New scheme to help hawkers hand over their businesses
Retiring hawkers who previously could not pass their stalls to non-relatives will be allowed to do so
Some retiring hawkers who previously could not hand over their stalls to non-relatives will be allowed to do so under relaxed rules, as a new scheme has been rolled out to ensure hawker culture stays alive.
The hawker succession scheme, proposed by a work group formed last year to suggest solutions to longstanding problems faced by hawkers, will match retiring hawkers with new entrants to the profession.
It widens the pool of people older hawkers can teach their recipes and pass their experience to, no longer limiting their handover plans to only those in their family, who might not be as interested to carry on with the trade.
The announcement by the National Environment Agency (NEA) comes after an expert international panel last week recommended that Singapore's hawker culture be put on the Unesco intangible heritage list.
The official results on this will be announced next month.
If the nomination is successful, Singapore will have to submit a report to Unesco every six years on its efforts to safeguard hawker culture.
The new scheme applies to "a small subset" among the 600 cooked-food hawkers who currently do not have their rentals subsidised, NEA said.
More details will be announced in the first quarter of next year when the scheme is piloted. Currently, only hawkers who have their rentals subsidised can assign their stalls to non-relatives.
Mr Edward Chia, an MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC and co-chairman of the work group that proposed the scheme, said there are many veteran hawkers who have no one to hand over their brands and recipes to.
"We felt this was something that was notable. It will be such a waste if some of these recipes for good food disappear from the hawker scene," said Mr Chia, who is also managing director of Timbre Group.
Once eligible hawkers apply for the scheme, NEA, advised by an independent panel, will facilitate the matching of compatible hawkers. The plan, for now, is for the succession scheme to be restricted to those who have at least 15 years of experience operating their stalls in hawker centres, NEA added.
There is a longer-term hope that the scheme will help the profession attract younger hawkers, with the median age of hawkers currently at 59.
Mr Lim Gek Meng, a hawker of nearly 40 years who also co-chairs the work group, said the succession scheme tackles a problem he also faces.
He took over his father's fishball noodle business but is now unsure if his children will run it after he retires.
The work group had progressively suggested several schemes to the authorities and some of these have already been implemented.
A hawkers' development programme, which offers subsidised training fees, paid apprenticeship and allocation of subsidised stalls to new aspiring hawkers, was launched in January. Close to 150 participants have completed the training stage of this programme.
Key challenges for hawkers outlined in report
The work group - made up of hawkers, hawker food advocates, and stakeholders in academia and the public and private sectors - found some key challenges that modern hawkers face in its report on sustaining the trade, submitted to the National Environment Agency yesterday.
- There is continued negative public perception towards the trade. This can be tackled through greater use of digital media and more platforms for the public to celebrate, share and profile hawkers. According to an NEA survey last year, 87.3 per cent of respondents said they would not want to be hawkers.
- Difficulties faced by new entrants and challenges faced by veteran hawkers in finding successors. Programmes such as the hawker succession scheme and paid traineeships can help. The report also suggested collaborations with tertiary and culinary institutions to codify hawker food recipes to make the learning curve less steep for young hawkers.
- Increasing competition from other establishments in the food and beverage industry, in terms of both patrons and employees. The report called on the Government to possibly review restrictions that allow only Singaporeans and permanent residents to be hawker assistants if the manpower crunch continues.
- Some hawkers find it too expensive to buy equipment that could increase their productivity, an issue that can be eased with an extension of existing productivity grants, for example.
- THE STRAITS TIMES