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Why It Matters

Adding spice to hawker culture

With the average age of hawkers at 59 and more hawker centres expected to be built by 2027, it is timely that the Government is seeking views on how to sustain Singapore's hawker culture.

And some ideas have already been proposed to keep hawker centres vibrant.

Earlier in April, the Government announced that a Hawker Centre 3.0 Committee will propose ideas on how to support and attract aspiring hawkers. It will also look at how to promote graciousness and improve the productivity and vibrancy of hawker centres here.

While turnover in food centres is low, the demand for hawkers is expected to increase with 17 more new hawker centres coming on board by 2027, said Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Amy Khor, who announced details on the committee.

At the same time, reports abound on how many long-time hawkers, who are getting on in years, lament that they have trouble getting the younger generation to take over from them.

First built in the 1970s to resettle street hawkers and improve hygiene, hawker centres are a linchpin of Singapore heritage and identity.

Indeed, a survey conducted by the Ministry for the Environment and Water Resources found that 73 per cent of respondents visit hawker centres at least once a week.

Today, there are more than 14,000 licensed hawkers operating in 109 hawker centres here, of which about 6,000 are selling cooked food.

Last week, some 25 hawkers shared their thoughts on how they envisioned hawker centres of the future. Having more amenities nearby like exercise corners could bring in the crowds, while activities like mini-concerts could inject vibrancy.

Others mentioned rebranding the hawker trade to improve its image.

With changing consumer tastes and the demand to keep prices low, perhaps it would also be timely for Singaporeans to think about how they want their hawker centres of the future to be like.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2016, with the headline 'Adding spice to hawker culture'. Print Edition | Subscribe