New on Netflix: How Street Vendors Create Vibrant Cities

Street vending has been a contentious issue in many places, but this part of the informal economy is important to the social and economic well-being of cities.

May 28, 2019, 11:00 AM PDT

By Camille Fink


Thailand

SB7 / Shutterstock

Sarah Orleans Reed writes about the role of street vending in cities around the world. Street food vendors, for example, offer inexpensive and accessible food in many communities, and street vending is an important source of income and employment for women.

While many cities have cracked down on street vending, often based on the argument that the vendors compete with brick-and-mortar businesses, the evidence shows that they in fact help local economies, says Reed:

In Bangkok, the recent disappearance of street markets badly hurt local storefronts, as well as wholesalers from whom vendors had previously purchased their goods. Businesses in some neighborhoods reported declines of well over half, with many shops relocating and the neighborhoods turning dark, quiet, and more dangerous.

Reed also describes the way Los Angeles and Monrovia, Liberia, have successfully developed policies around street vending, including issuing permits and licenses, collecting taxes and fees, and establishing regulations and enforcement. "L.A. and Monrovia are extremely different in many ways, but they have both made a common, affirmative decision to capitalize on the valuable services that vending provides: creating jobs, increasing access to affordable foods and goods, activating isolated city streets, and stimulating local economies."

Reed’s organization, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), has also developed a toolkit to help guide local governments through an inclusive planning and policymaking process for street vending.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019 in CityLab

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