By Nicoco Chan and Ellen Chan
SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – Wang Chunxiang pushes a cart in downtown Shanghai and tries to sell pastries while playing cat-and-mouse with authorities. Her job she was able to get does not pay enough for her to make a living.
“The pay is too low,” said the 43-year-old after steaming sweet rice cakes in a wok for customers.
“At my age, I didn’t know much and could only earn 5,000 to 6,000 yuan (about 86,000 yen) a month as a cleaner. Rent in Shanghai is very expensive. It takes,” said Wang, who recently returned to work. He took six years off before starting his Hawking career.
Selling 15 yuan a box of pastries, she can earn about 10,000 yuan a month.
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As life returns to normal in China after the pandemic, hawkers are taking to the streets. They want to at least supplement their income in an uneven economic recovery with slow job and wage growth.
Street stalls and hawkers, which are common elsewhere in Asia, have been banned or severely regulated in many Chinese cities for decades by authorities as unsightly.
However, there are signs that local governments are giving hawkers more freedom, and this trend is expected to continue.
The eastern Chinese city of Zibo created a media sensation this month after a flood of tourists visiting its food stalls forced authorities to issue warnings about overcrowding.
Tech hub Shenzhen, which banned peddling in 1999, will ease restrictions on street vendors from September. The city of Shanghai has been soliciting public opinion on a review of its hawker regulations, and announced in April that it had set up 74 spots for hawkers.
The northwestern city of Lanzhou announced this month that it would designate areas for street vendors to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.
Bruce Pang, chief economist at Jones Lang LaSalle, said: “It makes sense that some local governments would be testing street vending as they face tremendous pressure to stabilize local economies and job markets.” said.
Household incomes in the first quarter grew 3.8% from a year earlier, lagging growth in the economy as a whole. The job market remains weak and youth unemployment is at a record high.
Economic pressures put hawkers at risk of being fined or having their goods confiscated.
Wang Xuexue, 28, who sells flowers on a scooter in Shanghai, prefers to peddle her wares away from designated areas that are unobtrusive and subject to fees.
“Of course, the authorities will try to catch us.
Even in Beijing, where President Xi Jinping said the city should remain a “political center” without a street economy above all else, hawkers were seen in tourist areas.
Pen seller Lu Wei had his own shop before the pandemic, but canceled his lease in 2020 after declining sales and being unable to pay the rent. He is now peddling 30 yuan pens along Beijing’s Houhai Lake, but his business is sluggish.
“People don’t have money in their pockets, and even if they do, they don’t want to spend it,” Lu said.
($1 = 6.9121 Chinese yuan)
(Interviews: Nicoco Chan, Ellen Chan, Shanghai Bureau, Editing: Sam Holmes)
Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.