According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 25 percent of Americans are employed in a field that requires a license. The process for obtaining that license can be a long and costly one, as David Barnes recently detailed for Rare:
“Occupational licensing laws require workers to obtain a government permission slip to enter a given profession. In practice, this amounts to jumping through a series of regulatory hurdles — such as apprenticeships, mandatory training and tests and fees —before one is allowed to perform a job and earn a paycheck.”
Barnes is the policy director for Generation Opportunity, a group that advocates for “opportunity and prosperity through a free society,” according to its site. Barnes was writing following a press conference recently held by Generation Opportunity and the Institute for Justice on occupational licensing in the field of hair braiding.
In that field — a particularly egregious example of the licensing problem — would-be hair braiders typically must spend thousands of dollars and complete months of training and coursework before they’re granted legal permission to work.
At the press conference, held in New Jersey, where a cosmetology license requires completion of a 1,200-hour course that costs up to $17,000, hair braiders spoke about the burden of complying with occupational licensing laws.
One woman, Anita, an immigrant from Ghana and mother of four, said she was hit with a $1,200 fine from the state when she was caught working as a hair braider without a license. She says it doesn’t make sense that she should have to be state-licensed to do something that’s part of her culture.
“Braiding is part of us,” she said. “It’s something that we grow [up] with.”
The justification for occupational licensing laws is that they increase quality and safety standards in the workplace. Critics, however, argue that all the red tape and fees stand as barriers to employment while driving up the prices of services for everyone else.
And this view may be catching on. In a July 21 speech, Donald Trump’s labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, called for reform to occupational licensing laws, stating the practice “hinders the American workforce.” Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission held a roundtable event last week to examine ways to streamline state-based occupational licensing.