Social Services and Amenities Moving Hawkers From The Streets To "Suites"
Moving Hawkers From The Streets To

Moving Hawkers From The Streets To "Suites"

The hawker trade has evolved dramatically over the years: from plying the streets , to being housed in proper facilities to raise the standards of safety and hygiene; and from being chased by ‘Daegu’ (public health inspectors) for operating without a permit, to being feted as a national treasure, fiercely protected and beloved by citizens.

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How did the government manage the logistics of corralling all these street hawkers into hawker centres? By maintaining fees and rentals at a nominal rate so that the resited hawkers would be able to sell their food at the same prices as before .

However, the relocation exercise was not without obstacles. Street hawkers resisted the move as they enjoyed free rent on the streets and could come and go as they pleased. Many had established a regular clientele and were worried that their businesses would be affected if resited into hawker centres. Hawking on the streets also came with fewer restrictions and stalls could be expanded by simply adding more tables and chairs.

In 1975, there were still 15,000 hawkers on the streets, and one out of every 6 stalls sat empty in the hawker centres. Concerned that the government was spending millions of dollars building hawker centres but unable to persuade the street hawkers to move into them, the Ministry of Environment had to change tack, and take the more direct action of forcing licensed street hawkers to fill up the vacant stalls . Licensed street hawkers were allocated stalls and required to occupy the stalls within two weeks of allocation or have their licenses suspended for a month - that meant no income for the month! If they still failed to comply, their licences would be cancelled. Other enforcement actions included seizure of goods or being charged in Court and barred from ever being issued a hawker’s licence.

In 1978, the government decided to stop issuing street hawker licenses altogether. Public education efforts were also ramped up, to discourage purchase of food from unlicensed street hawkers. These measures proved to be effective as the number of street hawkers dropped from 15,000 to about 4,000 in just 5 years! By 1983, there were only about 1,000 street hawkers left.

In 1986, the last street hawker was relocated into a hawker centre, marking a successful conclusion to the government’s street hawker relocation programme.

By National Environment Agency. Published February 2021.

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