Union Density in Norway and Sweden: Stability versus Decline
Forskningstema: Collective agreements
Forskere på Fafo: Kristine Nergaard
The aim is to explain why union density is not only considerably higher in the Ghent country Sweden than in non-Ghent Norway but also why it has declined much more in Sweden, in particular among blue-collar workers. We show how changes to Swedish unemployment insurance in 2007–2013 were followed by a decline in union density and how white-collar unions were more successful than blue-collar unions in developing supplementary income insurance schemes that counteracted membership losses. This type of institutional explanation is nevertheless insufficient. In Norway, too, blue-collar density has decreased while white-collar workers have maintained their density rate. Norwegian data further show that even without unemployment insurance funds, it is possible to achieve a fairly high union density at workplaces with collective agreements. However, without unemployment benefits like we find in Sweden, it is increasingly challenging to establish an institutional foundation for a social custom of unionization.