Download StudyGeneral

Study Overview

Evaluating Impacts of Rural Road Maintenance Employment among Women in Laos
Study is 3ie funded:
Study ID:
Initial Registration Date:
Last Update Date:
Study Status:

We evaluate the impacts of a public works program in Laos. The program provides temporary employment in rural road rehabilitation to women from poor households. We focus on contributing to the evidence base on the impacts of PWPs on household welfare as well as women’s empowerment. We attempt to capture women’s empowerment through a broad range of diverse indicators, focusing on direct measures of empowerment, such as locus of control, as well as empowerment within household, measures as women’s participation in decision making and empowerment within community, measured through extent of social networks and participation in community activities. We also measure impacts of the program on Gender Based Violence.

Registration Citation:
Health, Nutrition, and Population
Social Protection
Additional Keywords:
Public Works Programs, Gender Based Violence, Empowerment
Secondary ID Number(s):

Principal Investigator(s)

Name of First PI:
Elizaveta Perova
World Bank
Name of Second PI:

Study Sponsor

World Bank
Study Sponsor Location:
United States

Research Partner

Name of Partner Institution:
Type of Organization:
Private firm

Intervention Overview


We are evaluating a Road Maintenance Groups (RGM) program. It is a part of a broader program, the Laos Poverty Reduction Fund (PRF), which aims to reduce poverty through infrastructure improvements in sectors such as education, drinking water, irrigation, health and transport. These improvements are identified using a community driven development (CDD) approach. A process evaluation of PRF’s projects carried out in 2015 highlighted that that the post-completion sustainability of road projects was not very good: road quality deteriorated quickly due to a lack of maintenance. In response, PRF introduced the RMG program. Viewing the labor-intensive task of carrying out road maintenance as an opportunity to create jobs for the vulnerable, PRF is targeting women from poor households living in these villages, where wage-earning opportunities are limited. These women are organized into RMGs and tasked with carrying out routine road maintenance, tasks such as clearing roads of vegetation, clearing the drainage system and making small repairs to the road surface. They are provided with simple training and basic hand tools and paid a fixed-daily rate set slightly below the prevailing market wage in each village. Wage payments are made monthly or quarterly, depending on the payment preference of each RMG, corresponding to the number of days worked. Typically, this is a few days each month, with monthly variation based on maintenance needs. Generally, the RMG members work more days in the rainy season months (e.g. 6-7) and fewer days in the dry season (2-3).  There may be deductions to wage payments in the case of poor performance. To enforce this, PRF carries out road quality audits each month. During the implementation period, the RMG members were paid wages of around LAK 60,000/day (US$7.3/day), resulting in a total average income of around $550 per RMG member over the entire implementation period.

Theory of Change:

It is important to reiterate that the intervention is set in remote villages in Laos where there are few opportunities to work outside the home for anyone. The RMG intervention targets women from the poorest households within these villages and offers them jobs. Therefore, this will be a substantial departure from the ordinary. We expect to the intervention to affect two sets of primary outcomes: (i) women’s labor market outcomes, including labor force participation, employment and wage income; and (ii) household income. We expect increased household income in turn to affect (i) household living conditions, (ii) nutrition and (iii) households’ investments. While we expect the RMG intervention to improve women’s short-run labor market outcomes, the effects on empowerment and well-being outcomes are ambiguous. The interventions provide women with their own income, in the setting where wage earning opportunities, especially for women, are scant. Theories of Nash-bargaining (Manser and Brown, 1980) suggest that by improving women’s outside options, the program is likely to improve women’s outcomes within marriage, including exposure to GBV. However, psychological theories of back-lash, or use of violence for extractive purposes (Block and Rao, 2006, Bobonis et al., 2013) suggest a possibility of increase of GBV. Certain theories of violence as an instrument for extraction allow for either possibility. Instrumental violence theory posits that increasing a woman’s economic opportunities may increase or decrease the incidence of violence she experiences depending on her initial bargaining level (Eswaran and Malhotra 2011, Heath 2014). At lower levels of empowerment, working can lead to an increased incidence of GBV and at higher levels, it can decrease it.

Multiple Treatment Arms Evaluated?

Implementing Agency

Name of Organization:
Poverty Reduction Fund
Type of Organization:
Public Sector, e.g. Government Agency or Ministry

Program Funder

Name of Organization:
Poverty Reduction Fund
Type of Organization:
Public Sector, e.g. Government Agency or Ministry

Intervention Timing

Intervention or Program Started at time of Registration?
Start Date:
End Date:
Evaluation Method

Evaluation Method Overview

Primary (or First) Evaluation Method:
Randomized control trial
Other (not Listed) Method:
Additional Evaluation Method (If Any):
Other (not Listed) Method:

Method Details

Details of Evaluation Approach:

The identification strategy in this impact evaluation rests upon the exogenous variation generated by the randomization process. Specifically, from a pool of eligible and interested women in each village, we randomly selected which women would receive jobs. Women who did not receive a job were placed on a waitlist to replace any RMG dropouts.

