This study examines trade union decline in light of concurrent changes in the demographic and sectoral composition of labor markets. Drawing on classical sociology and contemporary scholarship on work and employment, the author theorizes that the emergence of post-industrial work settings coupled with more socially diverse workforces make labor organizing more difficult than prior research recognizes. Operating through various mechanisms, these factors are thought to hinder the development of solidarity among workers and direct employment growth toward previously unorganized parts of the economy. Using panel data on 18 countries from 1960 to 2015, these ideas are tested with regression models that capture labor market changes indicative of post-industrial capitalism—measured by changes in deindustrialization, foreign-born population, and female share of employment. The results support the theoretical argument, with counterfactual estimates suggesting that labor market changes occurring between 1960 and 2015 reduced union density by 9 to 13 points for the whole sample.
Bibliographical noteThe author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
- demographic change
- labor organizing
- trade union density