Questioning a new hawker succession scheme, KF Seetoh asked: “A Stipend. Is this all you feel these older hawkers deserve for their lifework?”
The food guru and founder of Makansutra was responding to the updated hawker succession scheme where retiring hawkers will be given financial support while they coach new hawkers to take over their stalls.
The new work-study programme to ease the entry of young people into the hawker trade will be launched in March. It allows recent graduates from polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to go through a four-month apprenticeship and a six-month mentorship with experienced hawkers, while hawkers get $500 monthly.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday (Jan 12), champion for hawker rights Mr Seetoh questioned the remuneration given to the older hawkers.
Calling hawking an “unheralded public service”, he wrote that the hawkers “spent decades and even a lifetime fending for themselves creating, perfecting and delivering their dishes at affordable and even cheap prices to eke out a living, with no government support”.
“Come on, these old master and retiring hawkers deserve more. Just because they plan to call it a day, don’t mean we can throw some stipend into their retirement pots and hijack their lifework,” he added.
Lauding the initiative of introducing hawker food courses in local polytechnic and ITE courses, Mr Seetoh pushed that there should be an approach to recognise all hawkers, “not just those in public built hawker centres but also in kopitiam, canteens and private food centres”.
Raising a current issue that hawkers face, Mr Seetoh explained that manpower laws and policies do not allow hawkers to hire non-Singaporean assistants in public hawker centres, with locals refusing to work as hawker assistants even for high salaries.
He concluded his post by saying: “Manpower and rents- these are the two biggest nails that will seal the coffin of sustainability in our hawker food culture. We need a big rethink on that and hope Unesco won’t find fault with it and remove the recognition in 6 years”. /TISG