The emergence of low-skill manufacturing sectors in developing countries can increase labor market opportunities and provide other economic benefits for women (Heath and Mobarak, 2015; Tanaka, 2017). However, in light of the poor conditions that characterize many low-skill manufacturing sectors, some researchers have questioned whether manufacturing jobs are actually better for workers than their alternatives (Blattman and Dercon, 2018; Blattman, Dercon, and Franklin, 2019).
In this project, we experimentally investigate to what extent information and search frictions in Bangladesh’s labor market contribute to inefficient matching between workers and firms, and how these frictions interact with gender. Specifically, we implement a randomized controlled trial (RCT) with men and women who have recently begun working in Bangladesh’s garments sector. We will provide information about job characteristics (wages and working conditions), job openings, or both, and then assess the impact of treatment on outcomes such as their beliefs about working conditions and wages in the garments sector, job search activity, and employment outcomes.
The proposed project tests whether these frictions are particularly salient to female workers. Low-skill manufacturing jobs often provide women in early industrializing countries with their first formal sector employment opportunities (e.g., Heath and Mobarak, 2015). Women may particularly value good working conditions, given reports of sexual harassment and other abuse directed disproportionately towards female workers (Khosla 2009; Begum, Hossain and Shalid, 2010; Gibbs et al 2019; Subramanian, 2019). At the same time, women may lack information about working conditions and job vacancies due to poor literacy, lower access to mobile phones and other technology, and gender-segregated networks for information sharing. Indeed, Menzel and Woodruff (2019) find that female workers who have lower mobility rates than male workers accordingly earn less and receive fewer promotions. This project will thus suggest whether policies to alleviate information frictions can help to close such gender gaps.