Decline in union membership levels in 2006 less acute than in previous years
According to the latest figures from the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB), the membership levels of its affiliated trade unions dropped by 2.8% in 2006, falling to 6.59 million members. However, although overall membership levels continued to decline, most DGB affiliated unions managed to at least minimise their losses compared with previous years. The German Metalworkers’ Union remained the largest DGB-affiliate with 2.33 million members, followed by the United Services Union with 2.28 million members. The proportion of women who are union members remained almost the same at 31.9%. Some 7% of members are aged 27 years or under.
Latest figures from the Confederation of German Trade Unions (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, DGB) reveal that the total membership of its affiliated trade unions fell to 6.59 million members by 31 December 2006, following an overall drop of 192,864 members – the equivalent of a 2.8% decline. However, the decline in membership was lower compared with previous years: in 2005, a drop of 3.2% in membership levels was recorded, while in 2004, the decline in membership was considerably higher at 4.8%.
As indicated by the findings (Table 1), the falloff in membership remained strongest in the Trade Union for Building, Forestry, Agriculture and the Environment (Industriegewerkschaft Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt, IG BAU), although the union managed to reduce its membership decline by 1.4 percentage points. Contrary to all of the other affiliated trade unions, the German Police Union (Gewerkschaft der Polizei, GdP) and the rail transport union Transnet faced a stronger decline than in 2005. The German Metalworkers’ Union (Industriegewerkschaft Metall, IG Metall) maintained its position as the largest affiliated union in 2006, followed closely by the United Services Union (Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft, ver.di).
|Trade union||Total no. ofmembers||Overall change 2005–2006 (%)||Overall change 2004–2005 (%)||Total no. of men||Total no. of women||Women as % of total||Members aged 27 yrs and under as % of total|
|Mining, Chemicals and Energy Industrial Union (Industrie- gewerkschaft Bergbau, Chemie, Energie, IG BCE)||728,702||-2.7||-2.7||589,446||139,256||19.1||8.6|
|German Union of Education (Gewerk- schaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft, GEW)||249,462||-0.8||-1.2||77,641||171,821||68.9||3.4|
|Trade Union of Food, Beverages, Tobacco, Hotel and Catering and Allied Workers (Gewerkschaft Nahrung-Genuss- Gaststätten, NGG)||211,573||-2.1||-3.9||127,501||84,072||39.7||6.6|
|Total DGB membership||6,585,774||-2.8||-3.2||4,486,129||2,099,645||31.9||7.0|
Note: Figures include pensioners and unemployed members. The 2005 data contain adjustments and therefore differ slightly from those given in last year’s report (DE0604039I).
Source: DGB, 2007
The slowdown in the overall decrease in membership levels is largely due to a reduction in membership turnover. The overall proportion of new members decreased slightly, despite several new initiatives by DGB affiliated unions aimed at organising and recruiting new members (Table 2).
|Trade union||No. of new members2005||No. of new members2006||Difference between 2005 and 2006|
Notes: *Membership is fully transferable between the DGB affiliated unions. Members coming from other DGB affiliated unions are not included in the above figures, except for IG BCE and ver.di.
Source: DGB, 2007
Within one year, the proportion of female trade union members increased slightly by 0.1% to a total of 31.9% (see Table 1). The GEW remained by far the union with the largest number of women: in 2006, more than two thirds of GEW members were women. Ver.di ranked second with almost half of its members being women. A particular challenge to German trade unions is attracting younger members. In GEW, Transnet and ver.di, less than 5% of members are aged 27 years or younger. In the case of GEW, this may be attributed to the length of training for teachers who comprise their main membership base. The trade union ver.di recognises, however, that it needs to increase its efforts to organise young employees, particularly in the private services sector.
Heiner Dribbusch, Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI)