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Finding a job in California is difficult but government makes it tougher still, according to Jobs For Californians: Strategies to Ease Occupational Licensing Barriers, a new report from the state’s Little Hoover Commission. “One out of every five Californians must receive permission from the government to work,” Commission Chair and former assemblyman Pedro Nava explains, down from one in 20 sixty years ago. This government barrier wields particular impact on those educated and trained outside of California, on veterans and on military spouses.
In California, the report notes, manicurists must complete at least 400 hours of classwork and training then take written and practical exams offered only in the cities of Fairfield and Glendale. The licensing board assigns the dates and if candidates can’t make it that day, “their candidacy is terminated, they lose their application fee and they must begin the application process all over again.”
As Nava explains, “when government limits the supply of providers, the cost of services goes up,” and those of “limited means” have a harder time accessing those services. Therefore “occupational licensing hurts those at the bottom of the economic ladder twice,” by imposing “significant costs on them should they try to enter a licensed occupation” and by “pricing the services provided by licensed professionals out of reach.” As Jobs for Californians explains, it’s actually worse.
Occupational regulations amount to “rent-seeking,” an attempt to gain influence “without contributing to productivity.” The licensing rules “serve to keep competitors out of the industry.” The rules also keep government employees in highly paid but essentially useless jobs. That is why, as the report notes, “when the Legislature eliminated the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology in 1997, Senator Richard Polanco resurrected it with legislation in 2002.” This board, one of the largest in the country, now boasts 94 employees and a budget of more than $17 million. Taxpayers should count that as pure waste.
“Getting government out of the way of people finding good jobs is a bipartisan issue,” Pedro Nava told Adam Ashton of the Sacramento Bee. Good luck with that. On all fronts, California legislators want to keep government in the way.