Business Practices at Nail Salons May Be Cause for Concern
Although there may be nothing more fashionable than a fresh set of perfectly manicured nails, there has been increased scrutiny of how this service is traditionally delivered. Specifically, it is questionable whether current business practices are sustainable given the pressure on wages and working conditions that seem to go along with the current business model. Certainly, when it comes to barriers to entry, there are very few industries easier to get started into than this one. Setting up a new salon requires only a few thousand dollars for chairs, whirlpool baths, bottles of polish and wax, and some easily obtained (or easily ignored) licenses. Beyond this, it is just a matter of rent and employee wages and working conditions.
Perhaps because of the ease of entry, the number of salons that have opened up has skyrocketed. In New York City alone, the number of nail salons has increased five-fold between 2000 and 2015, and the oversupply of shops has put pressure on profits that now can often only be achieved by labor practices that border on slavery. Most low-level salon workers in New York City are illegal immigrants lacking basic English language skills. This is a workforce that is ripe for exploitation. New workers often have to pay up to $100 dollars just to join a salon and then work for up to three months with no pay. After this “apprenticeship” period, the workers, who are considered “tip workers,” receive far less than the minimum wage. They also receive no health care coverage, despite the fact that many of the chemicals they work with for 12 hours a day are known carcinogens.
Recent crackdowns on owners of these salons by government bodies such as the New York Department of Labor (DOL) are beginning to change this picture. Indeed, many of the own of the salons, like many of the customers, are highly affluent and have become rich on the backs of these poorly treated workers. However, progress toward reform is often hindered by the fact that workers will rarely cooperate with authorities. Many manicurists are unwilling or unable to speak to inspectors, and as one DOL agent noted, “they are totally running scared in this industry.”
Answer the following questions:
1. What industries are under similar practice in the Maldives?
2. What can be done to promote ethical behavior in these kinds of industries?