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Why have workers stopped joining unions? Accounting for the rise in never-membership in Britain

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  • Bryson, Alex
  • Gomez, Rafael

Abstract

This paper tracks the rise in the percentage of employees who have never become union members (‘never-members’) since the early 1980s and shows that it is the reduced likelihood of ever becoming a member rather than the haemorrhaging of existing members which is behind the decline in overall union membership in Britain. We estimate the determinants of ‘never-membership’ and consider how much of the rise can be explained by structural change in the labour market and how much by change in preferences among employees. We find a similar trend in the unionised sector, indicating that the rise in never membership for the economy as a whole is not linked solely to a decline in the number of recognised workplaces.

Suggested Citation

  • Bryson, Alex & Gomez, Rafael, 2005. "Why have workers stopped joining unions? Accounting for the rise in never-membership in Britain," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 360, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:360
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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/360/
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Edward P. Lazear & Paul Oyer, 2012. "Personnel Economics," Introductory Chapters,in: Robert Gibbons & John Roberts (ed.), The Handbook of Organizational Economics Princeton University Press.
    2. Marsden, David, 1999. "A Theory of Employment Systems: Micro-Foundations of Societal Diversity," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198294221.
    3. Edward P. Lazear, 1995. "Personnel Economics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262121883, January.
    4. Alice Lam, 2003. "Organisational Learning in Multinationals R&D networks of Japanese and U.S. MNEs in the U.K," DRUID Working Papers 03-03, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.
    5. Robert Salais, 1989. "L'analyse économique des conventions du travail," Revue Économique, Programme National Persée, vol. 40(2), pages 199-240.
    6. James M. Malcomson, 1997. "Contracts, Hold-Up, and Labor Markets," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(4), pages 1916-1957, December.
    7. Alice Lam, 2003. "Organizational Learning in Multinationals: R&D Networks of Japanese and US MNEs in the UK," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(3), pages 673-703, May.
    8. Peter AUER & Sandrine CAZES, 2000. "The resilience of the long-term employment relationship: Evidence from the industrialized countries," International Labour Review, International Labour Organization, vol. 139(4), pages 379-408, December.
    9. James C. Sesil & Maya K. Kroumova & Joseph R. Blasi & Douglas L. Kruse, 2002. "Broad-based Employee Stock Options in US 'New Economy' Firms," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 40(2), pages 273-294, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. John T. Addison & Alex Bryson & Paulino Teixeira & André Pahnke, 2011. "Slip Sliding Away: Further Union Decline In Germany And Britain," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 58(4), pages 490-518, September.
    2. John T. Addison & Alex Bryson & Paulino Teixeira & André Pahnke & Lutz Bellmann, 2013. "The Extent of Collective Bargaining and Workplace Representation: Transitions between States and their Determinants. A Comparative Analysis of Germany and Great Britain," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 60(2), pages 182-209, May.
    3. Bryson, Alex & Freeman, Richard B. & Gomez, Rafael & Willman, Paul, 2017. "The Twin Track Model of Employee Voice: An Anglo-American Perspective on Union Decline and the Rise of Alternative Forms of Voice," IZA Discussion Papers 11223, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Union membership JEL classification codes : J31; J50; J51;

    JEL classification:

    • J51 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Trade Unions: Objectives, Structure, and Effects
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J50 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - General

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