One in three part-timers would like to work more hours, but firms are using flexible arrangements and reduced hours because of the state of the economy, according to a new report.
A survey of 2,000 workers found that those on part-time contracts believed their employers were not able to offer them longer hours.
A separate study of 1,000 employers found that a third had reduced hours for some of their staff during the past five years.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said its research suggested that employment will continue to increase in the first quarter of the year thanks to growth in private firms.
The report, published ahead of new unemployment figures due out on Wednesday, acknowledged that there had been a jobs "enigma", with increased employment despite stalled economic growth.
One explanation is the number of people who are employed, but not in full-time, permanent jobs, said the CIPD.
The report predicted that the number of people employed on temporary contracts will continue to boost employment levels during the first quarter of the year.
Gerwyn Davies, of the CIPD, said: "Growth in employment looks set to continue in the short term, despite faltering economic growth.
"While muted pay growth is playing a part, we also see continued evidence that employers are reluctant to lay off skilled workers.
"This is often described in terms of labour hoarding, which implies an irrational response by employers. "The truth is that employers have learnt lessons of the past, where overly quick steps to cut staff led to a loss of talent and damaged the capacity of organisations to recover.
"Some employers are clearly using flexible working and reduced hours to adapt to trading conditions.
"For many workers, this will mean they are offered less security, fewer hours and less money than they want. However, for others this provides greater opportunities to secure flexible working.
"This is especially the case for older workers, who have fared best since the recession, but still have the greatest difficulty re-entering the jobs market." A separate report found that only two thirds of part-time workers are confident about their job security, 10% lower than full-timers.
Legal & General said its study showed that part-time workers were "significantly" more worried about their job security.
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