Indeed, our hawkers' median age is 60 and there is an urgent need to attract younger people to join the trade.
Hence, the National Environment Agency (NEA) runs the Incubation Stall Programme, which supports new hawkers through practice-oriented training and subsidised stalls that come fitted for business.
These incentives reduce start-up costs and provide close hand-holding for new hawkers.
However, there is a limit to how much the Government can do.
This is where socially conscious enterprises can bring in fresh ideas and play a complementary role.
Fei Siong, through its Entrepreneurship Programme, has trained 16 aspiring hawkers through on-site training and mentoring by their management and chefs.
OTMH, a unit of Kopitiam, has the Train & Place Entrepreneurship Scheme, and Timbre also runs an incubator programme.
With their food and beverage experience, socially conscious enterprise operators can also bring in popular recipes and curate food mix at the centre level.
Nine in 10 of the stalls at almost all the new hawker centres offer meal options that are $3 or below.
Affordable food in a clean and hygienic environment is a key objective of the socially conscious enterprise-operated centres. This has largely been achieved at the new centres.
NEA sets key performance indicators for the operators and, in the tender stage, ensures that key parameters such as food price and total cost to stallholders are factored into the evaluation of the preferred bidder.
NEA also requires operators to be transparent about costs. They are not permitted to increase stall rentals and operating costs to stallholders throughout the tenancy term, and any new charges are also subject to NEA's approval.
NEA is currently doing a stock take of the socially conscious enterprise model.
The immediate priority area is to review all the contracts between the operators and stallholders, with the view to prescribe more of the terms. We aim to complete this as soon as possible.
Ivy Ong (Ms)
Director, Hawker Centres Division
National Environment Agency