Hawker (trade)

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Street hawkers selling bags and sunglasses in central Rome, Italy
A hawker selling Goat meat in Kabul

A hawker is a vendor of merchandise that can be easily transported; the term is roughly synonymous with peddler or costermonger. In most places where the term is used, a hawker sells items or food that are native to the area. Whether stationary or mobile, hawkers often advertise by loud street cries or chants, and conduct banter with customers, so to attract attention and enhance sales. When accompanied by a demonstration and/or detailed explanation of the product, the hawker is sometimes referred to as a demonstrator or pitchman.

Hawker selling books in bus, Cuttack, Odisha


For hawkers in Latin America see: ambulantes


Two Argentine kids working as "Manteros" at the Florida Street.

The street vendors in Argentina are known as manteros. They are, in their most part, illegal immigrants without documents and victims of human trafficking, subject to forced labor.[1] They sell varied products in an informal way, in most cases placing them over a blanket. They work at the sidewalks of locations with an important daily traffic, such as the Once railway station, the Retiro railway station, and the Florida Street. This commerce poses an illegal competition with the regular retail shops.[1] The shops at the Avellaneda street estimated that the presence of manteros would make them lose 200 million pesos in the Christmas and holiday season.[2]

According to the Confederación Argentina de la Mediana Empresa (CAME), as of December 2013 there were 463 manteros working in Once, 16.8% of the total in Buenos Aires. The daily sales of manteros are worth 300 million pesos in Buenos Aires, and 52 millions in Once. A single mantero may earn between 2,000 and 3,500 in a day.[1] The manteros are helped by retail shops at other locations, which store their products in the night, even if not allowed to work as warehouses.[1]

The government of Buenos Aires tries to eradicate the manteros with police raids, removing them from the sidewalks and seizing their products. The police also made 35 successful search and seizures at illegal warehouses in January 2014. The manteros, however, return days after the raids. Still, the government attempts to weaken the organizations that back the manteros with the constant raids.[1] The manteros reacted to the raids with demonstrations.[3]

Victorian London[edit]

The costermongers of London, England were at their peak in the 19th century. Organised, yet semi-obvious, they were ubiquitous, and their street cries could be heard everywhere.[4][5]

North America[edit]

In large cities across North America, hawkers are commonly known as street vendors, who sell snack items, such as deep-fried bananas, cotton candy, fried noodles, beverages like bubble tea, and ice cream, along with non-edible items, such as jewelry, clothes, books, and paintings. Hawkers are also found selling various items to fans at a sports venue; more commonly, this person is simply referred to as a stadium vendor.[6][7] In New York and other major cities, Hawkers distribute free Newspapers such as AM New york, and Metro


In the Caribbean hawkers are commonly referred to as higglers or informal commercial importers.[8] They sell items in small roadside stands, public transit hubs, or other places where consumers would want items such as snacks, cigarettes, phone cards, or other less expensive items. Higglers often break larger items into small individual consumable portions for re-sale and use. Buying these items from more traditional vendors, farmers, or merchants for re-sale via their informal network in communities [9]

South and Southeast Asia[edit]

A girl selling plastic containers for carrying Ganges water, Haridwar, India. Many street vendors in Asia are children.
a street hawker selling plastic vessels in Tamil Nadu.
Cart hawkers selling various Indonesian foods in Jakarta.
Vendors in Antananarivo, Madagascar sell koba, a sweet made from ground peanuts, sugar and rice flour.

Hawkers are very common in many countries in Asia.


