Burdensome licensing laws often produce wide-ranging negative economic effects, including decreases in business competition and increases in basic service costs. Government involvement does not always guarantee better or safer services. In many instances, licensing laws are unnecessary, which is why Florida is now considering a proposal to roll back or eliminate occupational licensing laws for several industries. If successful, this would promote competition and economic growth in the Sunshine State.
The Florida Legislature is now considering a bill that would either loosen or eliminate occupational licensing requirements imposed by more than 23 professional licensing boards. Early in his new administration, Gov. Ron DeSantis identified occupational licensing reforms as a top priority, even hosting a “Florida Deregathon” with Florida’s 23 professional licensing boards, during which he discussed the need for occupational licensing deregulation.
According to the James Madison Institute, the percentage of the workforce in Florida that requires a license, which currently sits at around 30 percent, is higher than any other state in the southeastern United States and is the fourth-highest in the country. Only Iowa, Nevada, and Washington State have a higher proportion.
State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) created the new proposal, House Bill 27, in an effort to strip away regulations and licenses that do not protect the public. The bill would trim back or remove occupational licensing requirements for dozens of professions. According to Watchdog.org, Ingoglia is calling for rollbacks for “barbers, auctioneers, landscape architects, hotel interior designers, ‘princess party’ practitioners and many other professions.”
Ingoglia argues many of the licenses required by states are unnecessary. According to Ingoglia, while more than 1,100 various professional licenses are offered by states, only 60 are universally required. That indicates many of these licenses are likely unnecessary and only protecting existing providers.
Recent research show’s Ingoglia’s concerns are likely valid. A recent study from the Institute for Justice (IJ) found occupational licenses rarely improve consumer outcomes and substantially increase costs. Nationally, around 20 percent of professions are licensed, a dramatic surge compared to the early 1950s, when just 5 percent of professions required licenses.
Unfortunately, occupational licenses have led to fewer jobs and economic opportunities. The IJ study found that licensing-related job losses in 2018 ranged from 7,000 jobs in Rhode Island to 196,000 in California. Furthermore, IJ conservatively estimates that occupational licensing reduces national economic activity by at least $6 billion per year. A broader estimate in the same study—one that consideres the full scope of the economic ramifications related to licensing—approximates the reduction in economic activity could be as high as $184 billion. At the state level, these losses range from $675 million in Rhode Island to greater than $22 billion in California.
In a 2015 article published by The Hamilton Project, Morris Kleiner, a professor of public affairs at the University of Minnesota and a chair in labor policy for the AFL-CIO, examined the effects of occupational licensing laws on the price and quality of products and found these laws unnecessarily harm consumers by increasing prices of goods and services without providing any appreciable quality increases.
“[O]ccupational licensing transfers income from consumers (in the form of higher prices) to licensed workers (in the form of higher wages) with no apparent impact on reducing variations in earnings,” Kleiner wrote. “In fact, standard economic models imply that the restrictions from occupational licensing can result in up to 2.85 million fewer jobs nationwide, with an annual cost to consumers of $203 billion. In addition, evidence suggests that occupational licensing can result in a loss in overall output of about 0.1 percent of annual consumption expenditures.”
Occupational licensure laws have an especially strong effect on lower-income consumers and entrepreneurs. “Those who can least afford it must endure the double whammy of paying higher prices as consumers and being shut out of job opportunities by costly regulations,” Adam Summers of the Reason Foundation wrote. “Laws that make it more difficult for them to obtain certain jobs or start their own businesses only make it that much harder for them to work their way up the economic ladder.”
One of the top priorities for all states should be to promote tax and regulatory policies that create more jobs for their citizens. HB 27 would be a good first step toward opening up additional industries for expansion and empowering entrepreneurs to start their own businesses, the ultimate engine for economic growth.
The following documents examine occupational licensing in greater detail.
Occupational Licensing in Florida: Unnecessary Licenses Are Killing Jobs
In this Policy Brief, Matthew Laird, Dr. Adrian Moore, and Dr. Samuel Staley examine Florida’s occupational licensing laws and conclude many of those requirements do not protect consumers from any obvious harms. They do, however, reduce jobs and competition and raise prices. The researchers conclude Florida needs to reconsider many of its occupational licensing requirements.
It’s Time for Real Occupational Licensing Reform in Florida
In this article, Adam A. Millsap of the James Madison Institute argues that little evidence exists to show that consumers are safer in states that have more licensing. Millsap also argues Florida is in dire need of occupational licensing reform.
At What Cost? State and National Estimates of the Economic Costs of Occupational Licensing
This study from the Institute for Justice examines the effects of occupational licensing on state economies and finds that these laws create large costs for consumers and the wider economy in terms of losses in jobs, losses in output, and misallocated resources.
The Effects of Occupational Licensure on Competition, Consumers, and the Workforce
This paper by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University examines the costs and benefits of occupational licensing regulations on consumers, the economy, and the workforce, and it also recommends areas in need of reform.
Restoring the Right to Earn a Living: A Common-Sense Solution to Occupational Licensing Job Barriers
In this paper, Goldwater Institute Director of National Litigation Jon Riches examines the burdens inflicted by onerous job licensing requirements in Louisiana. “For too many professions, occupational licensing requirements do not exist to protect public health and safety—rather, they exist to protect incumbent industries or special interests,” Riches wrote. “The percentage of jobs requiring a license has exploded over the last 60 years, and in a state like Louisiana, which has slow job growth and low wages, thousands of job-seekers are being unnecessarily blocked from meaningful work.”
Bottleneckers Beware: Occupational Licensing Reform Bills Filed Across the Nation
Matt Powers of the Institute for Justice examines the growing trend in states to reduce burdensome occupational licensing laws, which impede dozens of industries nationwide.
Right to Earn a Living Act
The Goldwater Institute argues the burdens of occupational licensing in many states are excessive and should not be placed on those who want to earn an honest living. Instead, governments should bear the burden of justifying the restrictions. The authors argue states should enact a Right to Earn a Living Act to protect freedom of enterprise. By doing so, they will ensure that economic opportunity is not merely a promise but a reality.
Occupational Licensing: Ranking the States and Exploring Alternatives
Adam Summers of the Reason Foundation addresses the impact of occupational licensing on the labor market. Service quality and health and safety “may actually be diminished by occupational licensing,” he finds. Through high prices, reduced competition, and arbitrary requirements, the government thus hurts the average consumer and worker. Licensing is for special interests, not public interests, he writes. These laws hurt the poor and minorities disproportionately, he notes, proving the government is not helping those they say they are.
The Prevalence and Effects of Occupational Licensing
Morris Kleiner and Alan Krueger note research shows nearly 30 percent of the U.S. workforce is required to obtain a license to work. The authors find licensing costs consumers more and reduces their ability to choose services for themselves.
License to Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing
The Institute for Justice conducted a national study to measure how burdensome occupational licensing laws are for low-income workers. The authors found “the barriers imposed by licensure schemes on those wishing to enter the 102 lower-income occupations we studied are not only widespread but often severe, arbitrary and irrational.” The authors conclude, “As millions of Americans struggle to find productive work, one of the quickest ways legislators can help is to simply get out of the way: Reduce or remove burdensome regulations that force job-seekers and would-be entrepreneurs to spend precious time and money earning a license instead of working.”
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