Which Coun­tries Have The High­est Lev­els Of La­bor Union Mem­ber­ship?

ForbesWeekly - - NEWS - FOL­LOW NIALL MCCARTHY, FORBES CON­TRIB­U­TOR, AT www.forbes.com/sites/niallm­c­carthy

Across most de­vel­oped na­tions, la­bor union mem­ber­ship is get­ting rarer. Back in 1985, 30% of work­ers in OECD coun­tries were la­bor union mem­bers and that has now fallen to just 17%. Some of the rea­sons for the fall in mem­ber­ship in­clude tech­no­log­i­cal and or­ga­ni­za­tional changes, glob­al­iza­tion, pol­icy re­form and the de­cline of the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor which have all tested the con­cept’s ef­fi­cacy.

Ac­cord­ing to the OECD, 80 million work­ers in its mem­ber states are part of la­bor unions while an es­ti­mated 155 million are cov­ered by col­lec­tive agree­ments at some level, whether it be na­tional, re­gional, sectoral or oc­cu­pa­tional. The share of work­ers cov­ered by col­lec­tive agree­ments has also con­tracted in a sim­i­lar man­ner to la­bor union mem­ber­ship, fall­ing from 45% in 1985 to 33% in 2015.

Across OECD coun­tries, la­bor union den­sity varies con­sid­er­ably, and Ice­land has the high­est mem­ber­ship rate at 91.8%. The Ice­landic Con­fed­er­a­tion of Labour alone has 104,500 mem­bers, ac­count­ing for ap­prox­i­mately half of the coun­try’s work­force. Swe­den also has a high rate of union mem­ber­ship at 67% while just over a quar­ter of Ir­ish and Canadian work­ers are part of a union. The United States has a la­bor union den­sity of 10.6% to­day com­pared to 20.1% in 1983.

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