Industrial relations and social dialogue
26 september 2023
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.
- Infographic: Industrial relations and social dialogue in the EU
Addressing stakeholder prioritiesTop
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.
- European Commission: Priorities 2019–2024: An economy that works for people
- European Commission: Priorities 2019–2024: A new push for European democracy
Blogs on this topic
Key policy messagesTop
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.
Current and ongoing researchTop
In 2023, Eurofound will continue its national reporting on trends and developments in industrial relations, social dialogue and working life regulations and outcomes.Read more
In 2023, Eurofound will continue its national reporting on trends and developments in industrial relations, social dialogue and working life regulations and outcomes.
To support European social dialogue, the Agency will publish in 2023 six studies on the representativeness of social partner organisations at cross-industry level and in five sectors: professional football, furniture, extractive industries, woodwork and construction. In addition, studies are ongoing on the following sectors: agriculture, postal and courier services, road transport and urban public transport, graphical sector, temporary agency work, ports, maritime transport, tanning/leather, and footwear. It will also continue its work on initiatives to support capacity-building for effective social dialogue.
Eurofound will carry out its annual exercise of examining the role of national social partners in policymaking, in the context of the European Semester process and the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). In 2023, the report on this topic will focus on social partner involvement in this area in the context of the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, while new work on this topic will focus on policy initiatives addressing climate change.
Relevant policy initiatives, including those taken to mitigate the socioeconomic consequences of the war in Ukraine, as well as those related to the twin transition, will continue to be recorded in Eurofound’s EU PolicyWatch database. Updates to the database will include a focus on social partner involvement.
Research will be finalised on developments in collective bargaining in light of the health, social and economic crisis associated with COVID-19. Findings will also be published on developments in collective bargaining in selected sectors. New work on collective bargaining beyond the topic of pay will include the coding of contents of collective agreements on issues such as working time, telework, training and work–life balance for inclusion in the database developed for the pilot project on minimum wages. Research will also begin on how the increase of statutory minimum wages affects collective bargaining for low-paid groups.
The ongoing monitoring of industrial relations systems will include regular updates to the European Industrial Relations Dictionary. The annual reviews on minimum wages and on working time in the EU will be published, as well as updates of the working life country profiles. Meanwhile, preparatory work to update the database on wages, working time and collective disputes will start.
- Resource: European Industrial Relations Dictionary
- Database: EU PolicyWatch
- Data: Minimum wages pilot project
The sections below provide access to a range of publications, data and ongoing work on this topic.Read less
- Publications tab (2411)
- Data tab
- Ongoing work tab (10)
Eurofound publications come in a variety of formats, including reports, policy briefs, blogs, articles and presentations.
Reinforcing social dialogue in the context of the move towards the green and digital transitions: Background paperPublication 14 febrúar 2022
Data related to this topic are linked below.
- Data: Industrial relations index : Measures country performance in four dimensions – industrial democracy, industrial competitiveness, social justice, and quality of work and employment – and in industrial relations systems as a whole.
- Data: Database on wages, working time and collective disputes
- Data: European Company Survey – Data visualisation – Workplace social dialogue
- EurWORK: European Industrial Relations Dictionary
- EurWORK: Working life country profiles
- EurWORK: Representativeness studies