ABSTRACT

Street commerce represents one of the most visible and dynamic segments of the informal economy in Latin America. Rapid rural-tourban migration from the 1940s to the 1970s, economic crisis in the 1980s, and neoliberal reform in the 1990s combined to create a surplus of unemployed workers in the region’s cities, so that by 2006 the region faced a formal employment deficit of 126 million jobs.1 In the absence of formal wage employment, many workers have turned to the informal sector as a way to generate income. According to Tokman (2001: 20), six of every 10 new jobs generated since 1990 in Latin America have been in the informal sector, and nearly 50 per cent of workers in the region’s cities engage in informal economic activity. Many of these workers, seeking an occupation with low barriers to entry, have taken to the streets to hawk merchandise for profit.