Singapore – future of hawker centres in the hands of social enterprises

singapore social enterprise

Hawker centres in Singapore are very popular places to get inexpensive food. As food costs are rising, the Government of Singapore announced in October 2011 that it will build 10 new hawker centres in currently underserved areas over the next 10 years to ensure that everyone has access to affordable food. The vision is to offer a variety of affordable delicacies, with community spaces or amenities such as childcare centres, where parents can drop their children off, grab a bite and head to work. Also, minimum bids for stalls will be removed which will significantly decrease rental prices for hawker stalls.

A first step towards the creation of new hawker centres was the formation of the Public Consultation Panel on Hawker Centres, comprising 18 representatives from different social enterprises and industries. The panel had to supposed to come up with ideas to ensure affordable food prices in the future. In the final recommentation report, the panel suggests to get social enterprises to run hawker centres in order to:

  1. Allow the community to derive maximum benefit from the centres
  2. Ensure that the centres serve as employment opportunities, especially for low income groups and less privileged
  3. Provide a platform for individuals who aspire to be part of the food industry

At a press conference, Social Enterprise Association executive director Teo Mee Hong, who is on the panel, explained the concept of the hawker social enterprise: “It is a registered non-profit company that rents out hawker stalls to create viable livelihoods for small time individual hawkers, the low income and the less privileged locals to provide affordable food to the community.”

In the last few years, rental rates increased as the practice of subletting stalls among hawkers became common. The first of those hawker centres is to be built at Bukit Panjang and and will be run by a social enterprise or cooperative. The Government is expected to decide on one by early next month.

Download the panel’s recommendation report here >>

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