For students looking to make some extra cash on the weekend, bartending is often an attractive, and lucrative, option. But in the process of trying to land that job, they discover an unexpected hurdle: having to get licensed.
It’s a hindrance that many politicians across the aisle are looking to eliminate.
Occupational licensing has brought Democrats like President Barack Obama, Libertarians and Republicans together to reduce restrictions on employment.
Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a Libertarian public interest firm, published a report early this month calling for the elimination of licenses for certain occupations including bartending, auctioneering and cosmetology. Occupational licenses are requirements for certain occupations to be approved by the government, WILL research fellow Colin Roth said.
This comes after a White House report that called for a reduction of occupational licenses nation wide. Obama has formally called for all states to reform their current licensing program and made federal funding available for these reforms.
In Wisconsin, Roth said the number of licenses given out by the state government has increased in recent years. The number of occupational license holders in Wisconsin has gone from 275,000 in 1996 to 371,000 in 2016, according to WILL. These regulations have resulted in consequences for both workers and consumers.
“Licensing comes at a price,” Roth said. “It can result in higher consumer costs, restricts supply, and restricts entry [to employment].”
Despite these negative effects, Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, said not all occupational licenses should be eliminated. The state should continue to require licenses for occupations that are important to public health and safety. In these cases, licensing helps promote higher quality of service, Kooyenga said.
For some occupations, licensing prevents people from “climbing the economic ladder,” Kooyenga said. Restrictions can exclude people who may not have enough financial resources to attend certification but are capable of entering an occupation.
Roth said people in certain occupations want the government to require licensing because this can end up professionalizing an occupation.
This, however, can also be unfair for individuals trying to enter certain career fields, Roth said, because those who were working in the field before the requirement don’t need to obtain a license.
“Licenses fence out people that want to enter the [field],” Roth said. “The people in the occupation already get it because they are usually grandfathered in.”
Kooyenga said occupational representatives often go to the state government to become licensed. Once permission to license is granted, a committee of high ranking members of the occupation determine the requirements for obtaining a license. These requirements could include completing a certain number of experience hours or obtaining a certain level of education.
Some reforms have already taken place at a municipal level, Roth said. Up until November 2015, all levels of government, including state and municipal government, had the ability to impose licensing requirements for certain occupations. But with the passage of Wisconsin Act 65, this is no longer the case.
“Maybe we have put up too many barriers for people to get into jobs they are pursuing,” Roth said.
Officials as high as Obama agree that occupational licensing can create barriers to employment and can be unnecessary. Obama has created a grant to support states that choose to reform licensing policies. The $7.5 million grant is available for states because most licensing happens at the state level, according to White House.
Kooyenga said this is an issue that both Republicans and Democrats can get behind. Reducing requirements attracts those on the left that are concerned with poverty and employment as well as those on the right that are concerned about overextending the role of government, Kooyenga said.