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Union membership and density: Some (not so) stylized facts and challenges

  • Schnabel, Claus

Surveying some recent data and the empirical literature from various disciplines, this paper attempts to shed some light on what we know and don't know about (trends in) unionization and its determinants in advanced countries. It shows that there are relatively few robust stylized facts, for instance that unionization is positively related to public sector employment, to establishment size and to the business cycle (with union growth being procyclical). The existence of a unionadministered unemployment insurance and unions' presence at the workplace also play a positive role for (changes in) unionization. However, some seemingly obvious explanations for the decline in unionization over the last decades do not hold on closer scrutiny. Various trends like the ongoing economic globalization and changes in the sectoral structure of the economy and the composition of the workforce do not seem to have impeded union membership and density everywhere. Similarly, the trend towards decentralization of collective bargaining has not resulted in large-scale deunionization. It also remains an open question whether changes in social values, rising individualism, and changing attitudes of employees towards unions have affected or will affect unionization negatively.

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Paper provided by Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Chair of Labour and Regional Economics in its series Discussion Papers with number 81.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:faulre:81
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.arbeitsmarkt.wiso.uni-erlangen.de/english-version/

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  2. Petri Böckerman & Roope Uusitalo, 2006. "Erosion of the Ghent System and Union Membership Decline: Lessons from Finland," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 44(2), pages 283-303, 06.
  3. Hirsch, Boris & Schnabel, Claus, 2011. "Let's take bargaining models seriously: The decline in union power in Germany, 1992 - 2009," IWQW Discussion Paper Series 10/2011, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Institut für Wirtschaftspolitik und Quantitative Wirtschaftsforschung (IWQW).
  4. Alex Bryson & Rafael Gomez & Morley Gunderson & Noah Meltz, 2005. "Youth-Adult Differences in the Demand for Unionization: Are American, British, and Canadian Workers All That Different?," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 26(1), pages 155-167, January.
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  6. Naylor, Robin, 1990. "A social custom model of collective action," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 6(2), pages 201-216, October.
  7. Fitzenberger, Bernd & Kohn, Karsten & Wang, Qingwei, 2006. "The Erosion of Union Membership in Germany: Determinants, Densities, Decompositions," IZA Discussion Papers 2193, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  11. Holmlund, Bertil & Lundborg, Per, 1996. "Wage Bargaining, Union Membership, and the Organization of Unemployment Insurance," Working Paper Series 1996:17, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  12. John Schmitt & Alexandra Mitukiewicz, 2011. "Politics Matter: Changes in Unionization Rates in Rich Countries, 1960-2010," CEPR Reports and Issue Briefs 2011-24, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).
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  15. Borland, Jeff & Ouliaris, S, 1994. "The Determinants of Australian Trade Union Membership," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 9(4), pages 453-68, Oct.-Dec..
  16. Henry S. Farber & Bruce Western, 2001. "Accounting for the Decline of Unions in the Private Sector, 1973-1998 ," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 22(3), pages 459-485, July.
  17. Hendrik Biebeler & Hagen Lesch, 2007. "Zwischen Mitgliedererosion und Ansehensverlust - Die deutschen Gewerkschaften im Umbruch," Industrielle Beziehungen - Zeitschrift fuer Arbeit, Organisation und Management - The German Journal of Industrial Relations, Rainer Hampp Verlag, vol. 14(2), pages 133 - 153.
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