Singapore’s Hawker culture gets UNESCO recognition

The UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has recently recognized “Hawker” culture of Singapore and has included it under the list of intangible cultural heritage. The list also includes Chinese Calligraphy, Yoga and Flamenco.

Hawker Centre

A Hawker Centre in Singapore stalls variety of local and other Asian Cuisines. They were set up by the Singapore Government as an alternative to street-side outdoor dining places that seldom lagged hygiene. The Singapore Government offered commonly shared or dedicated table chairs, permanent stalls instead of mobile food carts. Also, the Hawker licensing law was enacted to completely eliminate the street hawker in the city.

The Hawker Centre Culture emerged in 1950-60s around the urban areas of Singapore due to rapid urbanization. They were built to address the problem of unhygienic food prepared by unlicensed street hawkers. Recently, these places are being replaced by food courts due to growing affluence in urban populations.

The Hawker Centres are owned by the Government bodies of Singapore. The three major Government bodies that own the Hawker centres are National Environment Agency, JTC Corporation and the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment, Housing and Development Board. The Government of Singapore had launched several schemes such as Hawkers’ Development Programme to develop these Hawker centres.

Hawker Culture in other countries

The Hawker Culture is popular in other countries such as Hong Kong, Australia.

UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

In 2019, the Singapore Government submitted a nomination to include its Hawker Culture to the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It has now officially accepted by UNESCO. According to UNESCO, the Hawker Centres are “community dining rooms” where people from diverse backgrounds share their experience of dining over breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Basically, a hawker is a vendor who sells food items and other inexpensive goods.  In 2016, UNESCO included Yoga to its Intangible Cultural Heritage List.




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