The Corner

Economy & Business

Who Occupational Licensing Hurts the Most

For someone who claims to be dedicated to “Raising women up,” Connecticut congresswoman Jillian Gilchrest has a strange way of showing it. On June 5, Gilchrest announced on Twitter that she was “beyond pleased” that Connecticut would begin necessitating occupational licenses for nail technicians (beginning January 2021), eyelash technicians, and estheticians (beginning July 2020).

The Council of Economic Advisors has found that licensing creates substantial costs, makes entry-level jobs even more difficult to access, and aren’t in sync with the skills needed to perform the job. In the realm of spa and salon work, occupational licensing imposes upon practitioners a higher barrier for entry into an industry that they are qualified to work in, and can even price them out (and has been shown to reduce labor supply). An Institute for Justice report concluded that the cost of occupational licensing costs the U.S. economy $200 billion annually in mislocated productivity. Let’s also look at who Gilchrests’s “victory” would potentially hurt the most.

Ninety-seven percent of the nail-technician industry, for example, is female, and over half (56 percent) are Vietnamese. The average weekly income in the U.S. is $630, meaning the annual salary is around $30,000. Licenses take both time and money to get — in Maine, if you want to be a nail technician, you have to acquire 100 hours of training in no less than 5 weeks or complete a 400-hour apprenticeship over at least 10 weeks, and then take an exam. In Michigan, training is 400 hours. If you’re an immigrant who learned the trade abroad and would like to practice it in the U.S., licensing is only an additional obstacle with little to no benefit to you personally (or the U.S. economy). 

Occupational licensing hurts the people that its biggest champions claim to represent the most, and Gilchrest is only making it more difficult for those without college degrees, time, or means to make a living.

Marlo Safi is a San Francisco–based policy analyst and a former Collegiate Network fellow with National Review.

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