Beyond unemployment…

Beyond unemployment…

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Written by:

Gengzhi Huang, Hong-ou Zhang and Desheng Xue

First Published:

09 Sep 2017, 12:00 am

Beyond unemployment…

Beyond unemployment: Informal employment and heterogeneous motivations for participating in street vending in present-day China

A new paper by Gengzhi Huang, Hong-ou Zhang and Desheng Xue is now available online

Abstract

The proliferation of urban street vending in developing countries is generally viewed as being as a result of unemployment. Using a theoretical approach based on mainstream perspectives on informal employment and first-hand material from 200 semi-structured vendor interviews in Guangzhou, we challenge this view by revealing the heterogeneity of people’s motivations for participating in street vending in present-day China. Various types of labourers, including wage workers, farmers, the unemployed and small businesspeople, participate in street vending with diverse motivations, but in a common attempt to improve their livelihoods. Such motivations are driven both by the labourers’ responses to multiple socio-economic forces including unemployment, the low quality of waged jobs, rural poverty, the difficulties of maintaining a formal business and the poor remuneration of jobs in cities, and by their desire to achieve autonomy and flexibility. Street vending is mainly argued to be an effective strategy of ordinary labourers to cope with the unfavourable situations they face amidst socio-economic transformation. It should not be seen as a problem, but a potential part of the solution to the problems arising from socio-economic transformation in post-reform China.

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