According to Fairfax Media, the decline has been occurring both rapidly and long-term, with union membership decreasing from 40% of the workforce to around 15% in just over two decades.
On Tuesday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed that union memberships fell from 1.74 million to 1.6 million over the last 12 months.
Public servants had a membership rate of 39%; well above the 11% in the private sector.
The ABS also found that the workers with the highest rates of union memberships were from the education, healthcare and transportation industries.
Tim Lyons, former assistant secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, said that the decline in union membership was a “crisis”, stating via social media that trade unions needed to change “very quickly or die”.
Trade unions’ reputations have been called into question recently as the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption examines evidence of corrupt practices in unions, including allegations that leaders have made deals which left members worse off
Kate Carnell, CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), told Fairfax that the ABS data showed workers no longer considered union memberships to be “value for money”.
“Australians are pretty smart,” she said. “They don't buy things that aren't value for money, whether they be products or services or union membership.”
ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said the official statistics released on Tuesday dated back to 2014, when there were 1.6 million members recorded nationally.
He said more recent ACTU data, sourced from 46 affiliated unions, showed membership now stood at 1.8 million people.
Source: Fairfax Media
Union membership in Australia has fallen to a record low, with only one in nine private sector employees choosing to belong to a union.