Possibility, Probability, Prostitution, and Occupational Licensing

Possibility, Probability, Prostitution, and Occupational Licensing

From slipping and falling in the bathroom to being hit by a motorist crossing the street, I faced countless risks before even stepping into the office this morning. But I took those risks because while the possibility of an untimely death was there, the probability of such was exceedingly low.

If only legislators who pushed new licensing requirements applied similar thinking to public policy. A new bill in Connecticut would require estheticians, eyelash, and nail technicians to become licensed:

That the general statutes be amended to require (1) licensure of estheticians, eyelash technicians and nail technicians who meet minimum educational requirements, and (2) any business offering esthetic or nail services be under the management of a licensed esthetician or nail technician.

The text is as vague as one of the sponsor’s, Jillian Gilchrest, justification for it:

Let’s break down her two main arguments (beyond her concerns about consumer protection). While it may be true that those in the industry want increased professionalization and have a tough time hiring qualified applicants, this is not independently a justification for licensing. Indeed, if salons are not hiring because they need more qualified candidates, it looks like market forces are working as intended.

Of course, such professions are already regulated, and while established practitioners are calling for licensing to protect quality, let’s not forget that they would benefit handsomely from the wage premium associated with occupational licensing, making their concerns about quality suspect.

Her second argument is that human trafficking occurs at “some of these salons.” Never mind that, according to Scott Schackford of Reason, “[d]ata from the National Human Trafficking Hotline shows less than three calls per year originating from Connecticut claiming human trafficking is taking place in ‘health and beauty service’ businesses.” So it is possible, but not probable. If concern for sex workers is a primary motivation, perhaps policymakers should be willing to tolerate a few burns from a curling iron here and there if it means providing employment to a vulnerable population (particularly immigrants, who have been harmed by manicurist licenses elsewhere.)

I have no doubt that Gilchrest and her cosponsors are well-meaning legislators looking to address a perceived problem, but rather than focusing on the possibility of the dangers she lists, she should take a cooler, analytical approach that examines the probability of such risks, and the unintended consequences of such a regulation.

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By |2019-02-06T08:56:01-08:00February 6th, 2019|Blog, Occupational Licensing|