International Review of Education

, Volume 61, Issue 2, pp 191–209 | Cite as

Skills development in the informal sector in India: The case of street food vendors

Original Paper


The informal sector dominates India’s economic life, so issues of skills development are particularly important. On the basis of a survey of 49 street food vendors in the Indian cities of New Delhi and Coimbatore, the authors of this article demonstrate that informal learning is a particularly significant form of vocational education and training. Vendors do not acquire skills in formal vocational education and training (VET) settings; for them, opportunities for learning on the job in family businesses or in informal employment are especially important. Unlike other studies, the authors’ findings show that street food vendors have a wide range of specialist knowledge, skills and expertise required to conduct their business which they deploy profitably. These skills are not confined to preparing and selling food but also extend to areas such as price setting and marketing. All the street food vendors interviewed identified strongly with their occupation and expressed pride in it. Around half voiced a wish for further training. In this context, the authors suggest promoting non-formal learning settings geared explicitly to street food vendors’ difficult working conditions. In line with a few other international innovative schemes, they term this a “non-formal apprenticeship” approach.


India Street food vendors Informal sector Informal learning Skills development 


Développement des compétences dans le secteur informel de l’Inde : le cas des vendeurs ambulants – Le secteur informel domine la vie économique indienne, le développement des compétences y est donc particulièrement important. À partir d’une enquête menée auprès de 49 vendeurs ambulants de produits alimentaires dans les villes de New Delhi et Coimbatore, les auteurs de cet article démontrent que l’apprentissage informel est une forme particulièrement efficace d’enseignement et de formation professionnels. Ces travailleurs ne sont pas formés dans les structures formelles de l’enseignement et de la formation professionnels (EFP), les opportunités d’apprendre sur le tas dans le commerce familial ou dans l’emploi informel sont donc pour eux décisifs. Contrairement à d’autres études, les auteurs constatent que les vendeurs ambulants en alimentation possèdent un large éventail de connaissances, compétences et savoirs spécialisés, nécessaires pour mener leur activité qu’ils exercent avec profit. Ces compétences ne se limitent pas à préparer et à vendre des produits alimentaires, mais touchent aussi des domaines tels que la fixation des prix et le marketing. Tous les vendeurs interrogés déclarent s’identifier fortement à leur travail et en être fiers. Environ la moitié ont exprimé le souhait d’une formation complémentaire. À ce sujet, les auteurs proposent de promouvoir des structures non formelles d’apprentissage adaptées explicitement aux conditions de travail difficiles des vendeurs ambulants. S’alignant sur quelques autres projets internationaux innovants, ils appellent cette approche « apprentissage professionnel non formel ».


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Modern Indian Studies (CMIS)University of CologneCologneGermany
  2. 2.School of Gender and Development StudiesIndira Gandhi National Open UniversityNew DelhiIndia
  3. 3.Department of Agricultural and Rural Management, Centre for Agricultural and Rural Development Studies (CARDS)Tamil Nadu Agricultural UniversityCoimbatoreIndia

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