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Report: Degree of unionisation among employees down to less than 60 per cent in 2017

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment
11.3.2019 8.56
Press release

Employee membership in employee organisations continues to lose its popularity. In 2017, just over a half of male and two thirds of female employees were trade union members. Since 2013, the degree of unionisation has fallen by five percentage points. The number of trade union members is smaller in private service sectors than in other sectors. These were the conclusions of a study conducted by Lasse Ahtiainen at the request of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.

In March 2017, a survey on unionisation was sent to all trade unions organised under a central organisation.   The questionnaire, which was the same as the one used in previous surveys, included questions about unionisation and about the membership structure of unions. Determining the number of members whose interests the unions represent was of key importance, as the percentage of these members of the total of wage and salary earners and the unemployed equals the degree of unionisation.

At the end of 2017, trade union memberships totalled 2,043,000. Of the total, there were 630,000 or 30.8 per cent whose interests were not represented. These include pensioners, students, non-paying members and self-employed persons. The share of pensioners has risen by 1.1 per cent from 2013.

At the end of 2017, there were 1,414,000 members whose interests were represented, and the degree of unionisation calculated accordingly was 59.4 per cent. The degree of unionisation in 2013 was 64.5 per cent, which means it has fallen by 5.1 percentage points.

Women are more unionised than men. The degree of unionisation among female employees was 66.4 per cent in 2017 compared to 52.3 per cent among male employees. Unionisation among men has fallen by 6.1 and among women by 4.1 percentage points from 2013. The degree of unionisation in public services is 72.8 per cent, in the industry sector 71.8 per cent, and clearly lower in private services, 47.9 per cent. Since 2013 there has been a 9 per cent decline in the industry sector, 3.5 per cent in public services, and 3.7 per cent in private services.

The study continues the series of studies on the degree of unionisation launched in 1989. Ahtiainen has conducted similar studies in 2001, 2004, 2009 and 2013. This study compares the nature and degree of unionisation in 2017 with those in previous studies.


Heikki Räisänen, Research Director, Ministry of Employment and the Economy, tel. +358 50 396 3658

Lasse Ahtiainen, Researcher, Tutkimuspalvelu Lasse Ahtiainen tel. +358 40 769 5020

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