The last decade of the twentieth century and the early years of the twenty-first century saw a rapid expansion of microfinance in developing countries, targeting women in poor households with the aim of increasing their engagement in economic activities and entrepreneurship. What effect did these programmes have on the nature of women’s work, and social attitudes towards different forms of economic participation by women?

 Image by Michael Foley Photography (License CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Integgra researchers Niaz Asadullah, Nudrat Faria Shreya and Zaki Wahhaj have received a research grant from UNU-WIDER under their research programme on “Women’s Work: Routes to Economic and Social Empowerment”, to address these questions using detailed microdata from the expansion of microfinance in Bangladesh during the 1980s and 1990s.

Development agencies have long pursued a policy of improving the economic participation of women in developing countries by providing them with direct access to credit. Given the lack of improvement in female labour force participation across a range of countries despite sustained economic growth, there is renewed focus today on policies aimed at promoting female labour force participation.

Evidence from the project will shed light on whether access to microfinance can complement other policies aimed at promoting female work outside of the home.

Image by Michael Foley Photography (License CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).