The World Bank has approved $200 million to help Bangladesh provide support and services to the low-income urban youths impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic and the involuntary returnee migrants to improve earning opportunities and resiliency.
The Recovery and Advancement of Informal Sector Employment (RAISE) project will help about 175,000 poor urban youth and low-income microentrepreneurs enhance employability and productivity by helping them access services such as life-skills training, apprenticeship programs, counselling, microfinance, and self-employment support. To help about 200,000 eligible migrants who had been forced to return since January 2020 either sustainably reintegrate into the domestic labour market or prepare for re-migration, the project will provide cash grants, counselling, and referrals to relevant services based on their needs and aspirations.
“International migration and urban informal sector have played a central role in Bangladesh’s remarkable success in reducing poverty over the years. However, both sectors were hit hard by the COVID 19 pandemic,” said Mercy Tembon, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan. “The project will support both groups of workers to overcome structural barriers to employability and facilitate resilient post-pandemic growth.”
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For the low-income urban youth and microentrepreneurs whose livelihoods have been impacted by COVID-19, the project will support an economic inclusion program that will be tailored to fit the individual needs of eligible beneficiaries. The range of services offered include life-skills and socio-emotional counselling; on-the-job learning through apprenticeship programs; business management training; and microfinance for self-employment and informal micro-enterprises.
Through a comprehensive program, the project will also help low-income migrants, many of whom have returned with high debt burdens, by providing counselling to help determine immediate needs and aspirations; socio-emotional counselling to support their reintegration into the community; referrals to technical, vocational, or business management training to upgrade their skills and enhance their ability for self-employment, and cash grants. To provide these services, the project will set up 32 district welfare centres. The project will also support the upgrade and integration of information systems that will streamline social protection service delivery for aspiring, current, and returning migrants.
“While the project will focus on the immediate needs of migrants who have returned due to COVID-19 impacts, through the systems development and capacity building, it will also benefit outgoing and voluntarily returning migrants, their families and communities, over the longer term,” said Syud Amer Ahmed, World Bank Senior Economist and Team Leader for the project. “The project will focus on the needs of female returnees, including psychosocial counselling and referrals to gender-based violence related services, as well as ensuring specific outreach activities to support their economic reintegration.”
The credit is from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), which provides concessional financing, has a 30-year term, including a five-year grace period. Bangladesh currently has the largest ongoing IDA program totalling over $13.5 billion. The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh and has committed more than $33.5 billion in grants, interest-free and concessional credits to the country since its Independence.