Now we know, Andrew Loh looks down on hawkers. To him, they are people without a bright future. What a shame. Many hawkers are living better lives than him.
Our hawker culture, which was recently added to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, is an integral part of our national identity. It is also why we are known as a food paradise.
Don’t look down on our national identity, Andrew!
People used to lament that hawkers are a disappearing breed. They lamented that young people did not want to follow their parents’ footsteps. “They’re not tough like their parents.”
Where will I get my char kway teow, laksa, carrot cake, mee goreng, popiah and Indian rojak?
Then there were people who got almost hysterical whenever they saw a foreign face cooking at a hawker stall.
“Why are foreigners taking over our hawker centres?” they screamed on social media.
It’s the same kind of noise they made when the cleaners at hawker centres were foreign workers. Why are foreigners working as cleaners in our hawker centres, they cried. Then when the senior members in our society – our Pioneer and Merdeka generations -took over the cleaning job, they changed tune and lamented how the elderly cannot afford to retire. “They’re so old and still need to work as cleaners.”
These are the people who will find something negative to say for any occasion. The hypocrisy of the cries just can’t escape you because you know they don’t really care for the elderly cleaners.
Now when the government introduced the first-of-its-kind Work-Study Post-Diploma (Certificate) in Hawkerpreneurship for budding entrepreneurs aspiring to join the hawker trade, we have Andrew Loh mocking the government for ‘urging’ young people to become hawkers.
Andrew Loh not only looks down hawkers, he also has a very strange and narrow understanding of what it means to ‘stay united and work hard’. Clearly, the hard work of hawkers is excluded from Andrew’s idea of the kind of hard work that leads to bright future. Why? Is the hard work of a hawker meaningless work to him?
The New Paper recently carried a story of a 40-year-old woman gave up a successful job and steady income in the banking sector in 2019 to become a hawker selling carrot cake and Hokkien mee.
Less than 2 years later, she is happy with her career change.
Of her career change, Ms Ang said, “I had a decent salary. But there was office politics, it was always an ever-running sales number, and we were always in a rat race. I was thinking to myself, ‘Do I want to continue this in my 40s and 50s?'”
What of her new career? “We got more than just the business. The kind of friendship and community spirit that we got were so strong, and they accepted us like a big family,” she said.
THAT’s staying united and working hard.
Singaporeans have aspirations. They do not all have the same aspirations. While it is possible to be a hawker without taking any course, the biggest hindrance to aspiring hawkers is a lack of opportunities to learn how to cook and enter the business. The hawkerpreneurship course is for those who can start with operating one stall but may wish to grow their businesses in a myriad of ways in the future, including moving into the café and restaurant businesses. Here, trainees are mentored by experience hawkers.
The work-study programme will help to keep our hawker culture thriving. Being a hawker is something you can be proud of.