Academic journal article The Economic and Labour Relations Review : ELRR

Young People and Trade Union Membership: An International Comparative Study

Academic journal article The Economic and Labour Relations Review : ELRR

Young People and Trade Union Membership: An International Comparative Study

Article excerpt

1. Theory

The basis of the Industrial Relations trade union model is that some members of a union, the core, join the movement via different sources of motivation than others, or acquire those characteristics once they have joined. The factors motivating the core group include values, a collective instrumental approach, social identification reasons, an appreciation of services available only to members, and frustration-aggression motivation. There may also be a group of core non-members. For example, the values of some may lie in loyalty to the company.

The remainder of the workforce is subject to influences at the workplace which result in decisions to join/not join/stay in/leave the union. The first set of influences are pressures. These are exerted by the union, in particular the core members, and by the employer. The second set are the norms of the culture or the workplace which are likely to be the result of a number of features, in particular the legislative framework set by the state.

Two separate hypotheses can be drawn from this model with reference to the Dunedin study. First, it is hypothesised that core and remainder motivations and attitudes will be present in the school-leavers' responses in Dunedin to the same questions asked in London about trade union membership decisions. However, second, it is also hypothesised that within the framework of this model there will nevertheless be differences apparent in the categories and rankings of the New Zealand responses which are attributable to the different contexts of the Dunedin study. (2)

2. Empirical work


Our aim was to make a valid comparison with the British survey by capturing a single cohort of early school-leavers without any previous experience or skill label. Thus, the data-set that we investigated consisted of a survey of young people on the point of leaving school. Because Dunedin is a small city (3) consisting of only eight state schools, it was feasible to try to capture the whole population of sixth former school-leavers (16-17 year olds). The end of the calendar year also marks the end of the academic year in New Zealand and schools arranged interviews in October 1989 with all those who knew they were definitely leaving in December 1989 and were looking for work. A total of 145 pupils were interviewed of which 93 (64%) were males and 52 females; 130 (90%) classified themselves as European. When questioned, most youngsters regarded the father as head of the household: 127 had fathers living at home: ofthese,44(35%) held professional/managerial occupations, 3 (2%) were farmers, 17 (13%) held sales or clerical jobs and 64 (50%) were manual workers; the remainder were unemployed or in receipt of social security benefits. The sample only excluded absentees for sickness and other reasons. It was not possible to discover whether those absent were intended leavers; as they numbered only 14, our sample comprised at least 91% of the population of Dunedin of those with intentions to leave at the time of the interviews.

We had intended to interview 5th form leavers to closely correspond with the British survey. However, early school-leaving took place at the end of the sixth year. (In New Zealand those intending to go to university stay on to the seventh form.) This was probably a result of the effects of continuing and deepening recession in the city, particularly apparent since 1987, and of the 1989 legislation which witheld social welfare benefits for six months from school-leavers under the age of 18 without work or training experience. The sixth form year for many seemed to be a time of re-taking or adding to 5th form formal examinations and/or provided a further period of job search: 71 (49%) were taking School Certificate (ie, fifth form) examinations. The government provided for youngsters of all educational backgrounds to take up Polytechnic and training courses, though entry was competitive. …

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