Trade union members increasingly over 65

11/10/2011 15:00

Membership of Dutch trade unions rose by 5 thousand in 2011 compared with 2010. One in seven trade union members are older than 65. For the first time in nearly twenty years, more young people joined a union. In March 2011, 1.9 million people in the Netherlands were members of a trade union.

Unions ageing fast

The number of trade union members aged 65 years and older has risen by 6.8 percent in the last year. This means the trade union movement is ageing faster than the Dutch population, in which the number of over-65s rose by 2.3 percent in the same period. At the moment, 269 thousand union members are entitled to old age pension, and together account for 14 percent of union membership.

Small rise in number of young members

The number of union members younger than 25 years rose by 3 thousand in the last years to 74 thousand. Although this is a modest rise, it was the first increase since 1993. There are still relatively  many young people in the trade unions, however. In 2011, only 4 percent of members are younger than 25 years. Twenty years ago this was still 10 percent.

Percentage of younger and older trade union members

Percentage of younger and older trade union members

Relatively many members aged between 45 and 65 years

The number of trade union members aged between 45 and 65 years has been rising steadily since 2005. Compared with the labour force, this group is strongly overrepresented; it accounts for 60 percent of all members under the age of 65, compared with just over 40 percent of the labour force under the age of 65. The share of members aged between 25 and 45 years has decreased continually since 2005, to 36 percent in 2011, while this age group accounts for nearly half of the labour force.

Trade unions and labour force by age group, 1st quarter 2011

Trade unions and labour force by age group, 1st quarter 2011

Number of women nearly doubled in twenty years

The number of female trade union members rose by 20 thousand in the last year. Rising female labour participation has been pushing up the number of women members for twenty years now: from 332 thousand in 1991 to 647 thousand in 2011. Women now account for one third of union members. The number of male union members fell by 14 thousand last year. The number of men has been decreasing almost continually for the last twenty years.

Union membership by sex

Union membership by sex

Dick ter Steege and Rob Kuijpers