IG Metall membership falls yet again

According to the latest figures, in 1997 the membership of the German metalworkers' union, IG Metall, dropped below the 1989 pre-unification level.

IG Metall membership

Total membership of the world's largest sectoral free trade union, the German metalworkers' union, IG Metall, stood at 2.7 million on 31 December 1997, a fall of 960,000 (or 27%) since 1991. For the first time since German unification, annual membership figures have now fallen below the 1989 pre-unification level, when IG Metall existed in western Germany only. The 1991 post-unification net growth of 897,675 members ( 33%) has thus melted away. The development of IG Metall's membership is examined in a new report from the Institute of the German Economy (Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft, IW) - "Rücksturz auf 1989 - Zur Entwicklung der IGM-Mitgliedszahlen 1997", W Pege, in IW-Gewerkschaftsreport 1/98 (forthcoming). The table below provides details of changes in membership levels since 1989.

IG Metall membership 1989-97
. Membership Change
. . 31/12/89 31/12/91 31/12/94 31/12/96 31/12/97 % change 1991-97 % change 1996-97
All Total 2,679,237 3,624,380 2,995,738 2,752,226 2,660,951 -26.58 -3.32
. West . 2,633,827 2,450,448 2,357,931 2,301,601 -12.61 -2.39
. East . 990,553 545,290 394,295 359,350 -63.72 -8.86
Women Total 411,610 756,023 548,092 479,665 456,000 -39.68 -4.93
. West . . 381,627 367,803 356,511 . -3.07
. East . . 166,465 111,862 99,489 . -11.06
Men Total 2,267,627 2,868,357 2,447,646 2,272,561 2,204,951 -23.13 -2.98
. West . . 2,068,821 1,990,128 1,945,090 . -2.26
. East . . 378,825 282,433 259,861 . -7.99
Young people* Total 439,399 514,780 284,456 216,828 197,294 -61.67 -9.01
. West . . 245,082 196,407 180,949 . -7.87
. East . . 39,374 20,421 16,345 . -19.96
Adults** Total 2,239,838 3,109,600 2,711,282 2,535,398 2,463,657 -20.77 -2.83
. West . . 2,205,366 2,161,524 2,120,652 . -1.89
. East . . 505,916 373,874 343,005 . -8.26
Non-Germans Total . . 287,781 274,787 267,968 . -2.48
. West . . 287,433 274,393 267,510 . -2.51
. East . . 348 394 458 . 16.24
Germans Total . . 2,707,957 2,477,439 2,392,983 . -3.41
. West . . 2,163,015 2,083,538 2,034,091 . -2.70
. East . . 544,942 393,901 358,892 . -8.89
Salaried employees*** Total 407,360 618,527 525,612 485,987 471,596 -23.75 -2.96
. West . . 405,678 401,307 394,871 . -1.60
. East . . 119,934 84,680 76,725 . -9.39
Waged workers Total 2,271,877 3,005,853 2,470,126 2,265,131 2,188,550 -27.19 -3.38
. West . . 2,044,770 1,955,625 1,906,147 . -2.53
. East . . 425,356 309,506 282,403 . -8.76
Retired persons Total 442,109 . 561,357 557,089 548,463 . -1.55
. West . . 455,142 475,678 475,795 . 0.03
. East . . 106,215 81,411 72,668 . -10.74
Unemployed persons Total . . 370,132 338,247 328,263 . -2.95
. West . . 223,629 227,032 217,893 . -4.03
. East . . 146,503 111,215 110,370 . -0.76

* Up to the age of 25.

** Above the age of 25.

*** In some cases (1996: 1,108; 1997: 805) IG Metall members could not unambiguously be classified as belonging to salaried employees or waged workers. That is why adding up salaried employees and waged workers will in some cases not lead exactly to the respective total membership figure.

Source: Pege, ( IW-Gewerkschaftsreport , several issues), IG Metall, IW calculations

The main membership trends since unification

The main trends which can be identified in IG Metall membership since German unification are as follows:

  • since 1992, the proportion of total membership made up by unemployed and retired members has increased by about five percentage points to 33% in 1997;
  • over the same period, the proportion of young members aged up to 25 among IG Metall members has declined from 11% to 7%;
  • in western Germany, IG Metall has lost more than 300,000 members (or 26%) since 1991;
  • there have been huge membership losses of about 64% in eastern Germany, from almost 991,000 in 1991 to fewer than 460,000 members in 1997; and
  • the speed of membership loss has slowed down continuously from -6.4% in 1992 to -4.8% in 1994, -4.1% in 1996 and -3.3% in 1997.

The main membership trends in 1997

In 1997, IG Metall lost members in all but two categories, non-German workers in eastern Germany and retired members. The most important membership trends with regard to certain member categories were as follows:

  • nationality-1997 saw an increase in the membership of non-German workers in eastern Germany (up 64);
  • employment/retirement- the number of retired IG Metall members in western Germany grew net by 117;
  • occupational group- more than 82% of all IG Metal members are waged workers;
  • region- IG Metall is losing members not only in eastern Germany, but also in western Germany;
  • gender- there have been above-average losses of female members; and
  • age- there have been above-average losses of members aged 25 and under.

From an analysis of the 1997 data, the typical profile which can de derived of a former member is: female, not more than 25 years of age, German, working class and living in eastern Germany.

Another interesting item of information can be derived from the latest figures. If one subtracts all unemployed and retired members from the total membership figure, IG Metall organises only 1,784,225 employees (students, pupils and people undergoing military or community service included). Thus for 1997, the overall trade union membership density of IG Metall with regard to employment in its organisational domain (the metalworking and steel industries and the metal crafts, which altogether employ 5.7 million people) may be estimated at slightly more than 31%.

Commentary

IG Metall blames the destruction of jobs during the last recession and "jobless growth" for the bad job-creation performance in its organisational domain as well as for the decline in membership.

However, there may be other important reasons for the decline of IG Metall membership, most of which may also hold true for other German unions. First, there may be a "back-to-normal adjustment effect" after the membership growth associated with unification, as was to be expected according to many observers. Second, recruiting women, young people and salaried employees increasingly proves difficult for unions whose typical members are older male full-time manufacturing manual workers in large workplaces. Third, there are changes in workforce composition in the direction of people who have a lower probability of being trade union members. Fourth, structural change, mainly in the direction from the industrial to the service sector, but also within the industrial sector, challenges IG Metall organisation.

The last point deserves special attention. For years, many German companies in the metalworking and electrical industries have been diversifying their production into new, growing industries or services such as telecommunications or information technology. Thus classic demarcations of organisational domains between IG Metal and other unions, especially the service sector unions, are eroding. Union mergers, as in the case of IG Metall and the textile workers' union, Gewerkschaft-Textil-Bekleidung (GTB) (DE9710233F) are one response. However, mergers are often just superficial and short-term solutions, since they do not address the fundamental question of recruiting new members. In areas where mergers or close cooperation between competing unions turns out to be impossible, competition for members and collective agreements as well as demarcation conflicts between IG Metall and other unions seem to be very likely. (Stefan Zagelmeyer, IW)

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