Industrial relations and social dialogue

28 september 2022

Industrial relations and social dialogue is one of the six main activities in Eurofound’s work programme for the 2021–2024 period.Read more

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.

Over the next four years, 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.

 

We are there to support the dialogue between management and labour. And I think the data we draw together and the research we do is important, if it helps the actors themselves, to function better… A vibrant social dialogue is part of what you might call a social market economy, which is what the European Union is aiming to achieve.

— David Foden, Adviser, Industrial Relations

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Addressing stakeholder priorities

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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 employmentRead more

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.

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Key policy messages

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Industrial relations and social dialogue infographic
Infographic

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.
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Current and ongoing research

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In 2022, Eurofound will continue its national reporting on trends and developments in industrial relations, social dialogue and working life regulations and outcomes.Read more

In 2022, Eurofound will continue its national reporting on trends and developments in industrial relations, social dialogue and working life regulations and outcomes. This includes analysing the different drivers of change, how they affect industrial relations and how industrial relations shape the processes and impact of change. 

To support European social dialogue, the Agency will carry out studies on the representativeness of social partner organisations in the gas, electricity, civil aviation, food and drinks and textiles sectors. The annual reviews on minimum wages and on working time in the EU will be published. A report highlighting developments in collective bargaining in light of the health, social and economic crisis associated with COVID-19 will be prepared. Data gathered by Eurofound’s Network of Eurofound Correspondents will also feed into updates of the working life country profiles and the database on wages, working time and collective disputes.

Building on earlier work, including analysis of measures to support collective bargaining, Eurofound plans to pilot a tripartite ‘summer forum’ on capacity-building for effective social dialogue, aimed at early to mid-career professionals.

Eurofound will carry out its annual exercise of assessing the role of national social partners in policymaking, in the context of the European Semester process and the Recovery and Resilience Facility. In 2022, findings focusing on measures to promote recovery, following the health and social crisis, will be published, and the new cycle of work will focus on the Action Plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights. 
Regular monitoring of industrial relations systems will continue, including through regular updating of Eurofound’s EU PolicyWatch database and the European Industrial Relations Dictionary

The sections below provide access to a range of publications, data and ongoing work on this topic.

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  • Publications tab (2379)
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  • Ongoing work tab (9)

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Data related to this topic are linked below.

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