Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Unskilled workers stay unskilled

Learning is a lifelong experience, as one has to adapt to new technologies and circumstances. Those who are the most flexible in the acquisition of human capital do best. This is not only a private benefit, employers also realize that it is important that their workforce continues training and give opportunities for training to their employees. While employers appear to give equal opportunities for such training to high and low skilled workers, it turns out low skilled workers disproportionately do not take advantage of them. Why so?

Didier Fouarge, Andries de Grip and Trudie Schils find this has nothing to do with lower returns, in fact returns to training are about the same for high and low skill workers, at least in the Netherlands. It appears it has much more to do with personal preferences. Low skill workers have in particular a higher preference for leisure (or, they do not like their job as much), exhibit more exam anxiety and dislike trying new things. In other words, they find it welfare reducing to get more training. Should policies still try to get them into training?

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