why young people prefer a part-time job

why young people prefer a part-time job
why young people prefer a part-time job

Young people often work part-time. And it is striking: it is often a conscious choice, because they help finance their studies, for example, or because it gives them peace of mind. ‘I get overstimulated quite quickly.’

Pieter GordtsFebruary 3, 202403:00

Not that he was tired of his parents, but last academic year Sameer Baruwal (23) already decided that he would like to leave home. “I saw it as the next step in my life,” says the Antwerp resident. “I could stay at home, but I chose to move into a room.”

To pay for that, Baruwal had to look for a job. He actually took over his father’s job; Together with his cousin-in-law, Baruwal bought his father’s shop. He has been co-owner of Eurostar Supermarket since September. “I work there three days a week.”

Six months later, Baruwal is quite satisfied with his choice. “It’s a bit lonely sometimes, but I like it.” The combination of work and study in particular proves to be a windfall. “I think it’s even better compared to the past, when I studied full-time. That gave me a lot of stress. The direction I am pursuing, industrial engineer, is not easy. Even though I have to work, this gives me less stress and more freedom.”

Just like Baruwal, there are quite a few young people who work part-time. Of all 18-year-olds who enter the labor market, 52 percent ultimately find a part-time job. This is evident from figures from HR company SD Worx and the IESE Business School (see graph). Their sample of 106,000 part-time employees shows that young people very often choose part-time work before the age of 25. Holiday work was not taken into account, but student jobs throughout the year were. For the sake of completeness: people over 50 also work part-time more often, for example as a ‘soft landing’ of their career.

Working students

Labor market specialists have been noticing for some time how many young people work part-time. “That indeed intrigues me,” says labor market expert Jan Denys (Randstad Group). “After all, young people are going somewhat against the general trend. In the 70s and 80s we still thought that part-time work was on its way to becoming the new normal. That turned out not to be the case. Ten years ago the trend reversed, except among young people.”

An analysis made last year by the Work Support Center (KU Leuven) shows how the number of young people who started working part-time more than doubled over the past twenty years. In 2000, 13.1 percent of young people (20 to 24 year olds) worked part-time, in 2022 this will be 28.5 percent. At the same time, fewer and fewer young people of that age started working. They spend much more time in classrooms than their peers a generation earlier. Due to the democratization of higher education, more than half of people in their early twenties (59.5 percent) now continue their studies. That was only 35.8 percent in 2000.

Along with the number of students, the number of working students has also increased, from less than one in five working students to one in four. Of that group of working students, one in six say they work part-time, just like Baruwal. Beryl (26) also does this. The Dutch woman has been living in Antwerp for three years now, where she is studying socio-cultural work. “For me, working is necessary to pay my rent. I also feel too old to live at home now.”

Although Beryl always had a job when she lived at home. “Around the age of fourteen, my parents had the idea that it was a good thing for me to learn to work for my money. Even if I wanted that too.”


What is striking is the huge gender difference in part-time work. Even though they have made up for a lot of their ‘lag’, women are still more likely to work part-time than men. Often that is because they take care of the children. This is not without risk, as the aforementioned analysis by the Work Support Center showed. As a result, women on average have less chance of promotion and build up fewer social rights.

Short-skilled workers also face the same risks, trade unions warn. On average, they are more likely to end up in a part-time job, but not by choice. “Because there is no full-time job,” says ABVV CEO Miranda Ulens. “You often see that in trade or with service vouchers.”

Although Denys and assistant professor Jeroen Neckebrouck (IESE Business School), who made the analysis for SD Worx, think that the majority of people who work part-time do so voluntarily. “You are mainly dealing with under-25 year olds who, in addition to their studies or other activities, are looking for jobs with flexible work schedules.”

Beryl also says that in a year and a half, when she would normally graduate, she would choose a part-time job over a full-time one. “If it is financially possible, I would like to work four-fifths. I get overstimulated quite quickly.”

It ties in with another hypothesis that is often put forward when discussing this subject: that younger employees do not want to work full-time and want more time to do things themselves. “That is what my generation says about that of my children,” says labor sociologist Ignace Glorieux (VUB). Although Glorieux is the first to urge some caution about that hypothesis. This cannot be properly investigated, making it impossible to make conclusive statements about it. “It could just as well be that my parents’ generation thought exactly the same about me and my peers.”

The article is in Dutch

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