While speaking to state policymakers in Colorado this month, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta challenged them to reform their states’ outrageous occupational licensing laws. Occupational licensing requires people to gain government’s permission to work, and this erects expensive and time-consuming barriers to earning a living.
Acosta cited occupational licensing’s limits on economic opportunity, job mobility, and the adoption of new technology as three reasons why state policymakers should act. His statements serve as a starting point for all lawmakers who are looking to help American workers regain their economic independence.
“First, the cost and complexity of licensing creates an economic barrier for Americans seeking a job, especially for those with fewer financial resources.”
Occupational licensing extends far beyond the professional fields of medicine, law, and accounting—high-paying fields that most people agree should be licensed due to the risk involved. Workers in thousands of low- to medium-income occupations face strict licensing laws that are often too expensive or time consuming to pursue; an Institute for Justice report on these occupations showed that the average education and training required to get a license was nine months and that the average fee was over $200. For someone struggling to find work, these time and financial costs act as substantial barriers to self-sufficiency.