November 27, 2021

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Unions are losing more and more work ground

Unions are losing more and more work ground

Unions lost 98 thousand members in the time of Corona. Only 1.5 million people still belong to unions, the lowest number since 1966. Statistics for the Netherlands report this on the basis of the new figures.




Trade union membership is rapidly declining. For more than ten years, they have seen more people leave than enter. Over the past two years, membership has fallen another 6 percent.

Since the Census Bureau began measuring in 1901, it has recorded a sharp decline only four times before. In 1924 (-122,000), 1984 (-141,000), 1985 (-105,000) and 2019 (-101,000).

Nearly one in four union members (22 percent) has already reached government retirement age. In 2019 it was 18%. This increase is not surprising in itself, given that the aging population is also increasing.

On the other hand, the number of young people up to the age of 25 is increasing turning their backs on the union: two years ago their share was 2.9 percent, now it is 2.4 percent. Trade union membership has also declined in other age groups, among both male and female members.

Only a quarter of members are now under 45. This development fits in with a trend that has been going on for some time, says Peter Heine van Mulligen, chief economist at CBS, explaining the numbers. “The unions are experiencing some degree of influx and don’t have enough influx of new members.”

PostNL mail providers are calling for attention to a better collective labor agreement, including a higher minimum hourly wage. © ANP

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According to him, enthusiasm for membership is limited, which is also evidenced by the National Survey of Working Conditions (NEA) of Statistics Netherlands and TNO. In it, 54 percent of people who were not members of a union in 2020 said they had not seriously considered joining.

Moreover, 12 per cent of non-union members stated that trade unions have no influence on working conditions, 7 per cent think membership is expensive and 7 per cent claim that unions do not represent their interests well.

The staff in education seems to be the exception to the rule. At 31 percent, they most often belong to trade unions. Personnel in general administration, transportation and warehousing are also relatively well represented at 30 percent. According to figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics, the rate of regulation in the information and communications sector is the lowest at 6 percent.

According to CBS Chief Economist Van Mulligen, the Statistical Office has no determination to determine whether childbirth is a worrisome development. “You could say that trade unions have traditionally been intended to represent workers at different stages of their lives. The membership base should therefore be a reasonable reflection of the group of labor. Now that roughly a quarter of the members are retired, you can at least conclude that this representation does not apply to age groups, “notice.

The increasing number of retired members may increase union interest in pensions. A declining membership base can also undermine the bargaining position of trade unions at the CLAs tables.

Childcare workers stopped working in July.  Activists believe that there are no good agreements with employers about reducing the workload.

Childcare workers stopped working in July. Activists believe that there are no good agreements with employers about reducing the workload. © ANP

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