Representatives of the hairdressing industry in Greater Tainan plan to take to the streets to protest a proposal from President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration to open the nation’s hairdressing industry to Chinese workers.
Under government plans to ink a cross-strait service trade agreement, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said 55 industries have been selected for potential Chinese investment.
As the ministry did not elaborate on the details of the planned accord during a briefing to the legislature last month, lawmakers demanded it provide a full report on how the agreement would impact the nation’s economy and job market.
Protesters in Greater Tainan said the hairdressing industry provides jobs for about 600,000 Taiwanese whose livelihoods would be threatened if the agreement is signed.
Wu En-hui (吳恩惠), chief executive officer of Tifafine, a beauty parlor chain, said she started working in the industry at a young age and has since trained many professional hairdressers.
“The hair and cosmetics industry contributed to Taiwan’s financial boom between the 1950s and the 1990s,” Wu said, adding that “with the direction the Ma administration is taking I am concerned what will become of Taiwanese small businesses.”
Milan Hair Fashion Group chief executive officer Hsu Han-tsung (許漢宗) said the government has failed to communicate with the industry and there have been no consultations to allow the industry cooperate with the policy.
“The government is walking all over the industry’s rights,” Hsu said.
Hsu is also worried that Chinese investors are trying to bring in the “straight-flush” industrial chain that is common in China, adding that Chinese cosmetic supplies may be untrustworthy.
The “straight flush” method refers to a company that controls both upstream production and downstream distributors without having to rely on others.
Greater Tainan Mei Tzu Cosmetics, Manners and Modeling Union member Wu Mei-li (吳美麗) said the hair and cosmetics industry is characterized by low overheads and simple-to-learn techniques, which often attracts children from lower-income families or people seeking second jobs.
If Chinese investors are allowed into Taiwan, their establishments may be large and they would seek to compete by offering low prices, Wu Mei-li said, adding that it would severely impact the profitability of Taiwanese businesses.
Greater Tainan City councilors Lu Mei-chi (陸美祈), Chuang Yu-chu (莊玉珠), Chen Wen-hsien (陳文賢), Wang Chin-te (王錦德), Yang Li-yu (楊麗玉) of the Democratic Progressive Party questioned what gains the policy would bring at the cost of opening up to Chinese investors 55 sectors that provide incomes for many of the nation’s people.
“If we make no stand and the government loosens regulations even further, it is people’s jobs that will be affected,” the councilors said.