Trade unions represent workers’ collective interests and negotiate with employers on their behalf. They advocate for workers’ rights and benefits and often play a crucial role in the labor market.
Trade union density rate, or unionization rate, measures the percentage of workers who are trade union members. This rate is an indicator of trade unions’ strength and influence in a specific country.
Trade union density rates differ significantly among countries. They are generally higher in countries with strong worker protections and unionization traditions. However, economic conditions, cultural attitudes towards unions, and government policies can also affect these rates.
According to the latest data from the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden have the highest trade union density rates. With a long history of labor movements and policies supporting collective bargaining and workers’ rights, these countries exhibit high union membership and significant union influence on labor policies and working conditions.
Collective bargaining coverage
Trade unions engage in collective bargaining to negotiate employment terms and conditions between workers and their employers. This process can address various issues, including wages, working hours, benefits, and working conditions.
Collective bargaining coverage rates, or the percentage of workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement, also vary among countries. The collective bargaining coverage rate is an important indicator of trade unions’ strength and influence in a country.
The latest ILO data shows many countries with collective bargaining coverage exceeding 90%. In many cases, the coverage is higher than the trade union density rate. Italy leads with almost complete coverage, followed closely by Austria and France. The Nordic countries, including Iceland, Sweden, and Finland, demonstrate strong collective bargaining coverage, with rates nearing or surpassing 90%. It is noteworthy that the majority of these countries with high coverage rates are European, reflecting the strong labor rights and collective bargaining traditions in the region.
High collective bargaining rates can generally be found in countries where multi-employer agreements (negotiated at sectoral or national levels) are common, and a large number of firms are part of employer associations. Additionally, countries where negotiated agreements are extended to non-unionised workers, for example by law, also contribute to increase the collective bargaining rate beyond the level of trade union coverage. In contrast, in countries where collective agreements are primarily made at the firm level, coverage tends to be closely linked to trade union density.
About the data
The data presented here is sourced from the International Labour Organization (ILO), with the latest information from the ILOSTAT database.
- First release December 2022.