Point of View: Cutting red tape can help Oklahoma job seekers
By Paul Avelar, Institute for Justice

Thanks to the spread of occupational licensing laws, more Americans than ever must get government permission before they can earn an honest living. During the 1950s, just 5 percent of American workers needed a license to work. Today, that number has grown to 25 percent in Oklahoma.

A new report from the Institute for Justice reinforces the need for meaningful reform. According to IJ’s “License to Work” study, Oklahoma has the 18th-most burdensome licensing laws in the nation for lower-income occupations. On average, the state requires 399 days of education and experience, around two exams for a license and $234 in fees — burdens that are higher than the national average.

Licensing makes it harder for workers to get a job, and these burdens fall particularly heavily on the poor, minorities, immigrants, older workers switching careers, those with criminal histories looking for a second chance, and military families who must frequently move state to state.

Licensing laws often protect from competition those who already have licenses, keeping newcomers out. And by reducing competition, licensing increases prices. This “hidden tax” costs the average Oklahoma household $1,017 per year, according to one estimate by the Heritage Foundation. Little wonder then that established industry players, not the public, are often the main proponents of occupational licensing.

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