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Children in informal trading: Cusco, Peru

Cusco, Peru, is a city where children’s involvement in the urban informal sector is particularly visible, and this study investigates the geography of children in informal trading in the city.

A comprehensive multi-methods approach was adopted, incorporating quantitative and qualitative techniques.

The results suggest that children in informal trading occupy two marginal trading niches: the stall trader and the ambulant trader. Notably, children comprise a substantial proportion of ambulant traders across central Cusco.

Whilst children are apparently ‘disadvantaged traders’, marginalised to less-serviced locations, selling less profitable goods and at less desirable times, there appears to be a hierarchy amongst children, reflecting their age, gender and origin. At the lower end of this hierarchy are younger children, girls and children of rural origin.

There is some evidence which implies children in informal trading exhibit a degree of agency, choosing to work, determining their prices, integrating work and play and enjoying their work.

Finally, the research establishes that current international policies on child labour have a limited impact on child traders. It is argued that children’s enjoyment of work and the many benefits they experience must be taken into account for policies to be truly beneficial to the world’s children.


ESRC-funded PhD (2007)