Can Workfare Keep Women Working During a Crisis? The Long-Term Effects of Female-Friendly MGNREGS Reform During COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated labor markets, reducing employment and increasing reliance on social protection. India's workfare program (MGNREGS) has seen record participation during the pandemic, while economic gender gaps have increased (Deshpande 2020). We examine whether interventions that empower women, encourage work, and promote more liberal gender norms can preserve female employment and agency during this crisis. To do this, we study the long-run effects of an intervention we developed that strengthened women's control over MGNREGS payments (Field et al. 2021). The intervention, which ensured women's wages were paid into female-owned bank accounts women were trained to use, increased female work (for MGNREGS and in the private sector) and liberalized gender norms. We will use a phone survey to measure impacts on labor force participation, gender attitudes, and agency during the pandemic to understand when and how digital technology - access to wage direct deposits - can improve resilience.