Retiring hawkers to be given support on succession plans

SINGAPORE – Retiring hawkers will be given financial support while they coach new hawkers to take over their stalls, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Saturday (Dec 26), in an update on the hawkers succession scheme.

The scheme, which was first announced by NEA last month, matches retiring hawkers with entrants to the profession.

This makes it possible for older hawkers to teach their recipes to aspirants, as their own family members might not be interested to continue the trade.

Currently, only hawkers who have their rents subsidised can assign their stalls to non-relatives. Under the scheme, non-subsidised hawkers will also be allowed to do so under relaxed rules.

NEA said the scheme will be piloted in the next two years with just “a handful of veteran and aspiring hawkers” as close facilitation is required.

Retiring hawkers will be paid a “nominal stipend” for guiding those who aspire to the profession, said NEA, adding that more details will be released at a later date.

Under the scheme, NEA will assess the culinary skills of aspiring hawkers before pairing them with retiring hawkers.

The former will then be mentored by a retiring hawker for a few months to learn how to run a hawker business.

If they can pass a food tasting test assessed by the NEA, their hawker mentors, as well as an independent panel, the aspiring hawkers can proceed to take over the physical hawker stall and its brand name.

“Aspiring hawkers who pass the food tasting test will be subject to certain conditions pertaining to the stall’s brand and signature dishes for a period of time to ensure that the veteran hawker’s legacy is sufficiently safeguarded,” said NEA.

Mr Anthony Low, vice-president of the federation of merchants’ associations, Singapore, said older hawkers might be sceptical about young hawkers being able to pick up in just a few months the culinary skills that they themselves have spent decades honing.

“For this to work, the younger hawker must be passionate and willing to spend more time to learn the craft, and retiring hawkers must be willing to share their expertise,” he said in Mandarin.

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Hawker Goh Peng Huat, 59 and his wife, Ms Chia Gek Kee, 53, said they would be keen to join the hawker succession scheme.

Said Ms Chia: “Our grown-up daughters, aged 28 and 30, have their own careers and are not so keen to take over our hawker stall. It would be a pity if our recipes and cooking techniques are lost when we retire.”

Their fishball noodle stall in Marine Parade – Nam Kee Teochew 70’s Heritage Katong – has been around since 1976 and was passed down to Ms Chia by her father in 1983.

Mr Goh’s fishball noodle stall, Nam Kee Teochew 70’s Heritage Katong, has been around since 1976 and was passed down to his wife by her father in 1983. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

The hawker succession scheme was introduced shortly before Singapore’s hawker culture was officially added to the Unesco Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on Dec 17.

Singapore will have to submit a report to Unesco every six years, showing the efforts made to safeguard and transmit hawker culture to future generations.

To celebrate the successful inscription, NEA launched SG HawkerFest – a series of online games and a webinar – for members of the public to learn more about hawker culture.

It will run from Dec 26 to Jan 11.

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Dining vouchers in denominations of $2, which can be redeemed at 29 hawker centres, can be won by solving online quizzes.

Members of the public will also be able to attend a webinar on Jan 8 about the stories behind popular hawker stalls and how younger hawkers are doing their part to safeguard the trade.

More details can be found at this website.

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