Publish date: November 18, 2021
Our new report with the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative examines nail salon reopenings in California, a major hub for the multi-billion dollar industry. Nail salons have been particularly upended by COVID-19, but there have been few studies on the pandemic’s impact. Reopening During COVID-19: The Experience of Nail Salon Workers and Owners in California examines how nail salons are navigating reopening and recovery amidst extended financial and emotional strain.
The study finds that most nail salon workers and owners were unable to find alternative employment during salon closures, and they continue to face financial difficulties after reopening. Only 14% of owners are confident they can cover business expenses over the next month, including rent and payroll, and 83% of workers reported a reduction in earnings.
“Most nail salons are small mom-and-pop businesses owned and staffed by immigrants and refugees who are worried about paying for food and basic necessities, even after reopening,” said Lucero Herrera, a senior research analyst at the UCLA Labor Center. “88% of owners disclosed not having enough customers to meet business expenses, including rehiring workers, and most workers are now taking home less than $400 per week.”
Researchers note that about half of nail salon workers and the majority of owners feel moderately to extremely anxious since reopening. Most workers state that health and safety is their main concern, while owners are primarily worried about having sufficient customers.
“When nail salons first reopened, most workers felt that their employers were responsive in offering COVID-19 protections, such as masks, face shields, and gloves. However, there is ongoing stress from anti-Asian racism during the pandemic, and the fact that most workers can’t take time off. 62% of workers reported that they don’t get paid sick leave or paid family leave. Workers also express concerns on prioritizing income over their own health and safety; for instance, needing to attend to customers who don’t wear masks,” said Lisa Fu, Executive Director at the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative.
89% of workers and 83% of owners reported convening with their coworkers to discuss workplace concerns and ideas for health and safety, but both groups need further in-language assistance to access up-to-date information about COVID-19, financial resources, and personal protective equipment (PPE).
“Workers and owners need additional support for a successful recovery, including accessible resources in their primary language, which is usually Vietnamese,” said Saba Waheed, Research Director at the UCLA Labor Center. “Most workers and owners want to know more about COVID-19’s impact on the salon industry, including how best to protect themselves and their clients. The majority also need help accessing safety net programs to get by and PPE to protect themselves.”
Report authors recommend providing accessible COVID-19 updates and support to nail salon workers and employers who have and continue to face financial, physical, and emotional stressors; ensuring that strong worker protections are in place as the nail salon industry recovers from COVID-19; and conducting further research on the impact of COVID-19 on this sector.
The report is based on a survey of 158 nail salon workers and 42 owners, and interviews with 4 workers and 2 owners.