Microfinance Opportunities, in collaboration with the Social Performance Task Force, conducted research to understand the experiences of garment workers in Bangladesh whose employers changed from paying them in cash to paying them digitally, either
into a bank or a mobile money account. The purpose of this research is to identify ways in which an awareness raising campaign and education materials can better prepare workers for this change to digital wages.
In June and July 2019 MFO’s field research team conducted 14 Focus Group Discussions in and around Dhaka with garment workers currently receiving digital payments. Discussions focused on their attitude towards the change to digital wages, their experience
throughout the process, changes they experienced in money management and family dynamics, and their thoughts on how to improve the process shifting to a digital wages system. The vast majority of participants recalled feeling nervous at the prospect of receiving digital wages. Very little information was provided at the onset, often poorly disseminated, leaving workers feeling powerless and voiceless to enter a system they did not understand but felt obligated to enter. Perhaps the most serious unintended consequence was reported by a majority of married women, who stated that digital payments made it easier for their husbands to know how much they were paid, resulting in a loss of control over their finances and, in some cases, an increase in domestic
violence. There are however reasons to feel hopeful, with many workers reported a change in their attitude over time as they adapted to the system and started enjoying advantages such as increased savings, a reduction in daily expenditure and the ability to transfer money to help each other in times of need.