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SHANGHAI/BEIJING, May 30 (Reuters) – Wang Chunxiang pushes a cart through crowded areas of Shanghai, playing cat and mouse with officials as she tries to sell cakes. The jobs she can get won’t pay enough to make ends meet.

“The wages are too low,” the 43-year-old said after serving a customer steamed sweet rice cakes from a wok.

“At my age, without much knowledge, I can earn 5,000 to 6,000 yuan ($868) a month as a cleaning lady. Rent in Shanghai is very expensive. Even low-quality houses are 2,000-3,000 yuan,” said Wang, who recently started. Slaughter after a six-year hiatus.

In a good month, she can earn about 10,000 yuan by selling pasta for 15 yuan a box.

As life in China returns to normal after the outbreak, gangs are hitting the streets. They want to at least supplement their incomes during an uneven economic recovery where job and wage growth is slow.

For decades, street stalls and hawkers – common in other parts of Asia – have been banned or strictly controlled in many Chinese cities, where authorities consider them unsightly.

But there are signs that local governments are giving more relief to fraudsters, a trend that is expected to continue.

Zibo, in eastern China, became a media sensation this month after a rush of tourists to visit street restaurants forced officials to issue warnings about overcrowding.

In the year The technology hub of Shenzhen, which banned hawking in 1999, will ease restrictions on street stalls from September. Shanghai is seeking public input on revising hawker regulations and said in April it had set up 74 spaces for vendors.

Lanzhou, in the northwest, said this month it will be earmarked for street stalls in an attempt to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.

“It’s natural for some local governments to try street sales because they’re under pressure to stabilize local economies and labor markets,” said Bruce Pang, chief economist at Jones Lang LaSalle.

In the first quarter, household income grew 3.8 percent year-on-year, marking broad economic growth. The job market is sluggish and youth unemployment is high.

Economic pressure is forcing traders to face fines or confiscation of their products.

Wang Xuexue, 28, who sells her goods from her scooter in Shanghai, prefers to peddle her wares away from designated areas, which are off-road and charge a fee.

“Of course, the authorities will try to catch us. Otherwise, we wouldn’t run so fast,” said Wang Xuexue, who worked in a flower shop until recently.

Even in Beijing, which President Xi Jinping has said should remain a “political center” above all else without a street economy, scammers were seen in tourist spots.

Pen seller Lu Wei had his own shop before the outbreak, but canceled his lease in 2020 and could not afford the rent as sales declined. Although business is slow, he is now displaying his 30 yuan pens on Beijing’s Huai Lake.

“People don’t have any money in their pockets. Even if they do, they don’t want to spend the money,” Lu said.

($1 = 6.9121 Chinese Yuan)

Reporting by Nikko Chan, Ellen Zhang and the Shanghai Bureau; Editing by Sam Holmes

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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