Trade unions: more women, fewer young people

25/08/2003 10:00

In March 2003 more than 1.9 million people in the Netherlands were members of a trade union. The number of women members has risen by more than 40 percent since 1993, while the number of men fell by nearly 4 percent. In spite of this, women still account for less than 30 percent of the membership. Young people are showing interest in trade union membership, which means the unions are ageing.

Most unions affiliated to a federation

The number of trade union members increased by 9 thousand between March 2001 and March 2003. Ninety percent of the 1.9 million members are members of a union that is affiliated to one of the big federations FNV, CNV or MHP. The FNV is the largest federation by far, with more than 1.2 million members. The CNV and MHP are much smaller with 355 thousand and 169 thousand members respectively.

Trade union members, 31 March 2003

Trade union members, 31 March 2003

Increase in women members

The increase in the number of trade union members is completely accounted or by the increase in women members. The number of women members has risen by 21 thousand since 2001. The number of male members fell by 12 thousand. This continues the existing the trend: compared with ten years ago the number of women members rose by more than 40 percent and the number of men fell by nearly 4 percent. The proportion of women members in trade unions rose by 7 percent points between 1993 and 2003, to 29 percent.

Trade union members by sex

Trade union members by sex

Number of women doubled in twenty years

In the last twenty years the number of women trade union members has even more than doubled: rising from 238 thousand in 1983 to 561 thousand in 2003. This increase is accounted for by the strong increase in female labour participation: in the period 1983-2002 the number of women in the active labour force doubled.

Trade union members by age

Trade union members by age

Membership becoming older

In March 2003 more than 107 thousand trade union members were younger than 25, and 199 thousand were older than 65. Compared with two years ago, the number of young people is 4 thousand lower and the number of older people 9 thousand higher. This too is a longer trend. Since 1993 the number of trade union members younger than 25 years has fallen by 40 percent, while the share of young people has risen by 45 percent. The number of trade union members aged 45 and older has increased by nearly 40 percent since 1993. This trend has intensified the ageing process in the trade union membership.

Jo van Cruchten and Rob Kuijpers