(The Center Square) — Eliminating licensing requirements for some professions in Georgia could help businesses and bring more people into the workforce.
“We did a national ranking in terms of occupational licensing, and we had Georgia coming in at 32nd with first being the worst,” Edward Timmons, director of the Knee Regulatory Research Center at West Virginia University, which recently rebranded from the Knee Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation, told The Center Square.
Timmons suggested that Georgia officials ease regulatory requirements for professions like music therapists, soil testers, foresters, and boxer trainers to improve the working environment. Neighboring South Carolina ranked 27th.
“One reform that we’ve studied and provided some research on is something called universal recognition,” Timmons said. “And I think it’s something that’s been considered, at least, in Georgia, in the past.
“It seems to have some pretty important economic effects,” Timmons said. “Not only does it encourage folks to move into Georgia, but also if you have folks that are currently not in the labor force, or maybe they’re underemployed, they’re already living in Georgia, but they didn’t continue working because maybe they found the relicensing process to be too much of a hassle. Universal recognition brings them back, and it gives them the pathway to come back into the labor force.”
Georgia lawmakers could act to ease the state’s regulatory environment. Earlier this month, Republican lawmakers announced a “Red Tape Rollback,” a plan to streamline state government and lessen the regulations small businesses face.
“The burdensome licensing requirements that we have in this state contributed to this workforce shortage and also impede entrepreneurship and upward mobility for our citizens,” state Sen. Larry Walker, R-Perry, said during a media conference earlier this month.
Burdensome licensing “disproportionately impacts lower income professions and drives up consumer costs,” Walker added. “Research has shown that licensing impediments may result in 3 million fewer jobs nationwide, and most empirical evidence does not find that stricter licensing requirements improved quality, public safety or health.”
Walker cited the Institute for Justice’s “License to Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing” report, which found Georgia ranked 12th nationwide for its average burden surrounding occupational licensing requirements. First place denotes the worst.
“Thankfully, at the very least, Georgia is looking at licensing,” Timmons said. “Hopefully, though, there’ll be some reconsideration of a lot of them because they just don’t make sense anymore relative to the way the economy is right now.”