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Why Fewer Workers Join Unions in Europe: A Social Custom Explanation of Membership Trends

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  • Jelle Visser

Abstract

Can the recent decline in union density in Europe be attributed to specific economic, social or institutional causes? Can unions influence these causes and reverse decline? Using two data sources - a representative survey of Dutch employees and a data set for European countries between 1950 and 1997 - the author examines the determinants of union decline. The theoretical model is based on a social custom approach to unionization, integrating rational choice and social network theory. The empirical results show improbable small margins of union resurgence, that is, if institutional support for union representation can be maintained or regained within and beyond workplaces. Copyright Blackwell Publishers Ltd/London School of Economics 2002.

Suggested Citation

  • Jelle Visser, 2002. "Why Fewer Workers Join Unions in Europe: A Social Custom Explanation of Membership Trends," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 40(3), pages 403-430, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:brjirl:v:40:y:2002:i:3:p:403-430
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Bram Wauters & Manu Mus & Steven Lannoo & Carl Devos, 2014. "Perfect match or missing link? An analysis of the representativeness of trade union representatives in Belgium," Industrial Relations Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(5), pages 424-442, September.
    2. 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).
    3. Charlwood, Andy, 2003. "The anatomy of union decline in Britain: 1990-1998," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20006, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Schnabel Claus & Wagner Joachim, 2008. "The Aging of the Unions in West Germany, 1980–2006," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 228(5-6), pages 497-511, October.
    5. Schnabel, Claus, 2002. "Determinants of trade union membership," Discussion Papers 15, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Chair of Labour and Regional Economics.
    6. Flemming Ibsen & Laust Høgedahl & Steen Scheuer, 2013. "Free riders: the rise of alternative unionism in Denmark," Industrial Relations Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(5-6), pages 444-461, November.
    7. Schnabel, Claus & Wagner, Joachim, 2003. "Determinants of Trade Union Membership in Western Germany: Evidence from Micro Data, 1980-2000," IZA Discussion Papers 708, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Laszlo Goerke & Markus Pannenberg, 2007. "Trade Union Membership and Works Councils in West Germany," Industrielle Beziehungen - Zeitschrift fuer Arbeit, Organisation und Management - The German Journal of Industrial Relations, Rainer Hampp Verlag, vol. 14(2), pages 154-175.
    9. Schnabel, Claus & Wagner, Joachim, 2003. "Trade Union Membership in Eastern and Western Germany: Convergence or Divergence?," IZA Discussion Papers 707, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Vaona, Andrea, 2006. "The duration of union membership: An empirical study," Kiel Working Papers 1268, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    11. Laszlo Goerke & Markus Pannenberg, 2004. "Norm-Based Trade Union Membership: Evidence for Germany," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 5(4), pages 481-504, November.
    12. Hagen Lesch, 2004. "Trade Union Density in International Comparison," CESifo Forum, Ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 5(4), pages 12-18, December.
    13. Laust Høgedahl, 2014. "The Ghent effect for whom? Mapping the variations of the Ghent effect across different trade unions in Denmark," Industrial Relations Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(6), pages 469-485, November.
    14. A Charlwood, 2003. "The Anatomy of Union Decline in Britain: 1990-1998," CEP Discussion Papers dp0601, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    15. Thomas Haipeter, 2016. "The interests of white-collar workers and their representation in the German manufacturing sector: new initiatives, opportunity structures, framing and resources," Industrial Relations Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(4), pages 304-321, July.
    16. Oesch, Daniel, 2010. "Explaining union growth and decline with flows in and out of membership. An analysis of Swiss union locals," MPRA Paper 24358, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. Lesch, Hagen, 2004. "Gewerkschaftlicher Organisationsgrad im internationalen Vergleich," IW-Trends – Vierteljahresschrift zur empirischen Wirtschaftsforschung, Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln (IW) / Cologne Institute for Economic Research, vol. 31(2), pages 5-15.
    18. Schnabel, Claus & Wagner, Joachim, 2005. "Determinants of Union Membership in 18 EU Countries : Evidence from Micro Data, 2002/03," Discussion Papers 31, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Chair of Labour and Regional Economics.
    19. repec:bla:apacel:v:30:y:2016:i:2:p:45-56 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Daniele Checchi & Jelle Visser & Herman G. van de Werfhorst, 2010. "Inequality and Union Membership: The Influence of Relative Earnings and Inequality Attitudes," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 48(1), pages 84-108, March.

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