So, You (Think You) Have a Bad Job?

Are you working in Norway? Sometimes wishing you weren’t?

That working life might be better somewhere else?

On a related note, have you ever gotten a work-related wake-up call at your hairdresser’s?

I sure got woken up last week while sitting in the chair at a new salon I was trying in Tucson, Arizona, USA.

It started when I noticed my young stylist yawning politely behind her hand after saying goodbye to the customer before me.

Long day? — Yes, quite a long day.

And that’s when our round of questions began, my being the nosy customer and her being the open American who is usually ready for a good chat.

So I found out the following:

  • She’s what’s known as a freelance stylist
  • But it’s not really freelance (read: free) as she works 10-hour shifts 5 days a week; this is considered full-time and you have to accept this if you want to work at this salon
  • She gets 2 days off a week, but not back-to-back (she’s off Sunday and Tuesday)
  • If she wants a paid day off, she has to trade with another employee to get them to work for her that day and then pay her back in kind.
  • There is no regulated lunch or dinner breaks during a shift, she just eats something between customers.
  • There is no paid vacation policy
  • There are no healthcare or dental benefits provided, so she has to buy these types of insurance on her own.
  • She pays a percentage of her earnings to the salon owners
  • She depends on customer tips to get by
  • If she wants to take more training, she can do so for free during evening courses but must sign a form stating she won’t leave for a year after the course is finished (or they can charge her for it, at least USD 1,000 in course fees).
  • There is no union of any kind that she can join to try and improve the above working conditions.

Even in outgoing America, there’s a limit to what you can ask a stranger. So I didn’t get the particulars on how much she makes or how much she pays her owners/the insurance companies.

And she didn’t give this information in any whiny, ‘poor me’ way; on the contrary, she was quite matter of fact about it because, well, that’s just the way things for her are if she wants to go to work.

And yes, I clicked the highest tip option (25%) on the ‘tip pad’ on my way out the door. Not out of pity, but because I’d gotten a great haircut – and had ended up liking her just a little bit.

What she said during our short time together that day woke me up how having a bad job in Norway could be better than having a bad job here in United.

Does all this make you feel better about working in Norway?

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