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Industrial relations and social dialogue

Industrial relations and social dialogue is one of the six main activities in Eurofound’s work programme for the 2021–2024 period. Eurofound will continue to operate as a centre of expertise for monitoring and analysing developments in industrial relations systems and social dialogue at national and EU level. It will continue to support the dialogue between management and labour, including in light of the impact of COVID-19, drawing on the expertise of its Network of Eurofound Correspondents at national level.


Recent updates


The post-pandemic recovery of Europe continued in 2023, with strong job creation despite subdued economic growth, against a background of rising geopolitical tension. Eurofound’s research over the year brought to...

2 May 2024
Annual report

Key policy messages

The main findings emerging from Eurofound research serve as input for policymakers to address some of the key issues in this area.

  • The social partners, through collective bargaining, play a crucial role in safeguarding fair treatment for European workers and a stable and predictable framework for employers.
  • Effective collective bargaining ensures that competition between enterprises can focus on increasing efficiency rather than exploiting labour through common rules on pay and working conditions.
  • Industrial relations systems are increasingly under threat due to changes in society, labour markets and the organisation of work. This has posed challenges to the capacity of key actors in industrial relations systems in the Member States.
  • In terms of pay, findings show that seven out of 10 minimum wage workers in the EU report at least some difficulty in making ends meet, as compared to less than 5 out of 10 other workers; however, these figures vary greatly across countries. Against the background of the pandemic, minimum wages can play a role in the policy mix to stabilise incomes – and thus demand – to counteract a downward spiral into recession or depression.
  • Effective European social dialogue depends on strong links with the national level so the EU agenda stays relevant and EU autonomous agreements are implemented in a meaningful way at national level.
  • While several joint initiatives have emerged from European social dialogue, few agreements have been concluded. There is concern in some sectors that social partner requests to implement agreements through European legislation have been rejected, and that better links between EU and national levels are required.
  • Falling trends in trade union density are a matter for concern in many Member States. Fewer than one in three workplaces (with 10+ workers) in the EU (29%) has some form of employee representation. Legislative requirements are a key driver for the presence of representation.
  • Collective bargaining remains at the core of industrial relations systems in the EU. Policymakers should seize the opportunity of the COVID-19 crisis to introduce new initiatives to promote, strengthen and underpin collective bargaining.
  • In addition to social partner efforts, effective social dialogue and well-functioning industrial relations require public monies and the support of public authorities. Policymakers should explore new forms of knowledge transfer, resource provision and engagement with EU- and national-level social partners.
  • Safeguarding and promoting fair, well-functioning and balanced industrial relations is critical to ensuring inclusive and sustainable growth and social progress in the EU. In the wake of COVID-19, it will also be an important way for policymakers to integrate the social and economic dimensions of the EU, as set out in the European Pillar of Social Rights.

2021–2024 work plan

During 2021–2024, Eurofound will provide important insights into the challenges and prospects in the area of industrial relations and social dialogue in the EU. With a long-established expertise in this field, Eurofound explores the main developments affecting the actors, processes and key outcomes of industrial relations. It compares national systems of industrial relations, including national social dialogue and collective bargaining. Building on its EU PolicyWatch database created in 2020, Eurofound will monitor policy initiatives by governments, social partners and other actors to cushion the social and economic fallouts of the crisis, as well as to assist in the recovery efforts. Its regular reporting on pay setting, minimum wage and working time developments, as well as working life outcomes, will be ongoing.

Eurofound’s expertise supports the capacity-building of the social partners to achieve effective social dialogue, and the Agency promotes the development of the European social dialogue by looking at the representativeness of social partner organisations in different sectors to assess their eligibility to participate in social dialogue committees.

Addressing stakeholder priorities

Eurofound’s research aims to assist the European institutions, national public authorities and social partners at various levels to address the challenges facing the EU and at national level in the areas of policy formation, social dialogue, collective bargaining and the regulation of employment relations.

