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Article

ASEAN: Multi-billion hair industry exploits women by buying hair at very low prices

"Human hair trade is exploiting ASEAN women," 21 October 2019

...Hair extensions have become an essential segment in the multi-billion-dollar hair industry, with an estimated annual sales range from US$250 million to over US$1 billion...

...According to a report by the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), the global value for human hair export in 2017 was US$126 million. Asia exported a value of US$72.4 million, accounting for 58 percent of the overall global trade. 

While most brands have opted to acquire hair from India where most hair is donated for religious rites, in Southeast Asia, traders target impoverished areas to buy hair from desperately poor people. Their desperation makes them easy prey for exploiters. Hair extensions in the US can cost between US$500 and US$2000, but the owner of the hair may only receive a tiny fraction of that cost. 

...Vietnamese Nguyen Thi Thuy said the highest she has ever been offered for her hair is VND70,000 (US$3). Pheng Sreyvy from the Ponhea Leu district of Cambodia fared a little better with US$15 for her locks. 

 

The increased awareness exploitation in the trade has shifted many companies to collect their human hair from more transparent and ethical sources. Janice Wilson’s, now defunct start-up, Arjuni, dealt directly with customers, eliminating the added cost of a middle-men. She employed women who were victims of sex-trafficking and taught them how to manufacture the collected hair and even English and maths so they can have the opportunity to become managers.

Another start-up that promotes fair trade in human hair is Remy New York by founder, Dan Choi...[T]he start-up allows third parties to follow its supply chain and access to the women who sourced the hair.

The start-up also offers women higher prices for their hair, ranging from US$65 to US$200...