SINGAPORE — Last year, Chinese media Shin Min daily news reported that a 50-year-old food delivery rider, Andrew Chong changed his career path to rojak seller at Telok Blangah coffee shop after he got into an accident during food delivery.

Mr Chong was involved in an accident in 2021 and broke his wrist. While he was worrying about his future, a rojak stall owner, 70-year-old Jason Wong offered to teach him the art of making rojak. The latter took over the stall as the elder wanted to retire.

But in a recent news update, Mr Chong made the painful decision on CNY‘s eve (21 January) to throw in the towel after two years of running the stall as business was sluggish for the past six months due to inflation.

“Sometimes I only earn $12 a day”

Mr Chong told Shin Min that he had been earning only S$400 a month after deducting the stall’s rental and other costs.

“Sometimes I only earn $12 a day, on a good day, I get about $65, ” Mr Chong said.

Recently, his operating cost has increased by at least 20 per cent. For example, shrimp paste has risen to $10 per bucket, and even the price for materials like “otak” and fruits are hiking.

But Mr Chong did not increase his selling price to keep his regular customers coming.

As a single father, Mr Chong has a nine-year-old son to care for.

He has to remit about $1000 every month as living expenses for his son and ex-wife who living in Thailand. The revenue from the rojak stall is not enough to feed both of them.

Mr Chong took another part-time job as a security guard for the last two months. The work shift was 12 hours long, from midnight until 8 am morning next day.

After got home from work, he would take two or three hours of sleep before getting up to run his rojak stall.

“Every night, I earn about $100, but it’s making me very tired. Sometimes I end up falling asleep at my stall.” Mr Chong had to give up his job due to a lack of sleep and an unhealthy daily routine.

Although he had considered finding other business locations with more foot traffic, the rental was simply unaffordable to him.

“Previously, there was a stall for rent at a coffee shop in Toa Payoh, but the rent is $3,000 a month. I don’t even dare to think about it.”

Hawkers affected by rental and cost of living

In November last year, 8world, Singapore Chinese media reported that at least 15 stalls were vacant in the bustling Amoy Street Food Centre.

Many young hawkers there closed their stalls after a few months, due to a high starting rent and being unable to generate enough income to make ends meet.

According to National Environment Agency (NEA)’s website, there were three successful bids in August 2022 for Amoy Street Food Centre, which ranged between $3,200 to $3,633.

The highest monthly rental bid ever received for the food centre’s stall was $4,988 back in 2018. The second-highest bid came this February for $4,688.

Bloomberg reported today (26 January) that Singapore’s hawker food inflation soared to a 14-year high of 8.1 per cent in December 2022 from a year earlier, while restaurants, fast food chains and food caterers observed price increases below 7.5 per cent, according to data from the Department of Statistics.

Many hawkers have been forced to hike their prices, especially hurting those on lower incomes for whom such food is a necessity.

At the same time, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) had advised businesses not to misrepresent to consumers by attributing any price increases primarily or solely to the increase of the 1 per cent hike of Goods & Services Tax (GST) which was implemented from 1 January 2023.

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