The Agency’s work programme is aligned with the European Commission’s political guidelines over the next four years, directly feeding into a number of key policy areas aimed at creating a strong social Europe. In particular, Eurofound will support the policy initiatives under the European Pillar of Social Rights linked to social dialogue and the involvement of workers, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specific findings will be available to inform the European policy debate on minimum wages and pay transparency, as well as on working time. In consultation with the European Commission, Eurofound will continue its focused work on European social dialogue through its series of representativeness studies in selected sectors.


Eurofound research

In 2024, Eurofound continues its national monitoring of trends and developments in industrial relations, social dialogue, collective bargaining and working life regulations and outcomes. 

To support European social dialogue, in 2024 the Agency plans to publish studies on the representativeness of social partner organisations in six sectors: construction, extractive industries, chemical sector, road transport including urban public transport, postal and courier services, and graphical industries. In addition, studies are ongoing on the following sectors: agriculture, temporary agency work, ports, maritime transport, tanning and leather, footwear, sugar, inland waterway transport, central government administration, railways and commerce. Eurofound continues its work on initiatives to support capacity building for effective social dialogue. In 2024, the Agency launches a new phase of Tripartite Exchange Seminars in collaboration with the European Training Foundation, Cedefop and the European Environment Agency.

Eurofound carries out its annual exercise of examining the involvement of national social partners in policymaking, in the context of the European Semester process and the Recovery and Resilience Facility, which in 2024 includes findings on the role of tripartite discussions held in Economic and Social Councils in Member States having such bodies. The contribution made by sectoral social partners to the implementation of reforms and investments included in the Recovery and Resilience Plans is also analysed, looking at policy processes that link European and national policy agendas. 

Eurofound’s EU PolicyWatch database continues to capture relevant policy initiatives by governments, social partners and other actors, including those taken to mitigate the socioeconomic consequences of the war in Ukraine, as well as those related to the twin transition.

Work on outcomes in collective bargaining agreements beyond the topic of pay concludes in 2024 and the results and dataset are planned for 2025. Research also concludes on how larger increases in statutory minimum wages affect collective bargaining and collectively agreed wages for low-paid groups. 

Eurofound collaborates with the European Institute for Gender Equality in 2024 to investigate further experiences with the implementation of gender pay transparency measures, with a focus also on those Member States that have recently introduced new legislation, and how the ‘work of equal value principle’ is defined and implemented.

The annual reviews on minimum wages and on working time in the EU continue in 2024. The working life country profiles are also being updated. The ongoing monitoring of industrial relations systems includes regular updates to the European Industrial Relations Dictionary.

Key outputs


Eurofound's 2024 work programme is set in the context of the upcoming European elections, war in Ukraine, renewed Middle East conflict and rising cost of living across the EU.

23 January 2024
Work programme

The 2023 annual review of minimum wages was prepared in the context of unprecedented inflation across Europe. While this led to hefty increases in nominal wage rates in many countries...

29 June 2023
Research report

Eurofound expert(s)


Christine Aumayr-Pintar is a senior research manager in the Working Life unit at Eurofound. Her current research topics include minimum wages, collectively agreed wages and gender...

Senior research manager,
Working life research unit
Publications results (531)

This report analyses recent developments and emerging practices in collective bargaining processes and outcomes, mainly in the private sector. The report covers collective bargaining systems in 10 EU Member States and is based on cases identified through interviews with key stakeholders and

31 August 2022

After a cautious round of minimum wage setting for 2021, nominal rates rose significantly for 2022 as the negative consequences of the pandemic eased and economies and labour markets improved. In this context, 20 of the 21 EU Member States with statutory minimum wages raised their rates.

