Labor Economics: Theory, Institutions, and Public Policy

By Ray Marshall; Vernon M. Briggs Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13
Labor Movements and Economic Policy in Other Industrialized Countries

INTRODUCTION

Although space limitations preclude a detailed discussion of all other industrialized countries, this chapter will outline the characteristics of some foreign labor movements and discuss the principal differences between them and trade unions in the United States. These differences may be summarized by noting that, relative to most other industrialized countries, American unions historically have had lower membership densities, have never supported a strong independent labor party, and have more decentralized bargaining structures. The United States, unlike most European countries, has not had shop-level works councils, which are sometimes legally independent of the unions. In general, relatively widespread union movements emerged earlier in most European countries (though not in Japan) and were generally less likely to be regulated by governments.

In connection with the discussions of labor movements in other countries, this chapter also will explore those countries' approaches to various economic and labor market problems.


UNION STRENGTH

The data in Table 13-1 show union membership in selected countries for 1986, using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) definition of union density. The BLS definition yields a lower figure for density than the percentage of nonagricultural paid workers (% NAPW) used by most countries. For example, the % NAPW figure for Canada in 1985 was 39.6, while the BLS estimate was 36.0.

Table 13-2 shows the diverse patterns for union membership in various countries. Countries in this table with union densities of over 50 percent include Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The countries with 25 to 50 percent union densities include Canada, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Switzerland,

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