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Hairdressing, a Misunderstood Profession?

Is it true that there are few job openings in hairdressing, that wages are low and hours exhausting? Let’s first begin with a bit of history: over the past 20 years, there has been a labor shortage in traditional trades, most of which are taught in high school. This phenomenon is partly due to the desire of parents to see their children pursue university studies and the rising importance of long studies among society.

To remedy this problem, the Quebec government created the Vocational Training Olympiads several years ago to promote trades. However, a few years later, it closed programs in some municipalities (in Shawinigan, for example, forcing students to go to Trois-Rivières to pursue their training), reduced the number of places and classes for these trades in most Quebec cities, while also cutting the number of training hours required to obtain a diploma. Also, the high demand for “fast food” type training among youth fueled competition between private schools, resulting in shorter and shorter programs, some of which spanned less than six months! Hairdressing attracts students … who ultimately never become hairdressers! There are more than 9,000 hair salons in Quebec, employing about 25,000 people, but this number has increased only slightly in recent years, given the shortage of manpower for this trade. This shortage is largely attributed to the low motivation to persevere in this environment. Traditionally a female trade (85% of hairdressers are women), hairdressing attracts a very large number of students who are not yet certain of their career choice. Not surprisingly, we end up training people who eventually switch to another profession along the way. Most detrimental to the trade are the negative comments from hairdressers “waiting to find their true professional calling” which have contributed to discredit the profession over the years. Yet some hairdressers earn a very good living with annual wages of more than $40,000

Furthermore, prices have somewhat stagnated in the past 10 years or so when factoring in inflation. Given that the growth of the personal care industry is strongly linked to the purchasing power of households, it’s normal that in times of economic uncertainty, the upward pressure on prices is contained. Yet the personal care spending (including hair and beauty salons) increased in Quebec by about 4% per year between 1999 and 2010, according to Statistics Canada.

That said, all things are not bleak in the world of hairdressing: according to data from the Department of Education, Recreation and Sports, the placement rate of hairdressing graduates is very high and the unemployment rate is lower than the average for professions. Hairdressers appreciate many aspects of their job, including creativity and direct contact with customers.


Misleading wage comparisons is yet another problem in the perception of hairdressing. Many wage surveys don’t account for the various situations that impact wages. In fact, if we could isolate the average compensation of hairdressers who are “reasonably motivated” by their work, we would arrive at an hourly wage of $16 to $19, including tips.

When you take a closer look, hairdressing is an extraordinary profession: just talk to experienced hairdressers to find out! Here are some advantages of the profession:

• You can work less than forty hours per week or have a flexible schedule to pick up your kids at the daycare, pursue studies or work on a semi-retired basis.

• Commissions ranging from 35% to 50% of salon earnings which directly impact salary. Not to mention tips reflecting customer satisfaction.

• A useful, comprehensive, complex, and rewarding job that encompasses fashion, art, technology and chemistry.

• A profession that suffers little interference from the ups and downs of the economy.

• The opportunity to work just about anywhere in the world and to travel for training.

• A stepping stone to several other careers: training, sales with manufacturers or distributors, salon management, etc.

• The placement rate for hairdressing graduates is very high and the unemployment rate is below the overall professional average.


Over the years, Jacques Despars Group responded with several initiatives to proactively address the labor shortage, the unfair devaluation of the hairdressing trade and the government’s educational disengagement.

We began by opening two development centers focused on bridging the gap between schools and our salons. Young graduates are paid, work all week with customers and are supervised by teacher-coaches. An individualized training plan is established and these students follow a skills development program.

The Group has also adapted its management to younger hairdressers in order to take into account their specific needs and aspirations. They feel that they can climb the ladder without being limited by their age. Accordingly, even the youngest recruits can become supervisors and managers if they demonstrate the right qualities.

Finally, we encourage the recruitment of hairdressers of different nationalities, because they inspire us to learn and improve our hairdressing practices.

In conclusion, the hairdressing profession is alive and well, and it’s making many people happy, no matter which side of the chair they’re on!

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