Two new studies on unionisation and collective agreement coverage
The Ministry of Employment and the Economy has published two studies on unionisation and the coverage of collective agreements in Finland. The studies found that in 2008 the coverage of collective agreements in the private sector was 73.1%. The share of employees covered by these collective agreements in the private sector was 85%. With the inclusion of the public sector, where collective agreements cover all employees, the average coverage was 89.5% of employees.
The Ministry of Employment and the Economy (Työ- ja elinkeinoministeriö) has published two studies on the unionisation and the coverage of collective agreements in Finland. Both studies were undertaken by Lasse Ahtiainen.
Declining trend of union density
Union density of employees has been studied in the same way four times in the past, with the first comprehensive study on the organisation of employees carried out by Timo Kauppinen and Virpi Köykkä in 1989. The research material for the latest survey on employee organisation was collected by the affiliated trade unions of three central union confederations at the end of the 2009. The questionnaire was the same as in earlier studies, with questions on the membership structure of the unions in addition to their organisation.
At the time of the survey, the unions had a total of 2,148,000 members. Of these, 569,000 or 26.5%, can, however, be classified as being outside the normal activities of the union as they include pensioners, students, non-paying members and entrepreneurs. A total of 1,580,000 members were covered at the end of 2009. Thus, the average national union density was 67.4%. In 2004, the corresponding figure was 69%, and thus the rate of organisation has decreased by 1.6 percentage points. In 2009, the unionisation of women was 72.5% with the unionisation of men at only 62.1%.
It seems difficult for trade unions to attract young members. Only 40% of employees or unemployed persons under the age of 30 were organised in 2009. Among young employees with part-time contracts, the union density was particularly low, at just 22.4%.
In manufacturing, the rate of organisation was 84.4%, which is the highest proportion of any sector. In the public service sectors the rate of organisation was 81.6%, while in private service sectors it was clearly the lowest, 50.4%. Organisation has fallen by 1.6 percentage points in manufacturing since the year 2004, whereas, in private service sectors, organisation has increased by 0.9%.
Coverage of collective agreements at high level
The latest study follows a preliminary report on collective agreements. The objective was primarily to study collective agreements and through them to gather new information on organisation among employers.
Collective bargaining coverage describes the share of employees working for the organised employers in proportion to all employees. In Finland this share is an important criterion when deciding on general applicability. If the share is at least half of all employees in the sector, it is confirmed that the agreement is generally applicable, and that it applies to all employment relationships within the agreement sector.
In 2008, this proportion was 73.1% in the private sector. The share of employees that was covered by collective agreements in the private sector was 85% when taking into account collective agreements that are generally binding. With the inclusion of the public sector, where collective agreements cover all employees, the average coverage of collective agreements was 89.5% of employees.
The average coverage of generally binding collective agreements has risen by 1.2% since the previous study in 2005–2006. The biggest increases took place in trade and in the construction industry.
The study on employee unionisation reveals many disturbing characteristics from the perspective of trade unions. Most worrying for the unions is the declining trend of union density. In principle the ratio of unionisation is high with 2,148,000 members, but if the number of employed members of trade unions is compared with the overall membership figures, a rapid decline is apparent. In 2009 the real union density was 67.4%, down from 78.5% just 15 years earlier. Particularly low levels of union density were found among young workers and part-time employees. These groups were also less likely to be members of unemployment insurance funds.
Pertti Jokivuori, University of Jyväskylä