The State of Organized Labor in France
What is the strength of French unions, as they head into negotiations with President Macron?
September 3, 2017
1. Well-publicized strikes by its public-sector unions often give the impression that French unions are all-powerful.
2. However, France – at only 7.7% – has one of the lowest rates of union membership among the industrialized countries.
3. The average unionization level among industrialized OECD countries stands at 16.7%.
4. France’s 1.8 million union members number much fewer than the 6.3-6.4 million range seen in Germany or the UK – the other leading EU economies.
5. And yet, this low degree of official unionization can be misleading about the power of French unions.
6. As in much of the EU, many non-unionized French workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements.
7. Under these agreements, unions often negotiate terms of employment for entire companies or even industries.
8. France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, has vowed to pursue a labor market reform, which is expected to bring him into conflict with French unions.
9. France’s neighbor Belgium has a much higher unionization rate of 55.1%, which has remained virtually unchanged since 2000.
10. Belgium is the only non-Nordic country with more than half its workforce unionized.
11. Italy has the highest union concentration among the larger EU economies, at 37.3%.
12. Italy’s unionization rate actually grew 2.5 points from 2000 – a rarity in the OECD.
13. Among OECD members, the biggest decline in the percentage of union membership occurred in Turkey. It fell from 28.2% to just 6.3% from 2000 to 2013.
Sources: The Globalist Research Center, OECD