Trade union density falls

According to a study published in January 2002, the total number of members of Danish trade unions has remained more or less unchanged since 1994, but the number of potential members has increased considerably, leading to a fall in union density of nearly three percentage points (from 84.6% to 81.7%). The member unions of the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) have been most seriously affected.

A recent study carried out by the Department of Organisation and Industrial Sociology (Institut for Organisation og Arbejdssociologi) at the Copenhagen Business School (Handelshøjskolen i København) and published in mid-January 2002 shows that the total membership of Danish trade unions remained more or less unchanged at about 2.15 million over the period 1994 to 2001. During the same period, the number of potential members, however, increased by about 100,000 persons who joined the total labour force. This means that the total number of organised employees as a proportion of the potential membership (ie union density) has fallen from 84.6% in 1994 to 81.7% in 2001, or nearly three percentage points.

The figures are important for the Danish trade union movement. The fall in density is most significant for the member unions of the Confederation of Danish Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen i Danmark, LO), which together represent a large majority of trade union members in Denmark. LO has not been successful in attracting a significant proportion of the 100,000 new labour force entrants. In this connection, the new study also point to the fact that Danish people are now tending to remain in education for longer periods. This leads to internal shifts among the existing union members and also to new members joining unions which are affiliated to the other main organisations, notably the Confederation of Salaried Employees and Civil Servants (Funktionærernes og Tjenestemændenes Fællesråd, FTF) and the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations (Akademikernes Centralorganisation, AC). According to the most recent figures, the LO's membership fell by 4.2% over 1994-2001, while AC experienced an increase in membership of 16% during this period.

Another major cause identified for the falling union density is that the individual branches of the large trade unions have not done very much to recruit new members; they have been used to having members joining them automatically when they take up a job at a workplace in a sector covered by a collective agreement negotiated by the union concerned.

LO has become aware of this problem and will take comfort in the fact that the decline in membership is not alarming so far. It will place greater emphasis on recruitment activities in the future. Seen in a European context, however, the Danish union density rate is – together with those of Sweden and Finland – still the highest in the EU and Norway.

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