Street Vending in the Greater Mekong Subregion

This is my abstract which has been accepted (and now awaits the full paper) for the forthcoming Handbook of Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries, which is going to be published by Routledge I think:

Street Vending in the Greater Mekong Subregion


One of the most visible and versatile means by which both women and men can pursue entrepreneurialism in the developing word is street vending. This is an occupation that can be seasonal in nature, flexible in working hours and communal in nature, although working conditions may be difficult or even exploitative. Street vendors can suffer from harassment from state officials and extortionists, as well as the casual indignities inflicted by customers and passers-by and the difficulties involved in working outdoors. Alternatively, some street vending operations are now sophisticated and profitable. Street vending brings cheap and fresh food to millions of workers to enable low cost export-oriented manufacturing to continue as well as making office work possible in otherwise expensive city centres. It also offers a means for farmers to obtain cash income and a reserve for workers unable to obtain work in the formal sector, as well as a means of linking the formal and informal sectors. This is particularly true for the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMSR), which consists of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan province and Guanxi Zhuang autonomous zone of China. The GMSR has a number of countries entering or passing through the Factory Asia paradigm of production and fertile agricultural sectors mixed with continued poverty and heightening inequality. In this region, city streets offer an arena in which entrepreneurial individuals can achieve their goals, whether these relate to business success or just survival. This article draws upon studies conducted in all the GMSR countries to identify the various forms of street vending that are taking place, highlighting changes in market conditions and governmental responses to the practice. The scope for entrepreneurial activities is appraised and the contribution to the overall economies of the region considered. Finally, the streets in which vendors work represent the place where everyday politics occurs and this provides a different dimension to its practice.

Keywords: entrepreneurialism; everyday politics; Factory Asia; Greater Mekong Subregion; street vending;.

John Walsh, Shinawatra University


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