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Are Rigid Employment Licensing Requirements Hurting California's Economy?

Sacramento area healthcare practitioners earn 27 percent more than their colleagues in the rest of the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


From manicurists to dental hygienists, California’s licensure rules set a high bar for people starting new lines of work. An independent state oversight agency says that drives up costs, and makes services harder to access.

One in five Californians needs some kind of permission from the government to work. It’s meant to be a safeguard, so not just anybody with a white coat can say they’re a doctor.

But the report from the Little Hoover Commission says sometimes, the requirements are out of whack. They can make getting a job unduly hard for former offenders, veterans, military spouses and foreign-trained workers.

“Such a waste of talent, it’s such a waste of resources.”

José Ramón Fernández-Peña is a professor of health education at San Francisco State cited in the report. He founded an initiative to help foreign-trained medical workers trying to get jobs in the U.S.

Often, he says they would make solid, bi-lingual hires, but first they’d effectively have to go back to school. Fernández-Peña says only about a third bother.

“The rest are working on other kinds of jobs because they need to eat, they need to feed their families, they need to send money back to their countries, so they cannot afford to sit around idly studying for tests or for exams it may not even be possible to take,” says Fernández-Peña.

The report says California could soon face vast shortfalls of doctors, nurses and teachers.

Fernández-Peña says he saw it first-hand when he worked in a community clinic in San Francisco that often had vacancies for social workers, nurses and doctors.

“They had all the training and all the skills, and most importantly for that setting, they were bilingual and bicultural in English and in Spanish. But because they did not have California licenses, we were not able to hire them for those positions.” 

Besides foreign-trained workers, the report also says the impact disproportionately harms veterans, military spouses and former offenders.


Daniel Potter


Daniel Potter started out as an intern at Nashville Public Radio, where he worked as a general assignment reporter for six years, covering everything from tornadoes to the statehouse.   Read Full Bio 

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