15 June 2022

This publication consists of individual country reports on working life during 2021 for 28 countries – the 27 EU Member States and Norway. The country reports summarise evidence on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on working life based on national research and survey results during 2021. They

19 May 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic continued to be a defining force in the lives and work of Europeans for a second year in 2021, and Eurofound continued its work of examining and recording the many and diverse impacts across the EU Member States. Living and working in Europe 2021 provides a snapshot of the

09 May 2022

This report examines the quality of the national social partners’ involvement in designing and implementing reforms and policies in the context of the European Semester cycle and in the preparation of the national reform programmes. Within the framework of NextGenerationEU, Member States in 2021

30 March 2022

Despite the well-known adverse effects of regular long working hours on workers’ health, well-being and performance, many workers in the EU continue to work beyond their normal hours. Part of this additional working time is classified as overtime. This report takes a comparative overview of how

10 March 2022

The informal meeting of EU ministers responsible for employment and social policy (EPSCO) took place in Bordeaux on 14–15 February 2022. The meeting focused on the challenges posed by the major green and digital transitions to the labour market, and the way in which the European Union can support

14 February 2022

In recent years, apart from some intermittent spikes, there has been a general decrease in industrial action across the EU Member States. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this trend has continued, with the most significant labour disputes not surprisingly occurring in the human health and social

07 February 2022

Digital transformation is changing the world of work. This report looks at how social partners – the actors involved in the regulation of employment relationships – are increasingly adopting technological solutions to improve the services that they provide to their members and facilitate collective

10 December 2021

This report analyses and compares the industrial relations landscape in several sectors and activities that form a public service cluster across the 27 EU Member States and the UK – altogether employing over 57 million workers and representing 25% of the total workforce in the economy. It is based

09 December 2021

Online resources results (1768)

Minimum wages 2024 – The tide is turning

While the prospects for minimum wage workers in early 2023 looked gloomy, the new year brings better news: national minimum wages were raised significantly in most countries.

Mary McCaughey speaks with Eurofound experts Christine Aumayr-Pintar and Carlos Vacas-Soriano about the adequacy of minimum wages in Europe as they stand at the moment, how the EU has sought to improve the situation of low-wage earners through a Directive on adequate minimum wages, and how widesprea
10 January 2024

Working life in Moldova

Eurofound and the European Training Foundation have developed the first working life country profile for Moldova in recognition of its new status as an EU candidate country. The profile is intended to provide an overview of Moldova’s key socioeconomic characteristics and regulations to serve as a ba

Working life in Georgia

Eurofound and the European Training Foundation have developed the first working life country profile for Georgia, which is an EU candidate country. The profile is intended to provide an overview of Georgia’s key socioeconomic characteristics and regulations to serve as a background for its work t

Presentation by Ricardo Rodriguez Contreras, Research Manager, Eurofound. 2-3 October 2023, EMCO meeting hosted by the Spanish Presidency, Madrid.

9 October 2023
Image of young women placing an order to a waiter in a cafe

Minimum wages in Belgium

Minimum wages in Belgium exist at national and sectoral levels and are the outcome of collective bargaining. The national minimum wage typically lags behind sectoral minimum wages in Belgium, and policymakers have been concerned about the relative decrease in the national minimum wage compared with


Cyprus introduces a national statutory minimum wage

On 31 August 2022, a new decree on minimum wages was published in Cyprus after a long and arduous process of negotiations and social dialogue. The ministerial decree, which came into effect on 1 January 2023, established a national minimum wage in Cyprus for the first time, a groundbreaking and cont


Minimum wage debate in Italy

Italy has no minimum wage prescribed by law. Minimum wages are set through collective agreements at sectoral level, and the majority of employees in Italy are covered by a collective bargaining agreement in which wages are set. This article outlines the latest positions (2023) of the government and


Measures to lessen the impact of the inflation and energy crisis on citizens

As governments across the EU continue to implement policies to support citizens and businesses in the face of rising food and energy prices caused by the COVID-19 crisis and intensified by the war in Ukraine, this article summarises the policy responses as reported in Eurofound’s EU PolicyWatch


Minimum wage hikes struggle to offset inflation

As the EU economy advanced its recovery following the pandemic, the high rate of inflation throughout 2022 meant that wage setting actors made their decisions under a cloud of uncertainty. While nominal increases in statutory minimum wages reached an all-time high, minimum wage workers in most count

Blogs results (22)

Minimum wages have risen significantly in 2022, as the EU Member States leave behind the cautious mood of the pandemic. However, rising inflation is eating up these wage increases, and only flexibility in the regular minimum wage setting processes may avoid generalised losses in purchasing power

