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Explanations of non-unionization among young wage-earners in Sweden

Research project
Inactive research
Project size
1 360 000
Project period
2010 - 2012
Project owner
Department of Sociology and Work Science

Forte: The Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare

Short description

In an international perspective, the Swedish union density is very high. However, since the middle of the 1990s it has steadily decreased; in 2008 it was at the same level as in the early 1970s. In addition, the union density among young employees has largely decreased. The aim of this project is to explain the decline in union membership among young employees. Could it be explained by a change of attitudes – are the young more individualistically oriented, or do they organise in new and different ways in comparison to older generations? Should we seek the explanation in structural labour market changes? That is, have the jobs and workplaces where the unions traditionally have been weak increased? Or are processes of flexibilisation and individualisation of work and employment counteracting unionization?

These and other issues will be studied to explain “the membership decline” among the young. Besides labour market statistics, survey data will be analysed. First, a survey was collected in 2006 with a battery of questions concerning employees’ views on the union, e.g., which issues the union should deal with. It is possible to compare the young and the old, as well as union representatives, union members and non-members. Second, a survey was distributed in 2008 (“Class-SOM”), in which union members’ and non-members’ attitudes towards various forms of political engagement and issues of lifestyle and identity will be studied. Additionally, members and non-members will be compared concerning such factors as individualised working conditions and membership in the unemployment benefit fund, i.e. factors that could have an impact on union affiliation. Finally, interviews with young employees will also be carried out.