Moving Up the Ladder: Economic Inclusion of Safety Net Recipients in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has a history of effective economic inclusion programs, but they are implemented primarily by civil society organizations. Government-implemented initiatives are critical for scale but there are no government-implemented economic inclusion programs in Bangladesh that meet the socioeconomic needs of the poor on a large scale. Yet the government has an opportunity to leverage its strong and expansive social safety net (SSN) system to develop ladders for poor and vulnerable households. This report examines three groups of SSN beneficiaries in Bangladesh - working-age widows, people with disabilities, and households with young children--in order to understand their potential to benefit from economic inclusion programming. The report describes the socioeconomic characteristics of the three low-income groups and identifies gaps in their access to and coverage by the government’s main social protection programs; profiles a subset of SSN beneficiaries and presents findings on their potential to benefit from economic inclusion programming; describes packages of services; and examines the factors that need to be in place for economic inclusion programs to succeed. The authors then provide recommendations on how the government can build capacity to implement economic inclusion at scale in Bangladesh.