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Rodney Wayne weighs in on the labour crisis plaguing New Zealand’s hairdressing industry

Rodney Wayne weighs in on the labour crisis plaguing New Zealand’s hairdressing industry

As anyone working in the New Zealand hairdressing industry will know—particularly salon owners—the sector is grappling with a severe labour crisis. Renowned businessman Rodney Wayne, who was recently inducted into the Franchise Association Hall of Fame, has weighed in on the prevailing labour shortage plaguing the industry.

Having experienced the toughest years in over half a century, Wayne expressed his concerns to The AM Show. He emphasised the impact of past government policies on the industry, believing that difficulties in recruitment and consequent salon closures, have been brought about by immigration and employment policies.

Rodney Wayne spoke on The AM Show about the hairdressing labour shortage.

According to Wayne, the employment policies of the outgoing government have hampered his company’s ability to recruit staff. He cites the high costs associated with the accredited employer visa scheme, which requires his salons to pay approximately $2000 for each offshore worker they bring over.

Additionally, Wayne raised the challenge of replacing staff members who go on maternity leave or choose not to return. As the hairdressing industry has historically relied on hiring young women, it’s a sector that’s even more vulnerable in a labour shortage.

It’s not the first time the hairdressing veteran has weighed in on the issue. Last year, Wayne told NZ Herald he could be employing 30-40 more salon workers but nowhere near enough people were arriving to fill vacancies. “It’s just a disaster,” he said, adding, a major supplier alerted him of another 17 salons going into receivership.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Wayne said that some of the staff shortages were exacerbated by the government’s messaging. He claims that the government’s encouragement for people to stay home during lockdowns discouraged individuals from returning to work. Wayne notes that the industry faced numerous challenges during the pandemic, which he describes as “the most ridiculous two years we’ve ever had.” However, he also mentioned that the situation had improved since the recent election, with an increase in people seeking employment in the industry.

Looking ahead, Wayne expressed hope that the incoming government will address the migration settings to alleviate widespread staff shortages. He believes that the current government will likely revise existing policies and lower barriers to recruitment. He also noted that the return of some individuals who had operated home businesses during the pandemic had helped to ease the labour shortage.

He also thinks New Zealand “stuffed up” its apprenticeship system. Wayne said on The AM Show that apprentices “demand” a living wage that reflects the cost of living but this differs from the legally required minimum wage.  

“I went through a hairdressing school in Australia, it cost thousands of dollars – if you earn while you learn, I don’t understand why they have to get the living wage.”

Despite the reluctant closures of salons, he remains hopeful that the hairdressing industry will witness the resurgence of a skilled workforce in the coming years.