Sarathi – Progress through Financial Inclusion

The Ready-Made Garments (RMG) industry in Bangladesh is one of the major formal economic sectors employing around 4.5 million people, more than 70% of whom are female. There are around 3,500 manufacturing factories (registered as exporters) and additional estimated 7,000 factories sub-contracting for exporters, making it the largest, non-agrarian employment generating sector.

While such tremendous growth is creating employment opportunities for landless poor and semi to non-skilled workers throughout Bangladesh, the RMG sector is also contributing to significant internal migration from rural to urban regions within the country.

Furthermore, findings show that in regards to financial inclusion in the RMG sector:

  • Only 5% of the workers have access to some form of financial services and in most cases the services are provided by private cooperatives (in many instances with questionable legal status)
  • RMG workers have little to no financial literacy resulting in poor financial management of their income
  • Though some of the RMG workers have awareness on financial management and acknowledge the need for savings, 95% of the RMG workers do not use formal banking channel and are excluded from the financial system

The Project

Financial Inclusion for Ready-Made Garments Workers in Bangladesh known as Sarathi - Progress through Financial Inclusion is a 15-month pilot project funded by MetLife Foundation and Swisscontact.

The project goal is to bring RMG workers within the sphere of mainstream banks and commercial financial institutions and enable them to become engage in financial transactions as account holders and clients. The project will support creation of suitable financial products, development of alternative banking channels for easier access and improvement of financial knowledge and literacy of the RMG workers.

In the current pilot phase, Sarathi activities will be implemented in key RMG factory cluster areas adjacent to Dhaka metropolitan area (Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj) of Bangladesh. Sarathi has two major components:

  • Develop financial products and banking service delivery channels to reach unbanked segment of the market
  • Improve financial literacy of RMG workers for facilitating transactions through banks.

Under the first component, the project will support commercial banks to design and launch new products suitable for RMG workers. In addition, it will facilitate promotion of agent-banking model to scale up branchless banking facility in Bangladesh. The second component will focus on raising awareness of RMG workers on the benefits of bank based transactions. The project will assist banks in disseminating tailored knowledge and counselling services on financial planning to improve the readiness of RMG workers in adopting better financial management practices and record keeping.

Results

Sarathi will support banks to improve financial knowledge of 7,500 workers (mostly female) and support access to formal financial services of 1,100 workers by adopting bank-based transactions (e.g. savings and payments). With the project's support, the financial institutions will pilot commercially viable business models to cater to the financial services needs of the RMG workers. The pilot phase will provide evidence-based outcomes that banks can use to achieve scale and efficiencies to transform the financial services delivery targeting lower income segment in Bangladesh.

Project countries

  • Bangladesh

Project links

Project duration

2017 - 2020

Funding

  • SDC
  • MetLife Foundation

Working area

Finance

Swisscontact
Swiss Foundation for Technical Cooperation
Hardturmstrasse 123
CH-8005 Zurich

Tel. +41 44 454 17 17
Fax +41 44 454 17 97
E-Mail info@STOP-SPAM.swisscontact.org