Parliament: More than 8 in 10 hawkers pay less than $1,500 to rent stalls each month

Customers and stalls at the Hougang hawker centre in Ci Yuan Community Club on Aug 14, 2015.
Customers and stalls at the Hougang hawker centre in Ci Yuan Community Club on Aug 14, 2015. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - More than eight in 10 hawkers here pay less than $1,500 in monthly rent for their stalls. In fact, four in 10 pay less than $400, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan on Tuesday in Parliament.

This was a result of government policies that helped keep rental costs for hawkers low, he added.

Dr Balakrishnan was responding to questions from Nominated Member of Parliament, Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin, on how National Environment Agency (NEA) plans to help hawkers deal with the rising costs of ingredients and manpower.

He also highlighted how NTUC Foodfare and Fei Siong Food Management's social enterprise subsidiary, which NEA appointed to manage several hawker centres here, will also help suppress rising ingredient costs for hawkers through bulk-purchasing.

On the issue of rising manpower costs, in the form of wages for cleaners and assistants, Dr Balakrishnan said these increases are "well-justified and well-deserved" for the workers".

"I think I stand with the support of all of you that we were right in imposing progressive wages to increase the wages and employment conditions for cleaners," he said. "I would also expect members of the House to support wage increases for hawker assistants."

The Environment Ministry had said earlier this year that ingredients made up the largest cost component for hawkers, at about 60 per cent.

Manpower made up the second largest cost at 17 per cent while rentals made up just 12 per cent, utilities 9 per cent, and table cleaning and other costs 3 per cent.

Dr Balakrishnan urged everyone to support the two new hawker centres in Bukit Panjang and Hougang, set up by NTUC Foodfare and Fei Siong respectively.

"Let's take a data-driven approach and look at the prices and the value of the food... Let's give this system a chance," he said.

He added that his ministry is also looking at having smartphone apps which would display the prices of food in every hawker stall in Singapore, possibly even in real time and through crowd-sourcing.

"Experts may also be able to assess the food's nutritional value," he said, without giving more details.