Street Vendors in Jakarta A culture built on self-employment

It's difficult to ignore the informal side of Jakarta's economic sector, with food vendors and temporary corner stores lining the city's bustling streets. The Cooperatives, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and Trade Agency estimates that Jakarta has 18,000 spaces available for street vendors to set up their business; however, it is recorded that there are over 56, 000 operating street vendors. With lack of space, vendors have now flowed onto inner city streets, parking lots and along main roads.

Jakarta's city centre is filled with the aromas and enticing scents of deep fried delicacies and fresh tropical fruits.

It's estimated that more than 30% of Indonesians are employed in the informal business sector, with many working as street vendors and in the garment industry. Street Vendor is a job title that is often accompanied with a negative stigma, with vendors blamed for traffic congestion and littering the city streets. However, for many, it's a livelihood that provides an income and a sense of purpose in a country that has in the past struggled with high unemployment rates and poverty.

The small village of Glodok, located in West Jakarta, showcases a community that thrives on the business of street vendors. The narrow side allies that wind off the main street are crammed with the food stalls, all ready to serve the wave of tourists that will flood the streets, looking for a taste of Indonesian culture and cuisine.

Culinary skills are practised daily for Glodok's local street vendors.

Jakarta streets have provided a space for vendors to make a living and help support the local business and economy. Throughout history, the Jakarta Government has forcibly removed vendors from the streets in an attempt to contain cleanliness and restore urban order.

Glodok locals start their day with a fruit bowl.

Previously street vendors were required to pay multiple permit and license fees in order to legally occupy a space to conduct business as a street vendor. However, under the democratic government in Jakarta, street vendors have been offered their own spaces, only having to pay a small fee for site rental, with previous business permits and license fees being waived by the city government.

In the small village of Glodok, street vendors and food carts crowd the narrow allies.

A small warung sits quietly in the shadows of a worn concrete barricade in Jalan Surabaya, Jakarta’s largest vintage market.

Sity may be a street vendor but her business has evolved from the standard food cart. A warung is a small family owned shop that sells everything, and its larger exterior and ability to be secured after hours and permanently stored on location is what gives her the upper hand in the competitive world of street vendors.

Sity's warung stands out from the shadows with her bright umbrella.

One might think that this corner store is cluttered and lacks organisation, but it’s Sity's pride and joy, and she is delighted to show off what exclusivities her warung has on offer for the locals and intrigued tourists.

Her hands delicately sort through the vine she has created with chip and cookie packets, detailing the sweet tastes and sugary goodness that her warung goods would provide to hungry passers-by.

Sity's warung attracts attention from Jalan Surabaya locals and neighbouring residents.

Sity is 41 years old and has been running her warung on this corner for 18 years. The corner of Jalan Surabaya is her permanent location for business and often catches the eyes of tourists shopping for vintage goods and souvenirs in the vintage market.

Sity enjoys the locals who stop to chat and help keep her company throughout the day.

Sity's warung caters for a variety of needs, including cigarettes, confectionary, water, coffee and instant noodles. She says her instant noodles are popular with the locals and is a driving force behind her 18 year old business.

People love that they can get a hot meal from me on the way to work or on the way home from school without having to wait in long lines in shopping malls, it's convenient.
The front gates of Istiqlal Mosque are swallowed with warungs & street vendors.

Jakarta's culture is built on self-sufficiency and the ability to adapt to the city's ever changing environment. It's a culture that locals thrive on, not just the thousands of tourists that visit the inner city provinces each year.

Deep fried meats are a popular choice for vendors and consumers.

Btari Nadine, a student at Universitas of Indonesia, says street vendors are a way of life and are an aspect of Jakarta that attracts people from both lower class and upper class provinces. She explains that vendors have created their own lifestyle, one that locals and tourists have welcomed with open arms.

Sometimes it's nice to get something from the street vendors, as you can't get this experience where your food is made in front of you at most restaurants or cafes.
Locals at Jalan Surabaya Market feast on Ketupat Sayur, a type of dumpling made from rice in a woven palm leaf pouch.

The phenomenon of street vendors in Indonesia is an aspect that many either love or hate. However, these small businesses provide thousands of families with an income that allows them to live a purposeful life and achieve sense of identity in a city that continues to flourish.

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