«Contesting the streets Volume 18, number 1 • 2016 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development | Office of Policy Development and Research ...»
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26 Contesting the Streets Informal Trade Meets Informal Governance: Street Vendors and Legal Reform in India, South Africa, and Peru Sally Roever Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing Abstract Street vendors conventionally are understood as operating outside of state regulatory frameworks. Recent research, however, has emphasized the role of the state in constructing vendors’ informal status and has documented local government practices that take advantage of an ambiguous legal environment for vendors. These practices include low-level harassment, merchandise confiscations, and arbitrary evictions. This article examines the regulatory spaces through which local government officials have developed these informal practices and documents the extent to which street vendors and market traders experience them in five cities: Accra, Ghana; Ahmedabad, India; Durban, South Africa; Lima, Peru;
and Nakuru, Kenya. The article then identifies three components of legal reform used in Ahmedabad, Durban, and Lima to counter those practices: (1) establishing limits on municipal power, (2) linking street vending to poverty alleviation, and (3) establishing channels for street vendors’ representation. The findings suggest ways in which cities can more effectively balance the right to livelihood with the need to govern public space.
Introduction In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, governments and donor agencies increasingly are recognizing the need to rethink employment as a central component of economic recovery and long-term development. A significant shift within that renewed focus is the recognition of informal livelihoods as a form of employment that is here to stay. The World Bank, for instance, has declared that “a global agenda for jobs is needed” (The World Bank, 2013: 38) and echoed the OECD’s recent conclusion that informal is normal (OECD, 2009). Official statistics indicate that Cityscape 27 Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research • Volume 18, Number 1 • 2016 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development • Office of Policy Development and Research Roever informal employment accounts for much more than one-half of total nonagricultural employment in most developing regions—as much as 82 percent in South Asia and 66 percent in sub-Saharan Africa (ILO and WIEGO, 2013)—and one-half or more of informal workers in most regions are self-employed (Vanek et al., 2014).
The shift in focus toward informal self-employment is especially significant for the urban development agenda. Renewed calls for sustainable and participatory approaches to urban development (for example, UN-Habitat, 2013) require the collective engagement of those who work informally, because they form the majority of workers in many cities (Herrera et al., 2012) but tend to lack representative voice in decisionmaking (Brown and Lyons, 2010; Horn, 2015; Kabeer, 2015).
Among the informally self-employed, street vendors comprise as much as 15 percent of total urban employment and 25 percent of total urban informal employment in low-income countries and between 2 and 11 percent of urban informal employment in middle-income countries (Herrera et al., 2012; ILO and WIEGO, 2013)—a substantial and visible part of many urban workforces.
Street trade has long attracted both policy attention and research interest (Bromley, 2000). Recent scholarship is increasingly focused on the interplay between street vendors and local governments and, in particular, the ways in which the state ascribes and constructs informal status on street vendors and the ways in which it does so through a lens of neoliberal entrepreneurial governance (Crossa, 2009; Devlin, 2011; Donovan, 2008; Morange, 2015; Oz and Eder, 2012; Steel, Ujoranyi, and Owusu, 2014; Xue and Huang, 2015). A common theme within this emerging literature is its exploration of governance practices, undertaken on the part of state actors, that likewise could be considered informal.