. BRAC is interested in transitioning the repayment of microloans from weekly cash payments to weekly mobile money payments. However, as potential barriers the program staff have identified lack of access to mobile money agents and discomfort among female clients transacting with male agents. We will identify BRAC branches whose catchment areas include borrowing groups near bKash agents participating in the hiring experiment. We will randomly assign some of those branches to switch to mobile payments and others to continue to use cash. The intersection of the supply and demand side interventions allows us to test for complementarities: does access to female agents increase repayment and customer retention among microfinance borrowers who are assigned to use mobile money for loan repayment? Does increased demand for mobile money by female customers affect the profitability of adding a female employee, or the business owner's attitude towards female employment?
The project uses a snowball sampling scheme that begins with the identification of focal businesses in 500 markets. Owners of these businesses will identify the second primary sample, potential employees. Other samples of interest (neighboring businesses, customers, family members, and neighboring households) are defined relative to these subjects. Our study is designed to contribute to the literatures on the economic impacts of women's force participation, and on the ways in which social norms and attitudes may constrain women's employment activities.
We will use survey and administrative data collected from multiple constituents. Administrative data from bKash and BRAC and survey data collected from businesses and households will be used to measure impacts on economic outcomes for business owners and potential employees; attitudes towards labor force participation of business owners, potential employees and their families, and market customers; time use, borrowing and customer satisfaction and retention among BRAC microfinance customers; and time use of BRAC program officers. Additional baseline and outcome variables will be obtained from administrative data about mobile money transactions. For BRAC customers, we will use survey data about perceptions of mobile money and microfinance access, and BRAC administrative data to track the repayment (default) rates of customers, the number of missed payments, and the share of customers who take out subsequent loans. BRAC program officers will complete weekly logs documenting time spent on loan collection and other activities.