Laurent Bossavie, Yoonyoung (Yoon) Cho, Rachel Heath, 27 August 2020

The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh in April 2013 is widely considered the worst accident in the history of the garment industry. It intensified local and international attention paid to working conditions in the industry and resulted in a series of reforms, including a minimum wage and high-profile but voluntary audits examining safety. This column studies the effects of those reforms on workers and finds that while working conditions increased after the reforms, women’s wages increased at first but fell in the longer run, as did the likelihood of having a formal work contract.

Christopher Woodruff, 30 April 2020

Low-income countries lack the resources to replicate European-style income support programmes to alleviate the economic impact of COVID-19 lockdowns. In Bangladesh, a key challenge will be to support export-oriented production in the ready-made garment sector, which employs 4 million workers. Whether factories retain or lay off workers in response to government policies – and whether the health crisis escalates into a humanitarian crisis or not – depends crucially on decisions of foreign apparel buyers to honour or drop commitments to previously agreed orders.

Manzoor Dar, Alain De Janvry, Kyle Emerick, Erin Kelley, Elisabeth Sadoulet, 19 May 2019

Networks are important for transmitting knowledge among farmers, but it is not always easy or appropriate to identify the best farmers which whom to seed a new technology. The column shows that side-by-side demonstration plots for a new variety of rice are successful at inducing learning. This method makes it less important to identify the farmers best positioned to spread information and has the potential to target individuals who are not connected to influential farmers.

Marianna Battaglia, Selim Gulesci, Andreas Madestam, 06 January 2019

Small firms in developing countries are commonly thought to be prevented from making profitable investments by lack of access to credit and insurance markets. This column uses evidence from an experiment in Bangladesh to show that repayment flexibility leads to substantial improvements in business outcomes and socioeconomic status, as well as lower default rates. The results are driven by an increase in entrepreneurial risk taking, suggesting that lack of insurance is an important constraint for small firms but that a simple financial product that increases repayment flexibility can be an effective tool for enabling growth.

Shyamal Chowdhury, Annabelle Krause, Klaus F. Zimmermann, 28 April 2016

Across the world, 650 million people still lack access to clean water, despite great progress over last two decades. This column looks at the case of Bangladesh, where around 45 million people are at risk from drinking water that is contaminated with naturally occurring arsenic. Drinking this water can lead to symptoms of arsenicosis, which have a significant negative impact on mental health and thus on household productivity and wellbeing.

Hiau Looi Kee, 21 November 2014

The conventional thinking about foreign direct investment is that it may create jobs but also take away market opportunities from domestic firms. This column suggests another spillover to consider. If foreign firms require higher quality inputs, domestic firms who share suppliers with foreign firms gain access to better local inputs. It then argues that this spillover effect can explain a third of the productivity gains within Bangladeshi firms during 1999-2003.

Ivan Cherkashin , Svetlana Demidova , Hiau Looi Kee, Kala Krishna, 19 February 2011

Trade preferences, such as those removing restrictions on Madagascar’s exports to the US, have long been a controversial policy. Some argue that it removes incentives for firms to become more competitive as they simply divert their trade to the preferred market. This column argues using counterfactual simulations that trade preferences can increase trade for the provider country, the receiver country, and other trading partners as well.

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