Outcomes (Endpoints):

Women’s labor force participation, earnings, number of hours spend on productive work;

Total household income, as well as household income in different categories (from agriculture, non-farm business, wage work);

PCA index of housing conditions

PCA of durable assets

Household nutrition (measured by amount of different food categories consumed per week)

Household investments in agriculture, non-agricultural businesses, and in human capital

Household savings and financial inclusion

Women’s empowerment, measured using direct indicators (such as locus of control), participation in household decision-making, and proxies of bargaining power (e.g. women’s nutrition)

Women’s exposure to Gender Based Violence (we distinguish between Intimate partner violence, domestic violence and non-domestic violence)

Time use

Women’s subjective well-being

Unit of Analysis:
Individual, household

Group A: imapcts of the treatment on the primary outcomes

Hypothesis A1: the treatment increases women’s productive work

Hypothesis A2: the treatment increases household income

Group B: impacts of the treatment on secondary outcomes

Hypothesis B1: the treatment improves housing conditions

Hypothesis B2: the treatment improves household ownership of durable assets

Hypothesis B3: the treatment improves household nutrition

Hypothesis B4: the treatment increases household investments

Hypothesis B5: the treatment increases household savings and financial inclusion

Hypothesis B6: the treatment increases women’s internal empowerment

Hypothesis B7: the treatment increases women’s decision-making in the household

Hypothesis B8: the treatment increases women’s nutrition

Hypothesis B9: the treatment reduces women’s exposure to GBV

Hypothesis B10: the treatment increases women’s participation in community life

Hypothesis B11: the treatment reduces leisure time

Hypothesis B12: the treatment increases women’s subjective well-being

Hypothesis B13: the treatment changes women’s exposure to non-domestic violence

Hypothesis B14: the treatment changes time allocation of other household members between non-household work and household work

Hypothesis B15: the intervention improves children’s outcomes in nutrition

Hypothesis B16: the intervention improves children’s outcomes in education

Hypothesis B17: the intervention decreases child labor

Group C:

Hypothesis C1: the treatment triggered income diversification

Hypothesis C2: the treatment smooths the impact of shocks on household income

Unit of Intervention or Assignment:
Number of Clusters in Sample:
The intervention is randomized at individual level
Number of Individuals in Sample:
1182 women and households (we interviewed one woman per household).
Size of Treatment, Control, or Comparison Subsamples:
339 women in treatment group, 843 women in control group.

Supplementary Files

Other Documents:
IRB approval letter: 648WBG19 HML IRB EXPEDITED Review Impacts of Road Maint Employ Women Laos Phase II APPROVAL LETTER.pdf
IRB approval: 648WBG19 HML IRB EXPEDITED Review Impacts of Road Maint Employ Women Laos Phase II APPROVAL.pdf

Outcomes Data

We are collecting a household survey and a women's survey.
Data Already Collected?
Data Previously Used?
Data Access:
Restricted -- Access requires a formal approval process
Data Obtained by the Study Researchers?
Data Approval Process:
We are planning to make the data public after completing analysis.
Approval Status:
Yes-obtained approval and have received the data

Treatment Assignment Data

Participation or Assignment Information:
Data Obtained by the Study Researchers?
Data Previously Used?
Data Access:
Data Obtained by the Study Researchers?
Data Approval Process:
Approval Status:

Data Analysis

Data Analysis Status:

Study Materials

Upload Study Materials:

Registration Category

Registration Category:
Prospective, Category 3: Data for measuring impacts have been obtained/collected by the research team but analysis for this evaluation has not started

Completion Overview

Intervention Completion Date:
Data Collection Completion Date:
Unit of Analysis:
Clusters in Final Sample:
Total Observations in Final Sample:
Size of Treatment, Control, or Comparison Subsamples:


Preliminary Report:
Preliminary Report URL:
Summary of Findings:
Paper Summary:
Paper Citation:

Data Availability

Data Availability (Primary Data):
Date of Data Availability:
Data URL or Contact:
Access procedure:

Other Materials

Survey Instrument Links or Contact:
Program Files:
Program Files Links or Contact:
External Link:
External Link Description:
Description of Changes:

Study Stopped