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The Psychosocial Value of Work: Evidence from Refugee Camps in Bangladesh

May 24, 2022


  • Engaging in productive activities may yield benefits that go beyond earning a wage or income, such as improved psychosocial wellbeing. This study empirically tests this hypothesis among Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh. 745 individuals participated in the randomized study and were assigned to one among three groups: a 'work-task' group which was compensated for engaging in a small task, a ‘cash’ group that received a cash equivalent without needing to work, and a ‘comparison’ group that did not receive either. Findings show that individuals who were engaged in this activity had substantially better psychosocial well-being than individuals who only received cash.

  • Radha Rajkotia

    Chief Research & Policy Officer at Innovations for Poverty Action

    Radha Rajkotia is an experienced humanitarian and economic development professional, who combines expertise in strategy, operations, management, research, policy, and partnership development. Most recently, she held the position of Senior Director of Economic Recovery and Development at the International Rescue Committee, where she worked for eleven years. She has worked in over twenty countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

    Erin Kelley

    Economist, World Bank

    Erin Kelley is an Economist in the Development Impact Evaluation (DIME) unit at the World Bank. Erin’s research focuses on issues related to labor market frictions, technology adoption in agriculture and social protection. Her work on labor markets frictions includes projects in Kenya that document how monitoring technologies improve firm productivity by helping firm owners restructure contracts, and work with a large e-commerce platform in Africa that investigates how expanding market-access for small firms affects firm growth. Another area of her work focuses on understanding barriers to technology adoption in agriculture, including research in Bangladesh that establishes how the use of demonstration plots can induce communication about new seed varieties. Her work on social protection and refugee populations estimates the impacts of idleness on psychosocial wellbeing and documents preferences for repatriation among the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Erin welcomes ongoing partnerships on issues related to labor markets and firm growth, agriculture, and social protection.

    Sandra V. Rozo

    Research Economist, World Bank

    Sandra Rozo is a Research Economist in the Poverty and Inequality Team of the Development Research Group at the World Bank. Her research centers on exploring the effects of forced migration within hosting economies and of the role of public policies in supporting these migrants and their hosting communities. Her work aims to advance our knowledge in three areas: (i) the economic and political impacts of forced migration in developing countries and the mechanisms driving those effects, (ii) the impacts of humanitarian interventions that aim at supporting migrants and locals, and (iii) how to increase social cohesion between migrants and locals. Some of her recent research papers have been published in the Journal of Labor Economics, the Review of Economics and Statistics, and the Journal of Development Economics. Recent research projects include collecting a representative sample of Venezuelan migrants in Colombia to evaluate the impacts of a large amnesty offered to undocumented migrants. She is also part of the research team collecting the Syrian Life Refugee Study, the first representative panel of Syrian refugees being presently collected in Jordan and has also been recently implementing experiments to reduce prejudice and improve prosocial behaviors toward migrants. Sandra is also an IZA research fellow, a CEGA-UC Berkeley faculty affiliate, and a USC-CESR research fellow.

    Masud Rahman

    Economist, UNHCR

    Masud Rahman is an Economist with UNHCR in Bangladesh. He is a Fulbright fellow and completed his degrees in Economics and in International Political Economy & Development from Fordham University, New York. Masud has research and project management experience in both development and humanitarian contexts across Asia, Africa and North America. He is interested in exploring applied econometric tools for development economics as well as behavioral economics for improving welfare among forcibly displaced.

    Sailesh Tiwari

    Senior Economist, World Bank

    Sailesh Tiwari is a Senior Economist in the Poverty and Equity Global Practice of the World Bank. He is currently based in Jakarta where he leads and coordinates the country work program on poverty and inequality in Indonesia. Prior to joining the Indonesia office, he led the World Bank poverty engagements in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Yemen and Nepal. His work at the World Bank has focused on diagnostic and policy research at the nexus between growth, poverty and inequality, particularly inequality of opportunity, economic and social mobility and labor markets. He is co-author of Uneven Odds, Unequal Outcomes: Inequality of Opportunity in the Middle East and North Africa and From Reformer to Performer: A Systematic Country Diagnostic for Georgia. A native of Nepal, Sailesh holds a PhD in Economics from Brown University, an MSc. in Financial Economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a BA in Economics from Connecticut College.

  • The Psychosocial Value of Employment (forthcoming)