Social Services and Amenities Building Proper Facilities For Street Hawkers
Building Proper Facilities For Street Hawkers

Building Proper Facilities For Street Hawkers

Hawkers have been in Singapore since the 1800s, when the first immigrants arrived. Following World War II, the number of street hawkers skyrocketed, to the extent that the Hawkers Inquiry Commission described them as “a messy sprawl, blocking the streets every which way with their jumble and defying all manner of order and reason”. In 1957, the Markets and Hawkers department was formed to license and control hawkers .

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Although hawking provided employment and cheap food, they gave rise to issues like food-borne diseases such as typhoid, water pollution, and traffic congestion . In 1966, the Hawkers Department was tasked to focus on the public health problems posed by street hawking. The short-term solution was licensing and relocation to side streets, back lanes and vacant land parcels. The long-term solution was to resite street hawkers into proper premises, but progress was delayed due to the lack of funding and availability of land for hawker centres.

In 1971, the government set aside $5 million for the construction of hawker centres . The Urban Renewal Department, Housing and Development Board, Jurong Town Corporation and Public Works Department were tasked to assist in the design and construction of these hawker centres. One of the first hawker centres that was built with proper amenities and plumbing facilities, clean water supply and drainage for the relocated itinerant hawkers was the Yung Sheng Food Centre in Jurong in 1972 .

When the Ministry of the Environment (ENV) was formed in 1972 , the Hawkers Department came under their purview. Recognising the value of hawkers and the part they played in keeping down the cost of living, the government prioritised the planning and development of markets and hawker centres . The construction of North Bridge Road Market, Empress Place and Telok Ayer Food Centres was accelerated and completed in express time by 1973 .

The government also worked towards relocating street hawkers by preventing existing hawker centres from being repurposed for other uses. For example, in 1973, the Environment Ministry opposed plans by the Ministry of Development for the conversion of Killiney Road private market area into the Communication Centre .

The hawker resettlement programme was a massive effort spanning 15 years, and costing more than S$36.4 million. With the completion of the last centre at Jurong West Street 52 in 1985, there were a total of 135 markets and hawker centres in Singapore.

By National Environment Agency. Published April 2021

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