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CEP discussion paper
Union Decline in Britain
Stephen Machin
April 2000
Paper No' CEPDP0455:
Full Paper (pdf)

Tags: union recognition; union density; establishment age

In this paper I consider the rapid decline in the unionization rate that has occurred in Britain since the late 1970s. An establishment based analysis reports that the overwhelming factor in explaining falling unionization was a failure to organise the new sorts of establishments that were set up in the last twenty years or so. Patterns showing low rates of union recognition and density in new establishments set up in the 1980s and 1990s are seen to be very similar for new workplaces in both decades, reflecting that the developments since 1990 represent a continuation of the pattern revealed in earlier work for the 1980-90 period. The sharpest falls in unionization occurred in private manufacturing establishments set up post-1980, with significant falls also occurring, but from a lower initial level, in private sector services. In the public sector there is no establishment age based decline in recognition. Finally, there is some evidence that age of workplace, rather than age of worker, is the critical age based factor. This seems to be the case as the negative association between unionization and the post-1980 set up of the establishment is found to hold for workers of all ages.