Associate Professor of Sociology María Luisa Amado made a presentation April 16 in Atlanta at the 2016 Meeting of the Southern Sociological Society.
María shared findings from her ongoing research related to Panama’s informal market workers, people such as peddlers, who work without formal contracts and lack legal protections and employment benefits. These individuals make up about 40 percent of the country’s non-agricultural work force.
Her presentation particularly focused on the displacement of street vendors from commercially strategic areas of Panama City — the colonial neighborhood known as Casco Antiguo and the commercial district of Calidonia. As part of a government-sponsored project known as the “Plan for the Ordering and Embellishment of Panama City,” these areas are undergoing what María calls a “privatization of public space,” characterized by exclusionary urban renewal and gentrification.
The language used by local authorities and entrepreneurs represents informal market workers as incompatible with urban renewal, she says. The Panamanian work force is suffering a “double squeeze” under current free market economics, she argues: on the one hand, neoliberal policies reduce access to stable formal sector employment; on the other, the prevalent model of development, inspired in a neoliberal paradigm, hampers informal employment by confining informal market workers to marginal spaces and curbing their capacity to occupy and operate in public venues.