Valencia looking to set up a co-op for hawkers

The project aims to help street vendors integrate into the formal economy and gain access to social services while paying tax

A local council in Valencia, Spain, is proposing to set up a co-operative enterprise for street vendors.

Suggested by the city’s department of co-operation, development and migration, the project aims to help hawkers integrate into the formal economy and gain access to social services while paying tax.

In a draft policy on immigration, Neus Fábregas, who leads the department, also suggested allocating a specific space where the street vendors, mostly from Senegal, can sell their products.

Valencia has, on average, around 400 hawkers who sell a range of goods on the city’s streets. The act is illegal and those caught can receive fines of up to €300 and have their products confiscated by the police. The new plan would only involve those who sell genuine products not counterfeit items.

In an interview for local media outlet Las Provincias, Ms Fábregas explained that many street vendors are simply looking to earn a living, just like those who are selling items in shops across the city.

“The initiative to establish a co-operative for street vendors is a measure that appears in the Municipal Migration Plan, which is in the process of being approved. Once approved in the plenary of the City Council of Valencia, we will begin to work on the various measures that appear in it. One of them, setting up a co-operative, will be a project that we will do next,” said a council spokesperson.

Valencia is following the example of Barcelona, where last year the local council helped to set up a co-op for street vendors. Named Diomcoop, the co-op has 15 members who provide a range of services, including catering, surveillance and maintenance. The co-op, whose members are all from Senegal, is also producing clothing items under the brand Diambaar. In May they had their first fashion show.

According to the International Labour Organization, workers in the informal economy are mostly involved in micro and small enterprises and tend to have no formal recognition. The ILO identifies co-operatives as key tools in transforming marginal survival activities into legally protected work, fully integrated into the mainstream economy. A recent report by the UN body shows that two billion people, more than 61% of the world’s employed population, make their living in the informal economy. In Europe, 25.1% of employment is informal.

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