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Utilizing Technology to Increase Women’s Financial Capability and Ensure Gender-Inclusive Digital Finance in the Global Supply Chain

Training and support are vital to help workers, especially women, transition to digital wages and help them to access, use, and ultimately benefit from their new payroll accounts.

Change is difficult, especially when unprepared. Imagine that you are a factory worker who has received cash wages throughout your entire working life. Suddenly, factory management announces that starting next month, you will receive your salary through a mobile money account. This change can be daunting, especially if this is your first financial account. In many developing countries, women workers have significantly less access to mobile phones and even lower levels of financial and digital literacy. This is why training and support are vital to help workers, especially women, transition to digital wages and help them to access, use, and ultimately benefit from their new payroll accounts.

HERproject and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth have developed specialized technology training tools to help factory managers and workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Egypt to effectively transition to and use digital financial services. The technology training tools were developed to be used during in-person training; however, they have also proven especially valuable during the pandemic because they can be used remotely, thus ensuring that training can continue.

The HERfinance Digital Wages Toolkit supports managers in planning, preparing, and fulfilling wage digitization and is available in English, Bangla, Khmer, Mandarin, and Arabic. The HERfinance Digital Wages Tech Learning Tool for workers, developed with QuizRR, uses engaging films, quizzes, and animations to support men and women workers in increasing their financial health and benefit from digital wages. There are six training modules, each based on the HERfinance Digital Wages training curriculum developed through the HERproject-Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation partnership, and the tool is available in Bangla, Khmer, and soon in Arabic. The Digital Wages Technology Tools were piloted during in-person HERfinance trainings in four garment factories in Dhaka, Bangladesh with 9,173 employees (55 percent female).

We are already seeing promising results from HERfinance in-person training in areas such as women workers’ confidence and usage of financial services. In this blog, we will look at the preliminary results from the implementation of the Tech Learning Tool. Early indications and stakeholder interviews suggest that integrating the Technology Learning Tool with in-person training supports even greater outcomes for workers.

Increased Acceptance of Digital Payroll

When we met Moshrefa, a Quality Inspector in a Dhaka factory, she told us about her initial concern over not knowing how to access her mobile money account and how that all changed once the training started.

“I didn’t know how to use the account until we had the [HERfinance] training. But through this, we were able to learn how to use digital payroll accounts, cash out, airtime top up, and we could also learn about the interest on savings and fees.” 

Moshrefa’s worries are not unique—most interviewed female workers shared the same sentiments.

In Bangladesh, 99 percent of workers who used the Tech Learning Tool during in-person HERfinance training preferred to receive payments through their mobile money accounts, compared with 83 percent of workers where the Tech Learning Tool had not been used during training. Although attribution is difficult, increased and awareness of the benefits of using financial services are potential drivers in the adoption and preference for digital wages.

Increase in Financial Products and Services Usage

Speaking with workers, excitement and anxiety were the two most common emotions when receiving their first salary payment through their mobile money account. After completing the HERfinance Digital Wages training using the Technology Learning Tool, female workers who used a commitment savings account (DPS) increased by 28 percentage points. In comparison, for women workers who did not use the Learning Tool, the uptake rate of using DPS increased by 15 percentage points.

Similar increases can be seen in remittances. For women workers who completed the HERfinance Digital Wages Training using the Learning Tool, there was a 72 percentage point increase in workers who remitted using their mobile accounts. Compared to non-technology tool factories, workers who remitted using their mobile accounts increased by 50 percentage points.

While it is difficult to attribute how much of the increase was due to the Tech Learning Tool alone, our findings resonate with the feedback from workers, managers, and trainers that the HERfinance Digital Wages Technology Tools assisted in building confidence in and knowledge of financial services.

Increase in Digital Literacy

In addition to increasing acceptance and usage of digital financial products, the Technology Tools also build digital literacy skills and familiarity with touch screen technology. This is important because smartphone ownership is low in many developing countries; in Bangladesh, only 36 percent of men and 21 percent of women have a smartphone.

“I was afraid to use the tech-tool [tablet] the first time. I had never used or handled anything like it before. But when the training started, I realized I could easily use it and answer the questions. I liked the audio and video clips, which are very helpful for less-educated people.”

-Razia, Peer Educator, Dhaka

Using Technology to Scale Digital Financial Inclusion

We have seen the undeniable impact and need for gender-sensitive financial training. Due to Bangladesh’s rapid digitization of wages for over 4 million garment workers, we are seeing the increasing need to scale digital wages in a gender-sensitive and sustainable manner. The Digital Wages Technology Tools have been widely used as part of HERfinance’s remote training in Bangladesh. The Technology Tools developed by HERproject and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth are open source and can be used alongside any program designed to digitize cash as an addition to in-person training or as a temporary replacement during COVID-19.

There is still much work to be done—payroll digitization is gaining traction, but workers are not equipped with the required knowledge to benefit from the new system. By integrating Technology Learning Tools with in-person training, the transition into digital wages can be effective, sustainable, and inclusive of the needs of workers, especially women.

For more information and resources about wage digitization, please visit the HERfinance hub.  

Posted on 2020 November 26. #blog, #herfinance

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Justin Hui, Associate | Hong Kong