There are more than 315,000 street stalls in Taiwan, employing almost half a million people across the country, many on a full-time basis. It’s an austere profession, with monthly wages averaging NT$19,965 (US$660) in 2013 for work that is often out in the elements at odd hours of the day.

If you want to make a killing as a street vendor, relatively speaking, toys are the way to go; toy sellers earned an average of NT$35,700 (US$1180) per month in 2013. Selling newspapers and magazines is the toughest gig, earning less than NT$18,000 (US$595) per month.

Chiayi seems to be the clear winner for street vendors; they can earn almost as much as those in Taipei or Keelung, but have a significantly lower cost of living.

The demographics of vendors are changing. Twelve percent had university degrees in 2013, compared to only 2 percent in 1993.

At the same time, the trade is aging rapidly. Almost one quarter are over the age of 60, compared to 8 percent two decades ago. It is the first job for 30 percent of vendors, but 24 percent came from other jobs in retail or food service.So why do people do this work? The most common answer was that they wanted to operate more freely, but others wanted money for domestic use or said they lacked other skills to make a living. Morley J Weston


Morley J Weston

Average monthly wage of street vendors across Taiwan

Morley J Weston