Mexico

Working Off the Books Is the Norm in Mexico

Opportunities that regulators and tax collectors would destroy

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MEXICO CITY — Meet Luis Troncoso, enemy of the dynamic modern economy envisioned by Mexico's leaders.

Troncoso, 70, and many of the 150 other street vendors who work with him rise before dawn five days a week, heading first to buy provisions at Mexico City's huge produce distribution center and then to one of the neighborhood streets where they hawk their goods.

"This is the opportunity that we have," said Troncoso, whose own stall selling an array of candy is flanked by others displaying used clothes, fresh meats, fruits and flowers. "There aren't any other jobs. This work is passed down from generation to generation."

On a better 12-hour day the vendors can clear $40, or about eight times Mexico's daily minimum wage, nearly all of it immune from taxes. With that they feed their families, pay rent, and support other merchants with purchases.

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