Social dialogue is any type of negotiation, consultation or exchange of information between, or among, representatives of governments, employers and workers on issues of common interest. It covers tripartite social dialogue and industrial relations processes and institutions such as trade unions, employers’ associations and collective bargaining.
Autonomous, independent and strong workers’ and employers’ organizations are critical for effective social dialogue. The quality of that dialogue is determined by the extent to which the social partners are able to negotiate collective agreements that regulate their terms and conditions of employment and labour relations. Quantitative data on the membership and density of trade unions and employers’ organizations, together with collective bargaining coverage provide useful indicators of these elements of social dialogue.
Current international guidelines
The subject of collective agreements was examined by the Third International Conference of Labour Statisticians in 1926 which adopted the “Resolution concerning statistics of collective agreements
”. This Resolution contains detailed recommendations on definitions, methods of compiling the statistics and classification of the data (according to the nature of the contracting parties, the scope of application of the agreement, the subjects regulated, the duration of validity , the method of conclusion of the agreements, the industries covered and the industrial importance of the agreements).
The 17th International Conference of Labour Statisticians
discussed the subjects of Trade Union Membership and Density and Collective Bargaining Coverage. However, no guidelines were adopted.
Trade union membership
Since the 1990s, the ILO has established a database covering statistics on trade union membership. It currently covers 63 countries and is regularly updated with statistics taken from official national statistical publications.
The following methodological note presents the sources of data used for each country in the Trade Union Membership Database:
Trade union density and collective bargaining coverage
In 2008/9 the ILO conducted an international statistical inquiry on trade union membership and collective bargaining coverage. On the basis of data received, it computed (a) trade union density for 77 countries; and (b) collective bargaining coverage for 62 countries. Hayter, S. and Stoevska, V. Technical Brief. Social Dialogue Indicators: Trade union density and collective bargaining coverage. International Statistical Inquiry 2008-09. Trade union density and collective bargaining rates (xls)
. This file only contains the rates that were extracted from the Social Dialogue Indicators: Trade union density and collective bargaining coverage. International Statistical Inquiry 2008-09.
In 2003 the ILO conducted a pilot survey of national statistics on (a) trade union density for 36 countries ; and (b) collective bargaining coverage for 34 countries. Working Paper No. 59 - Social Dialogue Indicators: Trade Union Membership and Collective Bargaining Coverage, Statistical Concepts, Methods and Findings
The ILO has developed methodological guides to facilitate the collection of data on social dialogue and improve the reliability of such data. These provide useful information for those undertaking data collection activities and support the accurate interpretation of social dialogue indicators. Collecting information through Labour Force Surveys
focusses on the collection of trade union membership and the coverage of collective agreements through Labour Force Surveys. It is based on a review of practices in fifteen countries that collect information on union membership in their Labour Force Survey.
Social Dialogue Indicators: A methodological elaboration provides a comprehensive comparative analysis of ten prominent sources of social dialogue indicators including the methodology used to derive these indicators. It also provides an overview of the ILO's effort to develop definitions for union density and collective bargaining coverage rates and thus facilitate the comparability of these indicators (forthcoming).
This project is coordinated by Susan Hayter, Senior Specialist, Industrial and Employment Relations.