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When Institutions Matter: Union Growth and Decline in Western Europe, 1950-95

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  • Bernhard Ebbinghaus
  • Jelle Visser

Abstract

During the early post-war period, Western trade union movements grew in membership and achieved an institutionalized role in industrial relations and politics. However, during the last decades, many trade unions have seen their membership decline as they came increasingly under pressures due to the social, economic and political changes. This article reviews the main structural, cyclical and institu-tional factors explaining union growth and decline. Concentrating on Western Europe, the empirical analysis compares cross-national union density data for 13 countries over the first period (1950-75) and for 16 countries over the second, "crisis" period (1975-95). The quantitative correlation and re-gression analysis indicates that structural and cyclical factors fail explain the level and changes in unionization across Western Europe, while institutional variables fare better. In a second, qualitative comparative analysis, the authors stress the need to explain cross-national differences in the level or trend of unionization by a set of institutional arrangements: the access of unions to representation in the workplace, the availability of a selective incentive in the form of a union-administered unemploy-ment scheme, recognition of employers through nation-wide and sectoral corporatist institutions, and closed shop arrangements for forced membership. Such institutional configurations support member-ship recruitment and membership retention, and define the conditions for the strategic choice of trade unions in responding to structural social-economic, political and cultural changes

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by MZES in its series MZES Working Papers with number 30.

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Date of creation: 15 Jul 1998
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Handle: RePEc:erp:mzesxx:p0045

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Related research

Keywords: Austria; Belgium; corporatism; Denmark; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; industrial relations; institutions; interest representation; Ireland; Italy; Netherlands; Norway; Portugal; sectoral governance; social policy; sociological institutionalism; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; trade unions; U.K.; welfare state;

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Schnabel, Claus & Wagner, Joachim, 2005. "Determinants of Union Membership in 18 EU Countries: Evidence from Micro Data, 2002/03," IZA Discussion Papers 1464, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Monika Ewa Kaminska & Marta Kahancová, 2010. "WP 87 - Emigration and labour shortages. An opportunity for trade unions in new member states?," AIAS Working Papers wp87, AIAS, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies.
  3. Silvia Teuber & Uschi Backes-Gellner, 2012. "How do companies adjust their organization to national institutions: evidence from matched-pair engineering companies," Economics of Education Working Paper Series 0082, University of Zurich, Institute for Strategy and Business Economics (ISU), revised Apr 2013.
  4. Jelle Visser, 2005. "WP 42 - Wage bargaining institutions in europe: A happy marriage or preparing for divorce?," AIAS Working Papers wp42, AIAS, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies.
  5. Chung, Heejung, 2008. "Do institutions matter? Explaining the use of working time flexibility arrangements of companies across 21 European countries using a multilevel model focusing on country level determinants," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Labor Market Policy and Employment SP I 2008-107, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
  6. Zohal Hessami & Thushyanthan Baskaran, 2013. "Has Globalization Affected Collective Bargaining? An Empirical Test, 1980-2009," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2013-02, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
  7. John Schmitt & Alexandra Mitukiewicz, 2012. "Politics matter: changes in unionisation rates in rich countries, 1960–2010," Industrial Relations Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(3), pages 260-280, 05.
  8. Schnabel, Claus, 2012. "Union Membership and Density: Some (Not So) Stylized Facts and Challenges," IZA Discussion Papers 6792, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Schnabel, Claus, 2002. "Determinants of trade union membership," Discussion Papers 15, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Chair of Labour and Regional Economics.

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