Policy recommendations

The world’s poorest households have long been excluded from the benefits of modern economic growth. A combination of barriers prevent them from accessing the more stable self-employment opportunities available to wealthier members of their communities. Such barriers trap the poorest in jobs with low and irregular incomes.

1. ‘Big-push’ interventions combining large-scale asset transfers with skills training may provide a cost-effective means of improving outcomes for this traditionally hard to reach group. In Bangladesh, the poorest women in village economies significantly improved their economic outcomes and earnings. Findings from six similar livelihood programmes, based on BRAC’s model, suggest results are robust to context and implementing agency.

2. Continuing improvements seven years after implementation suggest that the programme may help the ultra-poor escape poverty at an increasing rate in the long-term. Improvements after seven years were equal to or larger than after two or four years. More evidence is needed on long-run sustainability of impacts. But long-term data from Bangladesh suggests that ‘big-push’ livelihood programmes may help the poorest move onto a sustainable trajectory out of poverty and contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

3. Further evidence is needed on the elements of programme design and implementation that helped some programmes achieve particularly significant gains. Understanding which components were particularly effective, and how they impacted different groups, may inform future interventions and ensure programmes maximise results, while remaining cost-effective. Varying designs in different setting sheds light on these questions; for instance, income diversification may help to explain the success of interventions in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and India.