Will my kids ever be able to experience cheap nasi padang from the makcik who calls me “sayang” at my favourite hawker centre?
With the emergence of home-based businesses and exquisite cafes, being a hawker-preneur might not sound as sexy to those from the younger generation. Despite its deceivingly humble image, our hawkers put in long hours and take years to master the skill of cooking your fav char kway teow, prata, kuay chap and rendang.
Why are the young not interested in the hawker culture?
According to Seetoh, who’s probably one of Singapore’s most prominent local food consultant, hawkers are still seen as “unfashionable”. Hawker centres are seen as very hot and dirty, hawkers are not dressed well, and the presentation of food is not as fancy as many would like it to be.
Coupled with the Singaporean dream of completing one’s education, getting a degree and earning big bucks be it through a business or working for a reputable company – hawkering often does not come across one’s thoughts when goal-setting. (for me at least)
On the other hand, those who are interested are often discouraged by the lack of opportunities to learn how to cook and enter the business. The bulk of our hawker culture consists of local fare, and many younger aspiring hawkers also prefer to whip up what they feel are more “interesting”. Think fusion or western cuisine.
Bak chor mee? Rendang? Hokkien mee? Not likely.
As a result, this puts Singapore’s hawker culture in a really precarious position, with older hawkers passing away with no one to pass on the trade to.
Efforts to preserve Singapore’s hawker culture with resources to nurture the next generation of hawkers
Just recently, NTUC FairPrice Foundation has funded $1 million to launch the Kopitiam HawkerBoss Programming, aimed at helping hawkerpreneurs kick start and scale their business. The programme also hopes to create new hawker assistant jobs.
This 12-month hawker entrepreneur programme will help access each hawkerpreneurs’ needs, helping them in various aspects;
- Marketing expertise
- Access to raw material resourcing
- Stall fee subsidies
- Priority access to stalls within the Kopitiam/FoodFare managed outlets. This could be in hawker centres, coffee shops, food courts in malls or hospitals etc.
- Manpower salary subsidies
Aspring hawkers will benefit from FairPrice Foundation’s funding and FairPrice Group’s food-related services and expertise including sourcing, marketing and branding.
Interested applicants can register here.
Fulfilling societal obligations, beyond selling groceries
In light of the rising cost of living, FairPrice has been under fire for not making things as “cheap” as the other supermarkets. FairPrice exists not to be the cheapest, but to set the benchmark so that other supermarkets will follow suit. This helps to regulate the price of goods, so workers can have different options to choose from when buying necessities.
Apart from this, FairPrice has also been contributing back to society and better supporting workers. Most recently, FairPrice donated $40,000 to Mendaki ‘s education programmes for children from disadvantaged families.
That, my friends, is how workers are being supported in all aspects of life.