The Mercatus Center at George Mason University this week released a study examining the state of occupational licensing in North Carolina.
Some highlights from the study include:
- North Carolina licenses 188 occupations, including such rarely licensed professions as floor sander, sign language interpreter, and locksmith
- 22 percent of NC’s workforce is licensed and another 8.4 percent certified
- A 2017 study by the Institute for Justice (IJ) examined occupational licensure laws for 102 lower-income occupations and found that North Carolina requires a license for 67 of them.
- the report ranked North Carolina’s licensing regime as more broad and onerous than those of 34 other states.
- On average, the Tar Heel State requires 234 days of experience and training, $199 in fees, and one exam for each of those 67 occupations. Makeup artists, auctioneers, and security alarm installers face steep fines for operating without a license.
The study discusses how it found no link between licensing and the quality of goods and services provided. In reality, occupational licensing serves as a barrier to entry to certain professions – and is especially burdensome to low-income people attempting to break into the profession of their choice. These barriers protect the incumbent professionals from competition; less competition means lower quality and higher prices for consumers.
Some licensing requirements in North Carolina are downright absurd. For example, the study points out “A prospective barber in Raleigh may begin work only after accruing 722 days of experience and passing three exams.”
Licensing is also not focused on “protecting the public” either. According to the study: “Occupations that are less likely to involve risk to the public are often more tightly controlled than riskier occupations.”
In addition to significantly reducing the number of occupations requiring licensing credentials and fees, North Carolina legislators should consider joining Tennessee and Arizona in passing a “Right to Earn a Living Act.” Such an act essentially limits any occupational entry regulations to those that can be justified on the basis of public health, safety or welfare objectives.