Occupational licenses are pitched as a necessity to protect the health and safety of citizens. But they rarely perform their function, and the state has no requirement that policymakers evaluate new and existing licenses. That’s why education, testing and fee mandates for different professions are so arbitrary.
Michigan Capitol Confidential recently featured a story bearing this out. Donna Williams is a makeup artist who trained in California and has worked on film and theater productions in both California and her home state of Michigan. She can legally work in a limited capacity on makeup for arts productions, but when she explored doing so in other areas, she discovered she needs an esthetician license. To get legal permission to make money by doing something millions do every day in Michigan — applying makeup — she needs to graduate from a 400-hour course, pass practical and written tests and pay $200 to the state.
Does that barrier to work make sense? It’s doubtful. Consider that to become a certified auto mechanic in Michigan, a person doesn’t have to take any required number of mandatory training hours, just pass a $6 test (in each repair category the mechanic wants to work in) and pay the state $25.
Williams is thinking of leaving Michigan to find somewhere easier to make a living. If she does, she will follow the path already taken by thousands of others. The research shows that Michigan’s overbearing occupational licensing laws results in more than $10 billion ($10,000,000,000!) in higher prices and at least 125,000 fewer jobs every year. A separate new study finds that licensing laws result in less economic mobility – in other words, it makes it harder for low-income people to move up. The state should set up an independent review process that would cut back on licensing regulations.
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