Spa grouping plans registry for therapists

PHOTO: Spa grouping plans registry for therapists

SINGAPORE - The next time you visit a beautician, you may be able to check online if she is qualified to perform a facial.

This will come to pass if the Spa and Wellness Association of Singapore (SWAS) succeeds in its ambitious plan of putting together a nationwide registry of therapists including their qualifications from next year.

The idea is to register not just beauticians, but other specialists such as hairdressers, masseurs and manicurists.

SWAS said the move was prompted by a case in Hong Kong last year, in which one woman died of septic shock while three others fell ill after undergoing a blood transfusion treatment at a beauty parlour.

"We don't want something like that to happen here," Mr Edward Wong, acting honorary secretary of SWAS, told The Straits Times.

The idea has been put to several agencies, including the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case). SWAS is seeking feedback from stakeholders before finalising the details.

But implementing the proposed registry will be a massive task.

The beauty and wellness industry has about 19,000 businesses here, according to a 2011 Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) audit, and SWAS represents only a fraction of them.

The total number of employees in the sector is not available, though the Iras report noted that most businesses are small scale and employ between five and 10 workers.

This means that the army of workers in the industry is likely to outnumber even that of the property sector, which has around 31,000 registered agents.

But SWAS believes that there is an urgent need to embark on the registry - and to repair the industry's image.

Case statistics for last year showed that the beauty industry drew the second-highest number of complaints (1,984) and had the top number of mediation cases at 23. Common complaints were about inappropriate sales tactics.

Spa closures in recent years have also irked customers who were stranded after paying upfront for packages.

Business owners who spoke to The Straits Times welcomed the proposed registry. But others, like Mrs Nancy Mak from Beauty Cottage in Jurong East, had some reservations about the listing of qualifications.

"Some of (my workers) may not have O-level qualifications but they have the skills because they have taken on apprenticeships," she said. "We will need time to send them to study."

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