Alison Booth, Xin Meng, Jilu Zhang, 13 December 2020

Rural-urban migrant workers in China often do not receive the same benefits at the workplace as their urban counterparts. This column uses a rich longitudinal survey to study the effects of union presence on the welfare of migrant workers. It finds that relative to workplaces without unions or with inactive unions, union-covered non-members and union members in places with active unions earn higher incomes and receive better benefits and insurances. In addition, there is a notable premium for union members compared with union-covered non-members, particularly on wages. 

Richard Freeman, David Blanchflower, Alex Bryson, 11 November 2020

Things have been going badly for workers, but for many years their traditional representatives in the workplace – trade unions – have been on the back-foot.  This column revisits the association between unionisation and job satisfaction, and finds that while in the past union workers used to have lower job satisfaction than their non-union counterparts, union membership now raises wellbeing at work. The study suggests that unions do the same as they always did – it is the non-union world that has changed for the worse.  There is evidence of this sparking a growth in unionisation in the UK over the last three years.   

Sandrine Cazes, Andrea Garnero, Sébastien Martin, 10 July 2017

Trade union membership has been declining since the 1980s. Recently, however, there has been renewed interest in the potential of collective bargaining to address rising wealth inequality and poor wage growth. This column presents an OECD report on collective bargaining institutions and practices across member countries and selected emerging economies. Despite substantial variation across member countries, the overall pattern is one of a broad decline in the use of collective bargaining to set the terms of employment.

Claus Schnabel, 18 November 2013

Though trade union density and its trends vary considerably across Western European countries, in most of them the current density has fallen down in comparison to 30 years ago. This column reviews some explanations for the decline of unionisation and discusses some of the challenges unions need to face. Union membership could still be stabilised because it is embedded in social, economic, and political structures of the western European countries.

Hermann Gartner, Thorsten Schank, Claus Schnabel, 22 September 2012

It is often argued that trade unions lead to higher wages but, according to the findings presented in this column, collective bargaining cannot be blamed for sticky wages in Germany during the 1990s.

Paolo Manasse, 18 January 2011

Workers at a Fiat plant in Turin recently voted to approve a new, innovative labour contract that promises higher wages and new investments in exchange for tighter discipline and oversight. This column says that if such a model of industrial negotiations were adopted across Italy, employment would rise in both the short and medium term.

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