Opportunities to earn 14 income through informal employment can arise through a variety of social connections, including relying on one’s network of friends and family.
For example, Cynthia operates an informal daycare service out of her apartment. Her clients are parents who work the late shift in area factories and warehouses, and on weekends she takes in children from 7 am to 11pm. During weekdays, in addition to her college studies, Cynthia works a regular job as a daycare teachers’ assistant from 7 am until noon. This is where she met most of her clients, and on many weekdays she also will take care of their children in the evenings while parents are at work.
Like many participants of the informal economy, Cynthia has engaged in multiple activities. “There wasn’t much available,” after high school, so her first job follow-ing graduation was as a hairstylist. She also ran this business from her South Side apartment, despite the fact that doing so was grounds for eviction. Her customers were friends and neighbors, and because she was just starting out she charged just $40 a head, substantially less than her competitors. After that she sold submarine sandwiches near her apartment, as well as in the Loop. For $7, customers could buy a sandwich, chips and a soda, and in a good week Cynthia might earn several hundred dollars. She also has tried selling cookies on CTA buses (three for a dollar), candy, and cookies and sandwiches at Red Line and Blue Line train stations. However, Cynthia copes with a chronic health condition, so working outdoors poses serious health risks. That is one reason she has been providing informal, in-home childcare for the past three years.
Others in the informal economy rely on a customer base that is built through interactions with passersby on the street. The sale of loose cigarettes is an example of how an extensive survival economy can develop alongside the mainstream economy.