Roving days of street hawkers over by 1990


img0096Registered hawkers balloting for hawker stalls at Bukit Ho Swee, 1966.  A new Hawkers Code was implemented in 1966 for licensing and controlling hawkers.  Since then, street hawkers were progressively relocated into markets and shophouses with running water, electricity and proper refuse disposal facilities.  They also had to comply with minimum public health requirements and empty all refuse at proper public refuse bins.  Food and drink hawkers were tested for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and cholera.

Roving days of street hawkers over by 1990

By Corinne Tham

[Source:  The Straits Times, 10 December 1978]

The wandering days of all street hawkers in Singapore will be over by 1990.

That is the official deadline set by the Ministry of the Environment, a ministry spokesman said on 9 December 1978.

“The current policy is to house all street hawkers because of public health reasons,” he said.

Street hawkers provide a major source of water pollution, do not have proper facilities to prepare hygienic food and obstruct roads.


The government has up to now resettled about 20,000 street hawkers by channelling them into food centres and markets located mainly at housing estates.

“There are still 6,986 hawkers in the streets,” said the spokesman.

“We expect to resite some 4,600 street hawkers by 1981 – 4,200 will be absorbed by the Housing and Development Board and 400 into three food centres to be built by the ministry, he added.

Two of the three proposed centres will be located in the Central Business District.  Plans to have them constructed by 1981 have already been submitted to the Finance Ministry and the Master Planning Committee for approval.

The proposed sites will be in the areas within High Street, Telok Ayer and Farrer Park.

There are now about 4,108 street hawkers distributed over 200 sites in the Central Business District.

These hawkers are patronised mainly by office workers.  The Public Health Inspectorate checks hawker sites to ensure that only hygienic food is sold to the public.

In order to settle all remaining hawker centres by 1990, more hawker centres with an average of 150 stalls will have to be constructed, said the spokesman.

“As an interim measure until such time suitable sites are found and more food centres constructed, exisiting hawker sites are being improved and provided with anti-pollution facilities,” he added.

Some of the areas where such programmes have already been implemented are Eu Tong Sen Street, St. Gregory Place and the backlanes of Robinson Road.


All food centres are subsidised by the government.  It costs an average of $15,000 to build a food stall excluding the cost of land.

No more street hawker licences will be issued in line with the current policy to relocate street hawkers.

The present policy is to discourage the young and abled to take up hawking although consideration will be given to hardship cases, the spokesman said.

Archived photos of street hawkers in Singapore [Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore].


img0084img0009Singapore street scene showing patrons at roadside hawker stall, 1956


img0061Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew stopping at a street hawker stall during his tour of Paya Lebar constituency on 24/03/1963.

img0102Outside Goodwood Park Hotel, 1930

img0082img0080img070img0070A street hawker selling bananas to a soldier, 1945.


Photos courtesy of Carl Mydans


The heritage photos of street stalls in Singapore are shared on Facebook by Carl Mydans here .


My blogger friend, Andy Young’s blog ‘Singapore 60s Music’ is available here .

Hawker food of yesteryear

In this series, Natalie Wong finds out more about the lives of hawkers in early Singapore

[Source: The Straits Times, 14 October 2014]

The five-foot way along shophouses of 1950s Singapore became a natural place for hawkers to open small businesses, to attract the masses of passers-by.

The five-foot-way shelters were ordered by Sir Stamford Raffles to be built in the 1800s.

He ordered shophouses to have a covered walkway of about five feet wide (1.5m) along their street fronts.

This was picked by hawkers as a suitable place to run their businesses, because of the shelter it provided.

Hawkers manned pushcarts and it was common practice for them to hawk their wares by shouting aloud to attract customers.

Without needing a licence to operate and to pay for rental space, these hawkers lined the streets of Chinatown in droves.  Their mobile carts or bicycles allowed them to travel about to sell anything from laksa to satay and wanton noodles.

They also made and sold other popular food and tidbits like ding ding tang (a malt candy), muah chee (a sticky glutinous rice snack covered with crushed peanuts) and grilled sweet corn, among a myriad of other dishes.

However, with hygience concerns and economic progress, the Singapore Government constructed hawker centres to house travelling hawkers in permanent stalls.

In 1993, the Government passed a law that banned hawkers from operating mobile pushcarts along the streets unless they had a licence.

The newly renovated Chinatown Food Street in Smith Street, with 24 street hawker stalls, tries to recreate these days of yore by ling the street with stalls constructed to look like pushcarts of the past.



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