Pop Culture, Global Investment, and Social Inequality
Globalization has played an important role in promoting false eyelashes as a pop culture phenomenon leading to a new international beauty standard. Due to the significant global demand, international entrepreneurs recognized this new business opportunity. At least 43 different parties invested in the hair industry in a specific regency located in Indonesia, where 27 of which are foreign, employing more than 60,000 workers. In 2021, it contributed to almost 70% of the main region’s exports, resulting in Indonesia becoming the world’s largest exporter of eyelashes, after China. This raises the question: where is the local community’s opportunity for prosperity? How much of the total generated income is shared with the local community?
This study aims to analyze the impact of the false eyelash industry on regional economic and social development in a regency as destination of foreign investment for the hair product industry. We used the descriptive qualitative method and direct interviews with industry laborers in two regencies where the commodity is mainly produced. We interviewed two workers for this particular study. First is a disabled female unmarried orphan of 36 with severe dexterity issues, and second is the family’s sole breadwinner taking care of one child and her elderly parents, while her husband is virtually not present.
The study shows that the workers in the industry are paid far below the national minimum wage. The disabled woman receives Rp150 or less than one US cent per strip of eyelashes from the collector which is used as base for the final product. While, the other worker who works for a home industry located in the main region is paid between Rp80,000 to Rp100,000/week or approximately five to six dollars, working at a minimum of 8 hours per day, resulting in a four times higher compensation compared to the disabled worker. But even despite this fact, both of them are paid far below the local compensation, let alone regional minimum wage. The author uncovered that the workers' living standards are well below the extreme poverty line thanks to this compensation system.
Evidence suggests that the beauty industry makes disproportionately high profits from this industry. It allows global beauties’ easy access to an affordable look upgrade at the expense of the marginalized. This begs a response from the regional administration. Action needs to be taken by both the ministry and the local chamber of commerce in resolving these conflicting issues. The enforcement of reasonable compensation and social security provisions needs to be implemented to remedy social and financial marginalization of the workers within the industry. The financial conditions of the workers need to be brought to attention and thereby to a more humane level by changing the current employment system. This at the moment more resembles modern slavery.