From the standard cut and dry to celebrity treatments worth millions of won per session, you could say hairdressing is a profession that will never go out of style. But behind the glamour lies a long history of disputes between workers and shop owners.
The hairdressing industry in recent years has been hit with complaints from workers who say they are overworked and underpaid — getting significantly less than the legal minimum wage of 8,720 won ($7.50) per hour.
“I started off with 1.2 million and am now being paid 1.3 million a month. It differs depending on the salon, but my shop gives me 100,000 won more every time I pass the level test,” said a 23-year-old hairdresser who asked to be identified only as Park. “I asked why it’s below the minimum wage and they told me that’s just how the hairdressing industry is.”
Park is currently sitting on three years of experience as an entry-level hairdresser, or intern, and has worked in the Seoul fashion capitals of Apgujeong, Hongdae and Gangnam. The customary work schedule in the industry is around 10 hours a day, six days a week, and it is rare for interns to get the mandated lunch hour.
‘Underpaid and overworked’
On a 52-hour-a-week schedule — the maximum number of hours allowed under the Labor Standards Act — the minimum monthly wage amounts to a little over 1.8 million won. But Park and other beauty salon interns say they work more and get paid less.
Employers who violate the Minimum Wage Act can face up to three years in prison or fines of up to 20 million won.
The Labor Standards Act stipulates that employees who work eight or more hours in a day are entitled to an hour of free time during work hours. But Park says whether or not interns get a lunch break depends on the supervising hairdresser.
“When we’re busy and nobody tell us to go have lunch, we may not get a chance. It all depends on the hair designers and the shop owner,” she said.
Park and other hairdressers must go through a mandatory internship. They are required to wash clients’ hair, clean up and do the other grunt work needed to run the shop while learning the ropes.
They are also required to pay tuition to gain the necessary hairdressing skills, which puts their paychecks in the lower 1 million won range.
Being an intern is par for the course in most work environments, but beauty …….