Why do some workers never participate in training?

Despite empirical evidence on the positive effects of training on workers’ wages and employability, a puzzlingly large number of workers have never participated in any training course during their career. Using data from a representative sample of the Dutch labour force, we distinguish between recent participants in training, temporary non-participants, and chronic non-participants to better understand the drivers of training participation. We find a hard core of 17% of the working population who never participated in any training course during their working life. Chronic non-participation is related to workers’ intrinsic motivation to learn, low levels of task complexity, and a missing human resource development (HRD) policy in the firm where the worker is employed. However, temporary non-participants do not differ from recent participants when it comes to their non-cognitive skills, task complexity, or firm HRD policy. Chronic non-participants appear to earn significantly less than those who recently participated in training, but we do not observe any wage difference between temporary non-participants and recent participants. The latter result suggests that studies that do not distinguish between temporary and chronic non-participants in training underestimate the wage effects of training.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is een denktank en kennisnetwerk. Netspar is gericht op een goed geïnformeerd pensioendebat.


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