The World Bank approved $200 million to help Bangladesh provide support and services to the low-income urban youths impacted by the ongoing pandemic and the involuntary migrant returnees to improve their earning opportunities and resilience.
The Recovery and Advancement of Informal Sector Employment (RAISE) project will help about 175,000 poor urban youths and low-income micro-entrepreneurs enhance employability and productivity.
The project will help by providing them with life-skills training, apprenticeship programmes, counselling, microfinance and self-employment support, the WB said in a statement yesterday.
It will help about 200,000 eligible migrants, who had been forced to return since January 2020, to either sustainably reintegrate into the domestic labour market or prepare for remigration.
"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's 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."
For the low-income urban youth and micro-entrepreneurs whose livelihoods have been impacted by Covid-19, the project will support an economic inclusion programme 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 programmes, business management training and microfinance for self-employment and informal microenterprises.
Through a comprehensive programme, the project will also help low-income migrants, many of whom have returned with high debt burdens, by providing them with counselling to help determine immediate needs and aspirations.
Socio-emotional counselling will also be provided to support their reintegration into the community.
To provide these services, the project will set up 32 district welfare centres and 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's senior economist and team leader for the project.
"It will also 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 programme, 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.