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Union Density in a Global Perspective

Looking at how unionization has declined in almost all countries

Funded by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (Forte) 2006-2013

There are still considerable international variations in union density. With 70 per cent unionized employees, Sweden, Denmark and Finland occupy a top position. Although a relatively large decline has taken place in Sweden, no convergence can be discerned vis-à-vis Germany or the UK for example.There are still considerable international variations in union density. With 70 per cent unionized employees, Sweden, Denmark and Finland occupy a top position. Although a relatively large decline has taken place in Sweden, no convergence can be discerned vis-à-vis Germany or the UK for example.

In 1990 Swedish union density was twice as large as the British: In 2011 it was almost three times larger and in the private sector four times larger. The rate of unionization has declined in almost all countries. Among the long-term causes are changed composition of the labour force, such as decreasing employment share of manufacturing industry and the public sector.

Secondly, recruitment of union members is complicated by the fragmentation of the labour force caused by outsourcing, staff from temporary work agencies, increasing share of fixed-term employees, etc. Due to lean work organisations there is sparse time for union activities. The sharp membership decline in Sweden during 2007 and 2008 was, however, primarily caused by the significantly raised fees for union unemployment funds.