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Employment Generation Programme for the Poorest: Bangladesh

Bangladesh’s cash for work program has provided short-term employment and developed rural infrastructure

June 6, 2023
Author: Amanda Lenhardt

Bangladesh has made significant progress in reducing the number of people living in poverty, however many people living near the poverty line remain at risk of impoverishment. In 2008, the government of Bangladesh introduced a large-scale cash for work program providing employment opportunities for vulnerable households during lean seasons. The program seeks to address seasonal poverty, build and maintain community infrastructure, and promote equality. The program targets the most impoverished areas and reserves 30 percent of jobs for women.

Employment Generation Programme for the Poorest (EGPP) is a targeted cash for work program providing short-term employment to build rural infrastructure and community assets in Bangladesh. EGPP was established in 2008 and is one of the government of Bangladesh’s flagship social safety net programs aimed at promoting resilience, poverty reduction, and equality. The program provides up to 90 days of work over two lean seasons (October to December, March to April) and targets people living in poverty with limited assets. The program covered 8,270,000 people in 2017-18, with 30 percent of jobs reserved for women.1


The EGPP was prompted by the food, fuel, and financial crisis of 2007-08 which led many people living in poverty to resort to negative coping strategies and risked pushing millions of people living near the poverty line into extreme poverty.2 Bangladesh had made significant progress in reducing the number of people living in poverty in the preceding decade and the government sought to promote the resilience of households to shocks and disasters.3 The new program built on the experience of earlier public works programs and incorporated new measures related to pro-poor targeting, minimizing leakage, and improvements to accountability and transparency.4

Program beneficiaries are provided seven hours of work and receive a payment of BDT 200 per working day (USD 2.40). Payments are made directly into beneficiaries bank accounts, which participants are supported to open, and BDT 25 must be saved until July of the following year.5 Workers are encouraged to apply, and where applications surpass available positions, criteria are used to select eligible individuals. Eligible individuals should have less than 0.5 acres of land, no productive assets and have an income less than BDT 4,000 (USD 50) per year.6 Ward Members are responsible for identifying beneficiaries, with eligibility lists being approved by Union Committees and Upazila Committees, which are then sent to Deputy Commissioners who issue “job cards,” open beneficiary bank accounts, and procure non-wage materials.7

The nature of the works supported by the programme are locally identified, with support from Ministry-level officials to implement the works.8 The majority of projects relate to rural road construction and maintenance. Decisions around these projects are largely led by local representatives and political leaders, with concerns raised around the inclusion of local residents in deciding on local infrastructure priorities.9


In 2019, the budget allocation for the EGPP was BDT 16.5 billion (USD 197 million),10 which equates to around USD 24 per beneficiary.


Studies have found that the EGPP is broadly well received in Bangladesh. One survey of beneficiaries across eight unions (local government units) found that 84 percent of respondents were satisfied with the selection process11 and another survey found that 60.8 percent of beneficiaries thought the selection process was fair. However the same survey found that just less than half (49.3 percent) of non-beneficiaries thought the process was fair. Eligible people may also be unaware of the program or the selection process. Another survey found that 54 percent of beneficiaries were not aware of the program’s selection procedures.12 One study found that having political access was a significant determinant in participation in EGPP, with people having contact with local politicians having 110 percent higher odds of participating in the program.13

Evidence suggests that EGPP is having a material benefit for participants and has been efficiently targeted towards those in need. One study found that participating households earn BDT 5,692 (USD 68) more per year than non-participating households on average and are less exposed to food insecurity. 14 The program is also reported to have had a significant impact on women’s economic empowerment with women working as many days as men, and evidence suggesting female participants have more freedom to make spending decisions and speak out in public meetings than non-participants.15