Why Do Part-time Workers Invest Less in Human Capital than Full-timers?

2009 – The results of diverse studies argue that part-time workers invest less in formal training than full-time workers which is an important finding because continuous upgrading of workers’ skills is often assumed to be necessary to keep up with competitors. This research defines part-time workers as those who work less than 33 working hours per week. Human capital theory explains the lower training participation of part timers by lower incentives to invest in their human capital investments because they have less working time to benefit from it (which holds both for the worker and employer). However, in human capital literature there is no evidence on how this is effectuated. This paper analyses the differences between part-time and full-time workers in the determinants of both formal training and informal learning. Building on human capital theory, this study focuses on determinants related to both the demand and the supply side of the labour market.

This study contributes to the existing literature in two ways. First, there are hardly any studies that analyse to what extent it is the firms or the part-time workers themselves who are responsible for the lower investment in human capital of part-time workers. This study analyses to what extent the differences in both formal training and informal learning patterns of part-time workers are demand- or supply-led by distinguishing between workers’ psychological characteristics and firms’ human resource practices. Second, this research broadens the Human Resource Management literature, which generally relates different packages of human resource practices to productivity or job turnover. This paper relates human resource practices to investments in both formal training and informal learning.

For this analyses only data of the Dutch Life-Long-Learning Survey 2007 is applied of 864 employed respondents, which focuses on knowledge development and training behaviour during the life cycle.


The results in this paper show that human capital investments of part-time workers are mainly supply led. Psychological characteristics imagination of one’s own future development being the most important one positively influence both formal training and informal learning. Human resource practices are hardly of any influence on part-time workers’ further investments in human capital development. This is in sharp contrast with the determinants of full-time workers’ participation in formal training and informal learning. Whereas psychological characteristics only affect full-time workers’ formal training incidence, human resource practices are important for both formal training and informal learning. Formal training is stimulated in particular by human resource development practices such as performance interviews and personal development plans. Informal learning is positively affected by both positive and critical feedback in the workplace. It is remarkable that although part-time workers receive more feedback than full-time workers, the researchers do not find a strong positive effect of feedback on informal learning behaviour of part-time workers. Probably, the feedback is not related to their further development.

In conclusion, the differences in human capital investments between part-time and full-time workers are mainly demand-led. Full-time workers are positively affected by human resource practices of the firm in which they are employed. However, firms do not effectively stimulate part-time workers in a similar way. Part-time workers can only partly compensate the lack of firm support when they have a high learning motivation and imagination of their future development.


Reference:  Grip,  A. de, Nelen, A. (2009) Why Do Part-time Workers Invest Less in Human Capital than Full-timers?  Maastricht: Research center for Education and Labour market School of Business and Economics. (The full article is adjusted in PDF).

Themes: Labour relations, Sustainable work, Talent development