Supporting UNESCO bid for Singapore hawker culture

SBF has thrown its weight behind the move by encouraging its members to pledge their support for the initiative

The Singapore Business Federation (SBF) is doing its part to make the world recognise the value of local hawker culture, as it calls on its 26,000 member companies to support Singapore’s bid to earn a place on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

An integral part of Singapore’s street food scene, hawkers are a treasured and unique segment of micro-businesses, providing a value that extends beyond their commercial size. Hawkers are found across the island, providing tasty, affordable fare that reflects Singapore’s melting pot of ethnicities. In a statement, SBF said that hawker culture spawns a heritage that is community-based, focusing on social and economic value and the transfer of knowledge and skills from one generation to the next.

That said, the sector faces the challenge of sustainability, as more practitioners leave the trade in the face of long hours, uncomfortable working conditions, meagre compensation and rising business costs. Meanwhile, potential successors from the younger generation are shunning the hawker trade in favour of more lucrative career choices.

Maxwell Food Centre in Singapore

“While socio-economic factors exert pressure on the long-term viability of the hawker trade, it is nonetheless a much-cherished part of Singapore’s cultural heritage, and therefore something that we ought to protect for as long as possible. UNESCO recognition represents an affirmative step towards preserving this legacy for future generations,” said SBF Chairman Mr SS Teo.

Mr Teo noted that corporate support in the form of domain expertise, technology and recognition can contribute to the automation of processes, work flow and operational efficiency to help hawkers reduce overhead costs.

“Our hawkers are amongst our smallest businesses; our larger companies should deal with them with fairness. They can help secure a future for the hawker trade in Singapore. SBF supports the UNESCO bid and welcomes the Committee recently appointed to oversee and guide the effort for the bid. I encourage our members, fellow trade associations and chambers to pledge their support for this worthy cause as well”, he said.

Companies and organisations may pledge their support for our UNESCO bid for Singapore’s hawker culture here.