Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta called Tuesday for a rollback of state occupational licensing regulations, arguing in an op-ed that the rules, while often well-intentioned, were limiting job opportunities for many people.
Occupational licensing refers to regulations that require people to obtain some form of official certification to work in certain fields. Acosta said that made sense in cases where public safety was an issue, but not many cases outside of that.
"No one wants to be operated on by an unlicensed doctor or share the road with an unlicensed truck driver. But too often, overly burdensome licensure requirements weaken competition without benefiting the public ... Excessive licensing raises the cost of entry — often prohibitively — for certain careers, locking many Americans out of good jobs. Uneven educational requirements, steep fees and long approval periods foreclose economic opportunity for those who need it most," he said.
The op-ed was co-written by Republican South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, and appeared Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal. It touted the governor's effort to create a multi-state compact to reduce job licensing requirements.
Occupational licenses are given almost entirely at the state level, meaning that the requirements can vary widely from state to state. That can make it difficult for people to relocate and stay in their current profession. Acosta and Daugaard said that creating uniform standards for multi-state regions would address the problem.
"That would allow professionals from compacting states to start working immediately and to pursue a permanent license while already employed. We have approached several governors of states neighboring South Dakota about the compact, and their reaction has been universally favorable," they wrote.
Several states are looking at reforms to their occupational licensing regulations. Occupational licensing reform was also supported by the Obama administration. In 2015, his administration called for $15 million to help states to "identify, explore and address areas where licensing requirements create barriers to labor market entry."