Excessive and contradictory requirements for issuance of occupational licenses in Puerto Rico


Occupational Licenses (Joe Colon photographer/Administered)

A recent study showed that the requirements for individuals to obtain a license to practice a myriad of professions and trades continue to be excessive and, in the case of Puerto Rico, far above the U.S. norm.

The Institute for Justice recently released the report License to Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing. This edition provides an updated snapshot of licensing’s breadth and burdens for 102 lower-income occupations across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and, in a first for this edition, Puerto Rico. It also presents an overview of major changes in licensing requirements for the 102 occupations have been tracked since the 2017 edition.

Occupational licenses are permits issued by a government or regulatory entity for a person to work in a certain field. These licenses typically require the applicant to meet several education and experience requirements, as well as pass exams and pay fees. These demands are considered a burden for lower-income individuals, since the combination of effort, time, and cost can be a barrier for them to work in a trade or profession.

Despite widespread acknowledgment of this reality, this study shows that licensing burdens remain high and pervasive. In Puerto Rico, there are 129 occupational licenses (not counting licenses for sports occupations), of which 49 were part of the sample examined in License to Work. The burden for these 49 licenses was 144 days of required education and experience, at least one exam, and $228 in fees, on average. This does not include burdens from required schooling.

Among the occupational licenses in Puerto Rico whose education requirements are well above the minimum requirements in the United States, the following stand out: manicurists: 1,000 hours vs. 12 hours in Alaska; skin care specialists: 1,000 hours vs. 220 hours in Florida; electrical helpers: 500 hours vs. 0 in the only three states that have this license; and pharmacy technicians: An associate degree and a 1,000-hour supervised internship, requirements that exceed those of all other jurisdictions.

“In Puerto Rico there are cases of occupational requirements that do not correspond to the risk; for example, almost eight months of preparation for cosmetology are required, including shampooers and makeup artists; while three months are required for an emergency medical technician to care for people in life-or-death situations. This leads us to question whether licenses are really designed to protect health and safety or guarantee the quality of a service,” added Dr. Ángel Carrión-Tavárez, director of Research and Policy at the Puerto Rico Institute for Economic Liberty.

The most direct way to free workers and entrepreneurs from licensing red tape is to repeal licenses that are not needed and reduce barriers that are too steep. Lawmakers should also exempt services that are perfectly safe and prevent new licenses from getting on the books. The report’s state-by-state results and online “Compare States” feature are resources available to lawmakers and others interested in reforming occupational licenses in Puerto Rico”, indicated the press release.

This News article was originally published in Spanish in Metro.

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