Finland still on top when it comes to trade union density

Trade union membership in Finland remains high. And it is highest among those employed in industry, where 80.8 per cent of wage and salary earners belong to a union. Also, more women tend to be union members than men.

The latest figures are based on statistical information up until the end of 2013 and are from a study by Lasse Ahtiainen published by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy. This is the fifth similar type study since 1989.

At the end of 2013 the total level of organised employees was 64.5 per cent. This shows a slight fall off in membership from a previous study in 2009 when union density was 67.4 per cent. In the public service sectors, the rate of union membership was 76.3 per cent, while in the private service sectors it was 51.6 per cent.

The study has attempted to accurately assess union density on the basis of those members of unions that are either employed or unemployed. Pensioners, students, non-paying members and entrepreneurs are not included in organising figures. These groups make up 29.8 per cent of union members. The figures are based on a questionnaire sent out to all 69 unions belonging to the three trade union federations. Nine smaller unions did not answer.

There are also a handful of unions who remain outside the trade union federations. These 69 unions have a total of 2,157,000 members. The population of Finland now stands at 5,486,100. Women outnumber men in union membership: 69.9 per cent of female workers are union members. For men the figure was lower at 59 per cent. The gap continues to grow.

Since 2009 union membership has decreased more among men than among women. Union membership and union organisation has been on the decline, especially among the unemployed and young people. In this connection it should be noted that there is a low level of unionisation among part time employees, only 43 per cent. The same applies to fixed term employees. This type of work is becoming increasingly common among young people and a growing phenomenon in the labour market.

The latest figures still clearly demonstrate that Finland is the leading country in the European Union when it comes to organising workers. The five Nordic countries are at the top, globally, in terms of trade union density. In OECD statistics only Iceland pips Finland in trade union membership.

(Helsinki 02.09.2015 – Heikki Jokinen)



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