Increased obstacles to obtain occupational licenses in Puerto Rico

Pharmacy technicians must complete a higher number of hours to obtain their license compared to other jurisdictions in the United States.

The Institute for Justice (IJ), in collaboration with the Institute for Economic Liberty (ILE), conducted a report on the licensing process for low-income occupations in Puerto Rico, finding that many have more requirements than in other U.S. jurisdictions.

This is the first time the IJ included Puerto Rico in the report License to Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing, which evaluates the licensing barriers of 102 occupations in the United States. The local data was compiled by the University of Puerto Rico (UPR).

"We achieved the original goal we had set, which was to incorporate Puerto Rico in this report. Puerto Rico had not been included because the data did not exist. The first thing we found was that of the 102 licenses studied in the report, Puerto Rico regulates 49," said Ángel Carrión Tavárez, director of research and public policy at ILE.

Until a few months ago, Puerto Rico did not have accurate data on the number of occupational licensing requirements, because the island does not regulate or administer these certifications under a single agency, so they were all dispersed among agencies.

In general terms, occupational licenses are permits issued by a government or regulatory entity that are granted so that a person can work in a specific field. Some examples of these licenses are pharmacy technicians, dental assistant, hair washer, interior designer, manicurist, emergency medical technician, among others.

According to the report, there are 129 occupational licenses in Puerto Rico -not counting sports licenses-, of which 49 were part of the sample.

From that sample it is detailed that the average burden required for licenses in Puerto Rico is 144 days of education and experience, passing at least one exam and paying $228 in fees.

"With this initiative what we wanted was to have a parameter of comparison, to be able to make that analysis of how well or poorly we are doing compared to other jurisdictions in terms of occupational licensing," Carrión said.

Although the average results for the island are close to the general data for the United States, it was still found that the licensing requirement continues to be widespread and irrational, creating barriers that limit labor insertion, reduce the creation of businesses, increase the informal economy and, in some cases, increase migration, according to Carrión.

Among the licenses in Puerto Rico that have education requirements that are far above the minimum requirements in the United States, it was noted that almost eight months of training are required for cosmetologists, hair washers and makeup artists, while only three months are required to license emergency medical technicians.

Also, pharmacy technicians are required to have an associate degree and a 1,000-hour supervised internship, requirements that exceed those of all other jurisdictions.

"I want to say that being average is not good enough when it comes to barriers to work, we want the least number of barriers to ensure public health and safety," said Lisa Knepper, IJ's director of strategic research.

Meanwhile, Carrión Tavárez said that in communications with legislators he has noted an openness to reform unnecessary occupational licenses on the island. Meanwhile, members of the House Labor Affairs Committee have requested more information.

The ILE will be drafting a public policy report for the legislature with suggestions.

This news article was originally published in Spanish in El Vocero.

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