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Trade Union Revitalisation

Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries

Craig Phelan

Although trade unionism has been declining in virtually every part of the world, its continued demise is not a foregone conclusion. As it has throughout its history, trade unionism has demonstrated a capacity to adapt, to make its voice heard, to reassert its power. The scale and scope of experimentation taking place in the labour movement today is testimony not just to the depth of the crisis but also to the possibility of resurgence in the years ahead. This book is an essential resource for anyone wishing to know about contemporary labour issues. It offers a comprehensive introduction to the state of trade unionism in the world today, and the often innovative strategies and tactics trade unionists are using to revive their organisations in each of the major nations of the world. Leading labour scholars discuss, in clear prose, the health of the trade union movement, the present political and economic climate for trade union advancement, the dominant revitalisation strategies, and future prospects in each nation. Each chapter includes an up-to-date guide to further reading.

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The Swedish Trade Union System in Transition:High but Falling Union Density 259

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ANDERS KJELLBERG The Swedish Trade Union System in Transition: High but Falling Union Density 1. Introduction Together with two other Nordic countries – Denmark and Finland – Sweden has a very high union density. As much as 70–80 per cent of all workers are union members. Without a high density among both white-collar and blue-collar workers the average rate would not attain such impressive levels. In Sweden these categories are unionised to almost the same extent: 77 per cent of blue-collar workers and 78 per cent of white-collar workers (Tables 1 and 2). In the private sector a somewhat lower proportion of white-collar workers are organised than blue-collar workers (70 and 74 per cent), while the opposite is the case among public sector employees (90 and 86 per cent). In many countries white-collar workers in the public sector are distinguished by high union density in sharp contrast to the usually very low density among those in private employment. Yet it is remarkable that as many as seven out of ten Swedish private sector white-collar workers are union members. Among both blue-collar and white-collar workers the average female union density is somewhat higher than that of men (Tables 1 and 2). This is particularly marked in the large public sector employ- ing every third worker. Among private sector blue-collar workers men are on average better organised than women due to the high proportion of women employed in private services. As in other countries union- isation in the latter trades is lower than...

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