Who Should Need the Government’s Permission to Work?

What's more dangerous, an incompetent barber or incompetent emergency medical worker? Most people would say and EMT, but a barber has to undergo almost nine times the hours of training as an EMT before they can get a license to practice in Pennsylvania.

The Institute for Justice this week released a new report looking at occupational licensing requirements across the 50 states for mid- and low-income jobs. They discovered dramatic occupational licensing inconsistencies that undermine the public safety argument used by licensing proponents. For instance, only three states license interior designers and only five states license shampooers.

In Pennsylvania, 44 of the 102 occupations surveyed required licenses, including manicurist and upholsterers. Overall, Pennsylvania's occupational licensing burden is lighter than many states—ranking 38th among the states in licensing burden on residents, due to relatively low fees and education requirements.

As we've pointed out before, these regulations are often not about protecting consumers, but preventing competitors to existing businesses. For those truly worried about ugly living rooms from unlicensed interior designers or a bad hairdo from an unlicensed hair braider, there are less costly ways to protect consumers.