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Rising rent, worker shortages threaten rich Asia's food culture

Published on Apr 28, 2014 2:17 PM
Mr Yip Kwok Ching, 62, owner of Singapore's Hong Kong Jin Tian, which sells roast meat, will close its doors at the end of the month, as monthly rentals rise to S$12,000. The eatery has been in the area for the past 14 years. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE/HONG KONG (Reuters) - The Hong Kong Jin Tian Eating House in Singapore has stopped selling the savoury roast duck and pork ribs that drew crowds for a generation, the latest to close down due to escalating rents and difficulty in finding workers.

The eatery run by Yip Chan Yuk Ying, a Hong Kong-born Singapore citizen, shut its doors on Monday after its landlord jacked up its monthly rent by 46 per cent to S$12,000 from S$8,200. "There doesn't seem to be any control in the rise of rent and local workers are very hard to get," said Mr Yip, 56, who has been in the food business for more than 20 years. "I don't really have any plans on what to do next."

Singapore has been tightening restrictions, such as by increasing government levies and minimum wages, on hiring foreign workers after a backlash from voters concerned about overcrowding and competition for jobs. The restrictions, coupled with runaway rents, have hit food proprietors like Mr Yip hard as many locals, particularly younger workers, prefer white-collar jobs with more stable pay.

Monthly rentals for shophouses in the Tiong Bahru area in central Singapore, where Yip's eatery was located, have more than doubled to S$8.09 per square foot since the first quarter of 2011, according to property consultancy Knight Frank.

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