FOOD FOR THOUGHT: ARE SOCIAL ENTERPRISE HAWKER CENTRES REALLY SOCIALLY GOOD?

Written by Benedict Lee

Not-for-profit social enterprise hawker centres were introduced three years ago, aiming to keep food prices low for consumers and make the hawker trade sustainable. Unfortunately, these hawkers pay an average of S$4,000 a month in rent (even higher than that of popular food centres), as well as extra expenses like publicity efforts, coin-changing services, crockery washing, collection and return and even quality control. They also face many restrictions such as the requirement to open for at least 12 hours daily (bad for work-life balance) and submit medical certificates if they are unable to do so. However, some hawkers are satisfied because there are centralised collection and dishwashing services, a clean environment and programmes to help them kick-start their businesses. A hawker commented that he expects monthly payments to decrease in the future as hawkers had already paid the initial set-up costs and equipment costs would also depreciate.

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