Sidewalk Vendors

Street vendors are an integral part of urban economies around the world, offering easy access to a wide range of goods and services in public spaces. They sell everything from fresh vegetables to prepared foods, from building materials to garments and crafts, from consumer electronics to auto repairs to haircuts.

The city government has opened several sidewalks of major streets in the metropolis to vendors in line with the Christmas season.

As per instruction from Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, the sidewalk along the streets of JM Basa, Iznart, Valeria, Delgado, Ledesma and all the sidewalks surrounding the city plazas except Molo Plaza are open to vendors selling fruits and other items.

Vendors who want to do business in the said areas must apply with the Special Services Unit (SSU) and with the business permit and licensing office (BPLO) for an approved special business permit.

The application fee for the permit costs PHP200 which can be paid at the City Treasurer’s Office. Upon payment, the vendor must present the receipt to the SSU.

City Administrator Norlito Bautista said there are no other fees for the said permit.

The Federation of Sidewalk Vendors Association of Iloilo City has no authority to collect any payment from the vendors who have already signed a contract with the SSU for maintaining cleanliness in their respective selling spaces.

Bautista said the sidewalks are open for vendors residing in the city and must abide by their terms of contract.

More than 300 vendors are expected to avail of the opportunity to sell until the end of this month.

As vendors they have purposes to sell. Most street vendors provide the main source of income for their households, bringing food to their families and paying school fees for their children.

These informal workers have strong linkages to the formal economy. Over half the IEMS sample said they source the goods they sell from formal enterprises. Many customers work in formal jobs.

Many vendors try to keep the streets clean and safe for their customers and provide them with friendly personal service.

Street vendors create jobs, not only for themselves but for porters, security guards, transport operators, storage providers, and others.

Many generate revenue for cities through payments for licenses and permits, fees and fines, and certain kinds of taxes. This was true of two thirds of street vendors in the IEMS sample.

Street trade also adds vibrancy to urban life and in many places is considered a cornerstone of historical and cultural heritage. Yet street vendors face many challenges, are often overlooked as economic agents and unlike other businesses, are hindered rather than helped by municipal policies and practices.

Street vendors are a large and very visible workforce in cities, yet it is difficult to accurately estimate their numbers. Official statistics are available for some countries, though they may underestimate the population engaged in street vending.

Low barriers to entry, limited start-up costs, and flexible hours are some of the factors that draw street vendors to the occupation. Many people enter street vending because they cannot find a job in the formal economy.

But surviving as a street vendor requires a certain amount of skill. Competition among vendors for space in the streets and access to customers is strong in many cities. And vendors must be able to negotiate effectively with wholesalers and customers.

Street trade can offer a viable livelihood, but earnings are low and risks are high for many vendors, especially those who sell fresh fruits and vegetables. Having an insecure place of work is a significant problem for those who work in the streets. Lack of storage, theft or damage to stock is common issues.

By-laws governing street trade can be confusing and licenses hard to get, leaving many street vendors vulnerable to harassment, confiscations and evictions. The IEMS research found that even vendors with a license had trouble finding a secure vending location, and those following the regulations sometimes had their goods confiscated. Learn more about Street Vendors and The Law.

Working outside, street vendors and their goods are exposed to strong sun, heavy rains and extreme heat or cold. Unless they work in markets, most don’t have shelter or running water and toilets near their workplace. Inadequate access to clean water is a major concern of prepared food vendors.

Street vendors face other routine occupational hazards. Many lift and haul heavy loads of goods to and from their point of sale. Market vendors are exposed to physical risk due to a lack of proper fire safety equipment, and street vendors are exposed to injury from the improper regulation of traffic in commercial areas.

Insufficient waste removal and sanitation services result in unhygienic market conditions and undermine vendors’ sales as well as their health, and that of their customers.

Economic downturns have a big impact on vendors’ earnings. In 2009, an Inclusive Cities research project found many street vendors reported a drop in consumer demand and an increase in competition as the newly unemployed turned to vending for income.

A second round of research, done in 2010, found demand had not recovered for most vendors, and many had to raise prices due to the higher cost of goods. Competition had increased further as large retailers aggressively tried to attract customers.

The 2012 Informal Economy Monitoring Study confirmed that rising prices and increased competition were still affecting street vendors in several cities. Vendors said their stock was more expensive, but they had difficulty passing on rising costs to consumers, who expect to negotiate low prices on the streets. More competition means vendors take home lower earnings.

Urban policies and local economic development strategies rarely prioritize livelihood security for informal workers. Urban renewal projects, infrastructure upgrades and mega events routinely displace street vendors from natural markets, leaving the most vulnerable without a workplace.

Good practice documentation shows vendors can help with urban management challenges like crime and cleaning. Also, basic infrastructure – shelters, toilets, electricity and water – can both improve vendor work environments and make public space safer, more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.

Some cities are working with street vendors’ organizations to formulate innovative policies, programs and practices that enable vendors to have a voice in making their cities more inclusive.

Membership-based organizations help street vendors navigate their relationship with the authorities, build solidarity and solve problems with other vendors. Several have developed innovative ways to work with cities to keep the streets clean and safe while gaining a secure livelihood for vendors.



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