Trade union membership falls further

Trade union membership in Hungary has been continuously decreasing in recent years. According to figures published in May 2002 by the Hungarian Tax and Financial Control Administration, the number of people contributing some of their income to any of the trade unions fell by 6% from 2000 to 2001.

In May 2002, the Hungarian Tax and Financial Control Administration (Adó- és Pénzügyi Ellenőrzési Hivatal, APEH) published its annual report on tax deductions due to trade union membership fee payments, based on tax declarations for 2001. Under Hungarian tax regulations, trade union membership fees are part of people's tax declarations, deductible from personal income tax. This regulation allows APEH annually to publish the number of people who use this tax deduction scheme for union membership contributions.

According to APEH, in 2001, some 654,000 people used the tax deduction scheme. This figure suggests a continuing slow decline of trade union membership figures in Hungary: the number of people using the scheme had fallen from 775,000 in 1999 to 700,000 in 2000. The 2001 figure suggests a 6% decrease in fee-paying trade union members compared with 2000, when the figures was 6% lower than in 1999 .

According to APEH, in 2001 trade unions collected HUF 4 billion (EUR 16.3 million) in membership fees. Nevertheless, due to the 6% decrease in fee-paying members, tax incomes decreased by 6% too.

This latest figure is in line with other recent estimations of trade union membership. According to a newspaper article published in 2001, Hungary's six national trade union confederations had around 775,000 members, divided among them as follows:

  • the Autonomous Trade Unions (Autonóm szakszervezetek szövetsége, ASZSZ) - 120,000 members;
  • the Confederation of Unions of Professionals (Értelmiségi szakszervezeti tömörülés, ESZT) - 40,000;
  • the Democratic League of Independent Trade Unions (LIGA) - 50,000;
  • the National Federation of Workers’ Councils (Munkástanácsok Országos Szövetsége, MOSZ) - 30,000;
  • the National Association of Hungarian Trade Unions (Magyar Szakszervezetek Országos Szövetsége, MSZOSZ) - 235,000; and
  • the Trade Unions’ Cooperation Forum (Szakszervezetek Együttmûködési Fóruma, SZEF) - 300,000

The most recent Labour Force Survey from the Hungarian Central Statistic Office (Központi Statisztikai Hivatal, KSH), carried out in the second quarter of 2001 with a fairly large sample, shows a similar picture of trade union membership as the APEH report but provides more details - see the figure below. In the survey some 620,000 employees reported that they were trade union members, suggesting that on average only 19.7% of all employees are union members. Unionisation among women, at 22.4%, is greater than among men, at 17.3%. The survey also shows an ageing membership, with the majority of union members being 40 to 54 years old.

The higher unionisation of female employees is probably due to the fact that unions are especially heavily present in the public administration and in public services, where the female workforce is over-represented. In the public administration, public services and public utility companies, 63% of employees reported in the Labour Force Survey that a union organisation existed at their workplace, while in manufacturing and in private services this level was much lower. For example, 71% of respondents in agriculture and 72% in commerce were sure that there was no trade union at their workplace. In the construction industry, the figure was 78% and even higher in the hotels and restaurants where, 81% of respondents worked in a workplace without a trade union presence. Altogether, 37.3% of employees said that there was a trade union working at their workplace, while 47.8% said that there was none. The remaining 14.9% could not answer the question.

Union membership levels (%) by sector and gender (all employees)

Union membership levels (%) by sector and gender (all employees)

Source: KSH, second quarter, 2001.

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