Industrial relations

09 July 2020

Trade unions, employer organisations and public authorities all play a role in the governance of the employment relationship. They are interlocking parts in a system that operates at European, national, sectoral, regional and company level. In recent years, as technology and forms of work evolve within a constantly changing economic environment, industrial relations systems have faced critical challenges.

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    EU context

    In this context, the European Commission in 2015 launched a ‘new start’ for European social dialogue. In a joint statement in June 2016, the Commission, Council of the European Union and social partners underlined its fundamental role as a significant component of EU employment and social policymaking.


    Over 40 years, Eurofound has developed as a key centre of expertise for monitoring and analysing trends in industrial relations. This includes linkages between European and national-level social dialogue. Drawing on the knowledge of its Network of Eurofound Correspondents in 28 EU Member States and Norway, it has captured developments in all Member States and in the EU as a whole. 

    Eurofound has produced a range of comparative analyses, articles and case studies across the EU28 and Norway in the area of industrial relations, as well as regularly updated databases on related topics.

    A recent study maps and discusses key dimensions and indicators relevant to industrial relations systems in Europe in the 21st century. Another thread of research looks at how social partners in the EU and Norway have explored new topics, tools and innovative approaches to respond to the many new political, legal and social challenges that have arisen in recent years.

    Pay and working time continue to be areas of high interest and are reviewed annually. One strand of the recent pay update focuses on statutory minimum wage levels across the EU while another focuses on collective wage bargaining

    Since 2006, Eurofound has been carrying out studies on the representativeness of European sectoral social partner organisations, as mandated by the European Commission. These studies are designed to provide the basic information needed for the setting up and functioning of the European sectoral social dialogue committees. 

    Data and resources

    Ongoing work

    Current work covers:

    • Social dialogue in companies, particularly linkages that can be drawn between national and EU level, to better understand of cooperation mechanisms used in decision-making and implementation in multinational companies
    • Exploration of the role of national social partners in the European semester and analysis of quality and effectiveness of their involvement
    • Summary of discussions on capacity-building social dialogue to support a meaningful and effective social dialogue
    • A flagship report on industrial relations covering topics related to both social dialogue and working life developments, including updates on collectively agreed pay
    • Representativeness studies on a variety of sectors to provide the European Commission required information to assess the representativeness of European sectoral social partner organisations
    • Highlights of recent developments of selected features of working life in so called topical updates, with one featuring statutory minimum wages
    • Updated time series in EurWORK database of wages, working time and collective disputes
    • Updated time series and update on developments in collectively agreed pay
    • Exploring the feasibility for an Industrial Action Monitor

    Highlights (10)

    All (2172)

    Publications (412)

    Articles (1674)

    News (69)

    Events (17)