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Unlocking the door to migration: BRAC's migrant loan program

Development Challenge

In many developing countries, remittances from migrants, or income sent back to family members or relatives in the migrant’s country of origin, provide an extra source of income for poor families. In Bangladesh, remittances make up almost ten percent of the country’s GDP and therefore, increasing migration represents a promising opportunity for growth and poverty reduction. Migrating, however, requires substantial upfront costs and information and may pose risk to the migrant and the migrant’s family. There has been little research conducted on the effectiveness of programs that encourage and assist migrations. Specifically, policymakers seeking to increase migration do not know the impact of providing access to credit and migrant-specific information.

Context

Approximately eight to ten million Bangladeshi are currently migrant workers in the Gulf and South East Asia. The benefits of migration are high; on average, households with a migrant worker receive US$1,875 annually, compared with an average per capita income of $816. However, many potential migrants are deterred by high travel costs and the information required to secure jobs abroad. To address these barriers and promote migration, BRAC launched a migrant loan program in 2011. Loans of US$300 to $3,700 are made to migrants with an initial one month grace period followed by monthly payments for up to two years. The program also provides verified work permits and visas.

Evaluation Strategy

The research evaluates the impact of the migrant loan program on the number of migrants, the success of migrations, and the value of remittances. Further, it investigates if the program has “unlocked” migration opportunities for poorer or less connected individuals and for women.

To answer these questions, the researchers will exploit the rollout of the program to 1,700 BRAC branches over three years. Five hundred villages will be selected for a household census, and then researchers will select eight recent migrant households and two non-migrant households within each village to constitute the full sample of 5,000 observations.

These households will be surveyed about would-be migration, details surrounding recent migrations, as well as a variety of household characteristics over the period from 2010 to 2012. A second survey is planned for 2015 to capture more recent migration activity. 

Results and Policy Implications

Forthcoming.

Timeline

2010 - 2015

Photo from BRAC, Safe Migration Facilitation Program