Many believe millennials are lazy compared to their baby-boomer parents. One-in-three young people (ages 18-34) live with their parents, and of those, one-in-four do not work or attend school, according to a study done by the U.S. Census Bureau.
According to a Pew Research Center study, 16-to-19-year-old workforce involvement has declined since its peak 59.3 percent in 1978 to 31.3 percent in 2015. Many point to millennials focusing on academics or to baby boomers lingering in the workforce as the cause, but in Alabama, teens seeking summer income show another reason for discouraged labor; occupational licensing.
Alainna Parris, a teenager in Gardendale Ala, was cutting her neighbors’ grass during the summer for $20, $30, or $40, until she was threatened to be reported by mowing companies for cutting grass without a license, according to ABC 33/40.
“One of the men that cuts several yards made a remark to one of our neighbors that if he saw her cutting grass again that he was going to call Gardendale because she didn’t have a business license,” Elton Campbell, Alainna’s grandmother, said in an interview.
A business license costs $110 — a fee businesses may have the startup capital to shoulder, but probably not a teenager only working for a few months.
Such large barriers to work entry are not isolated events. According to a study done by the Alabama Policy Institute, 21 percent of Alabama’s workforce has a job requiring occupational licensing. The Institute of Justice, a nonprofit legal firm, published a study surveying 102 low-income occupations in Alabama that have average entry costs of “$319 in fees, two exams, and 182 days of work experience.” The Yellowhammer State is only ranked as having the 38th most burdensome licensing laws.
Alainna, who was raising money for “admissions and trips,” will soon become another teenager discouraged from work by overreaching government regulation. Alainna set out to make some extra cash, but was barred from work by licensing laws.
“He’s coming after a kid when a kid is at least trying to do work,” Parris said, expressing her frustration about local laws. “There’s kids at home on iPads and electronics and not wanting to go outside.”
Gardenville Mayor Stan Hogeland said that tracking down teenagers making money was not a priority, and that he “would love” to make an easier way for teens to make extra money during the summer, such as a temporary license.
Perhaps this is one reason why so many millennials remain living idly at home with their parents. Occupational licensing reform is the first step to encourage entrepreneurship, and to get young people back to work.