SINGAPORE - Stalls where aspiring hawkers can train under seasoned veterans, amenities such as Wi-Fi and playgrounds. Boosting productivity and keeping costs down, while ensuring that there is a variety of food, not just the cookie-cutter options seen everywhere.
This is the vision of the Hawker Centre 3.0 Committee, which came up with wide-ranging recommendations to ensure that the future hawker centre is not just somewhere to go for delicious meals, but also a hive of community activity and a place where patrons are clean and considerate.
Chaired by the Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Amy Khor, the 14-member committee looked into four key areas: sustaining the hawker trade, improving productivity, enhancing hawker centres as social spaces, and promoting graciousness.
To keep the trade vibrant, for instance, it suggested a series of programmes that will help aspiring hawkers to join the profession.
- Introduce sustainable training programmes to help facilitate and encourage the entry of aspiring hawkers into the profession
- Launch one-stop information centre for hawker trade-related enquiries on licence application and regulatory requirements, among others
- Explore viability of centralised dishwashing, cashless payment and bulk purchasing of common ingredients to raise productivity, address manpower constraints and cut costs
- Encourage wider adoption of more efficient and productive equipment that will help to automate tasks, such as cutting chilli and chopping onions
- Enhance hawker centres' vibrancy by having activities such as music performances. Community groups, such as grassroots organisations, schools or tertiary institutions could also adopt or partner their preferred hawker centres to hold regular activities
- Improve amenities within the hawker centres by providing free WiFi access as well as child-friendly spaces
- National Environment Agency to conduct more campaigns to encourage tray-return and other gracious and considerate behaviour
- Improve the current tray-return facilities in terms of design, layout and location so they are more convenient for patrons to use
Noting that such programmes would have to be carefully designed, the committee said that they could focus on teaching culinary skills as well as how to tender for and operate a hawker stall.
"This course is not meant to be equivalent to a full-fledged culinary certification programme but one that provides relevant practical and basic skills to enable the aspiring hawker to get started," noted the committee in its report, which was released on Friday (Feb 3).
"Essentially, this programme could establish a pathway for interested participants to learn about the hawker trade, acquire culinary and business management skills, as well as have some opportunity to experience being a hawker and eventually become one."
The committee had received feedback from more than 800 stakeholders, including hawkers, members of public, cleaning contractors, and other industry players.
This effort comes as the profession is facing challenges such as higher manpower costs and an ageing workforce which younger people are not keen to join. The average age of hawkers is 59.
Another way to attract aspiring hawkers, said the committee, would be to have the Government set aside "incubation stalls" at hawker centres.
A try-out period of about six to 12 months would be needed for an aspiring hawker to learn the ropes and decide if he wanted to continue in the hawker trade, said the report. Stalls could also be fitted with basic equipment so that those giving it a go need not spend so much..
"We could form a panel of willing supervisors/mentors to provide coaching and guidance to these aspiring hawkers as they establish their businesses," added the committee.
To improve productivity, the committee also proposed that the Government explore centralised dishwashing, cashless payment and bulk purchasing of common ingredients.
Such measures would not only raise productivity, but also address manpower constraints and cut costs.
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, said that his ministry is studying the recommendations.