15 June 2022

With the arrival of the month of May, the 2022 European Semester Spring Package is anticipated soon. After a transformative year in 2021, which saw the launch of the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) under NextGenerationEU, the European Semester cycle has resumed its role as the reference


With its proposed directive on gender pay transparency, the European Commission has significantly bolstered the set of tools for delivering its objectives compared to those presented in its 2014 Recommendation. The proposed portfolio of measures addresses many shortcomings of the instruments that


Decision-makers approached minimum wage setting for 2021 cautiously due to the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Despite this, nominal statutory minimum wages rose in most Member States and the UK, although at lower rates than in recent years.


In the context of the ongoing trend of a fall in collective bargaining coverage, and recent calls at EU level to promote collective bargaining coverage as an instrument to support fair and decent wages, new data from Eurofound’s fourth European Company Survey (ECS) show that two-thirds of workers

28 October 2020

The coronavirus disease (Covid-19) is having drastic consequences for the world of work. In most European countries workers who are not delivering essential ‘frontline’ services are being asked to stay home. Unfortunately many are out of work, while many of those who are not are minimum-wage and low

1 April 2020

As one of their ‘100 days in office’ initiatives, the new European Commission intends to propose an initiative for an EU minimum wage. The aim is that by 2024 every worker in the EU should earn a fair and adequate wage, no matter where they live.

15 January 2020

Trade unions in many EU Member States face the issue of declining membership. This is a fundamental challenge for organised labour, but it is premature to speak about the redundancy unions: when it comes to important decisions affecting the workplace, restructuring being one, trade unions remain a

20 November 2019

The International Labour Organization (ILO) met for the first time 100 years ago, and right at the top of the agenda for discussion for this new specialised UN agency was the 8-hour working day. This discussion subsequently resulted in the Hours of Work (Industry) Convention, which stated that ‘The

12 November 2019

The European Platform Tackling Undeclared Work last year documented the case of a Dutch temporary work agency that hired workers of various nationalities to work for a construction company in Belgium. The wages were suspiciously low, and the Belgian Labour Inspectorate believed that EU law

17 July 2019

Upcoming publications results (9)

This report reviews the quality of the national social partners’ involvement in the implementation of the reforms and investments shaping the digital and green transition in the context of national policymaking. These reforms and investments stem mainly from the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

March 2025

This study provides information allowing for an assessment of the representativeness of the actors involved in the European sectoral social dialogue committee for the extractive industries sector. Their relative representativeness legitimises their right to be consulted, their role and effective par

November 2024

This study provides information allowing for an assessment of the representativeness of the actors involved in the European sectoral social dialogue committee for the construction sector. Their relative representativeness legitimises their right to be consulted, their role and effective participatio

November 2024

This study provides information allowing for an assessment of the representativeness of the actors involved in the European sectoral social dialogue committee for the chemical sector. Their relative representativeness legitimises their right to be consulted, their role and effective participation in

November 2024

This study provides information allowing for an assessment of the representativeness of the actors involved in the European sectoral social dialogue committee for the road transport sector. Their relative representativeness legitimises their right to be consulted, their role and effective participat

November 2024

This study provides information allowing for an assessment of the representativeness of the actors involved in the European sectoral social dialogue committee for the postal and courier activities sector. Their relative representativeness legitimises their right to be consulted, their role and effec

November 2024

This study provides information allowing for an assessment of the representativeness of the actors involved in the European sectoral social dialogue committee for the graphical industry. Their relative representativeness legitimises their right to be consulted, their role and effective participation

November 2024

The 2024 annual review of minimum wages presents the most recent rates of national minimum wages and recalls how they were set and agreed upon during 2023. It includes information on minimum wages set in sectoral collective agreements in countries without national minimum wages.

June 2024

This publication comprises individual country reports on developments in working life in each of the 27 EU Member States and Norway in 2023, based on national research and survey results.

May 2024
Data results (10)

Eurofound publishes gross and nominal statutory minimum wages applicable in EU countries that have a statutory minimum wage.

25 January 2024
Reference period:


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