According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, there are 10 million street vendors in India, with Mumbai accounting for 250,000, Delhi has 200,000, Kolkata, more than 150,000, and Ahmedabad, 100,000. Most of them are immigrants or laid-off workers, work for an average 10–12 hours a day, and remain impoverished. Though the prevalent license-permit raj in Indian bureaucracy ended for most retailing in the 1990s, it continues in this trade. Inappropriate license ceiling in most cities, like Mumbai which has a ceiling 14,000 licenses, means more vendors hawk their goods illegally, which also makes them prone to the bribery and extortion culture under local police and municipal authories, besides harassment, heavy fines and sudden evictions. In Kolkata, the profession was a cognisable and non-bailable offense.[10][11]

Over the years the street vendors have organized themselves into trade unions and associations, and numerous NGO's have started working for them. In fact, The National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) based in Delhi, is a federation of 715 street vendor organizations, trade unions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).[10] Kolkata has two such unions, namely the Bengal Hawkers Association and the Calcutta Hawkers' Men Union. In September, 2012, long-awaited Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act was introduced in the Lok Sabha (Lower of Indian Parliament) aimed to aimed at providing social security and livelihood rights, and regulated the prevalent license system.[12][13] The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on 6 September 2013 and by the Rajya Sabha (upper house) on 19 February 2014.[14][15][16] The bill received the assent of the President of India on 4 March 2014.[17] The commencement of the Act has not been notified.

Other countries[edit]

Balut is a popular dish sold by hawkers in the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. In both China and Hong Kong, hawkers' inventories often include fish ball, beef ball, butzaigo, roasted chestnuts, and stinky tofu. In Singapore and Malaysia, these stands have become so successful that many have chosen to set up shop more permanently in a Hawker center.

Across Asia, stalls have been set up with little to no government monitoring. Due to health concerns and other liability problems, the food culture has been seriously challenged in Indonesia, though without marked success.[18] However, in Hong Kong, the lease versus licensed hawker restrictions have put a burden on this mobile food culture.[19] The term Jau Gwei (literally: running from ghosts) has been used to describe vendors often running away from local police.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Manteros, mafias y delitos" [Manteros, mafias and crimes] (in Spanish). La Nación. February 3, 2014. Retrieved February 12, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Flores: la policía metropolitana desalojó a los manteros de Avellaneda con balas de goma" [Flores: the metropolitan police removed the manteros with rubber bullets] (in Spanish). La Nación. December 11, 2013. Retrieved February 12, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Después de los cortes matinales, los manteros volvieron a protestar por la noche" [After the blockades in the morning, the manteros renewed their protests in the night] (in Spanish). La Nación. February 12, 2014. Retrieved February 12, 2014. 
  4. ^ Chesney, Kellow 1970. The Victorian Underworld. Penguin p43–56; 97–98.
  5. ^ Mayhew, Henry 1851–1861. London Labour and the London Poor. Researched and written, variously, with J. Binny, B. Hemyng and A. Halliday.
  6. ^ The Stadium Vendor Hierarchy[dead link]
  7. ^ "Nine Famous Baseball Stadium Vendors". Mentalfloss.com. 2009-05-06. Retrieved 2013-08-18. 
  8. ^ Jamaica Glossary of Terms[dead link]
  9. ^ The Economic Journal: A Theory of Petty Trading: The Jamaican Higgler
  10. ^ a b "Street Vendors: Tabled in Parliament’s last session, this Bill could bring security to our urban poor". Mint, Lounge. Nov 2, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Reclaiming the city for street vendors". The Hindu. November 3, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Bill in Lok Sabha to protect rights of street vendors". The Economic Times. Sep 6, 2012. 
  13. ^ "Govt introduces street vending bill in Lok Sabha". The Times of India. Sep 7, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Street Vendors Bill passed in Rajya Sabha". The Hindu. 19 February 2014. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  15. ^ "Parliament nod to bill to protect rights of urban street vendors". Economic Times. 20 February 2014. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  16. ^ "Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2012 passed by Lok Sabha". Press Information Bureau. 6 September 2013. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  17. ^ "Gazette Notification". Gazette of India. Retrieved 7 March 2014. 
  18. ^ Winarno, F.G. and A. Allain. Street foods in developing countries: lessons from Asia.
  19. ^ Mau, Stephen D. (2006). Hong Kong Legal Principles: Important Topics for Students and Professionals. HK University Press. ISBN 962-209-778-2

External links[edit]