Steep learning curve and other challenges that young Singapore hawkers face

According to an NEA survey last year, 87.3 per cent of respondents said they would not want to be hawkers. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

The work group on sustaining the hawker trade report, submitted to the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Tuesday (Nov 24), found five key challenges that modern hawkers face.

The first is continued negative public perception towards the trade, which the 19-member group said could be tackled through greater use of digital media and more platforms for the public to celebrate, share and profile hawkers.

According to an NEA survey last year, 87.3 per cent of respondents said they would not want to be hawkers. Through digital media and documentary series that share hawkers' journey, the narrative can be refreshed and a more positive impression of hawkers formed, the report said.

The second and third challenges are difficulties faced by new entrants to the trade and challenges faced by veteran hawkers in finding successors to their business.

Programmes such as the hawker succession scheme and paid traineeships can help with these, allowing for the transmission of skills from the old to the young that have been hard-earned over the decades, the report said.

It also suggested collaboration with tertiary and culinary institutions to codify hawker food recipes to make the learning curve less steep for young hawkers.

A fourth challenge is increasing competition from other establishments in the food and beverage industry, in terms of both patrons and employees.

The report called on the Government to possibly review restrictions that allow only Singaporeans and permanent residents to be hawker assistants if the manpower crunch continues.

Fifth, some hawkers found it too expensive to buy equipment that could increase their productivity, a complaint that can be eased with an extension of existing productivity grants, for example.

More than half of the work group are made up of hawkers, while the rest are hawker food advocates, and stakeholders in academia and the public and private sectors.

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