Your Letters

Get basics right to attract new hawkers

The suggestions from the Hawker Centre 3.0 Committee, while well-intentioned, does little to address the issue of attracting the younger generation to be hawkers ("Turning hawkers into wok stars"; Feb 12).

As someone who had tried my hand at being a hawker, I would like to share my observations.

Hawkers are there to make money. Because they are expected to keep prices low while dealing with high overheads, they have to sell a higher quantity to generate enough revenue, and that means long hours, which is a deterrent in attracting new blood.

The authorities could help by doing away with the bidding system, which results in high rental costs.

For new hawkers, a month or two of discounted utility costs could also help the new business get on its feet.

In the longer term, the public should get used to the idea that it is unrealistic to expect hawker prices to stay at an unsustainable low price.

What would also help greatly is to make the environment more comfortable for the hawkers - larger stall areas, better ventilation and clean washrooms.

Hawkers are currently expected to store, prepare and cook food as well as wash up and store their cooking ware and all utensils within a small confined area, while meeting fire safety and hygiene standards.

Doing all these in a hot and smoky environment on a daily basis makes for many grouchy hawkers.

People become hawkers mainly because they would like to be their own boss, and perhaps they enjoy cooking, too.

So while it is nice to portray young hawkers as glamorous stars, let's first focus on making the job environment comfortable, ensuring that the hours are reasonable, and the trade profitable.

Yeo Yujin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 19, 2017, with the headline 'Get basics right to attract new hawkers'. Print Edition | Subscribe