Unionization rates falling in Canada

Stats Canada reveals unions are falling out of popularity – particularly with young people – could this spell an end to collective bargaining?

Statistics Canada’s recently released numbers will likely sit well with employers as they reveal unionization rates are still falling and are set to continue the same way.

In 1981, when Stats Canada first began tracking unionization, the rate of unionization sat at 37.6 per cent but the most recent data, from 2014, shows that figure has fallen to a paltry 28.8 per cent.

The trends differ, however, based on gender – since 1981 union density for male workers dropped from 41% to 27% whereas for female workers, the rate remained relatively stable, varying between 30% and 32%.

There is also a notable decline in the unionization rate among young workers and while both men and women are moving in the same direction, it seems the drop is most pronounced in young men.    

“One factor contributing to the decline in unionization of younger men is the employment shift away from industries and occupations with high union density (such as construction and manufacturing) and towards those with lower rates (such as retail and professional services),” explains labour relations expert George Waggott.

The relatively constant overall rate for female workers, despite a decline in popularity among young women, can be attributed to an overall increase in the unionization rate for older women.

“The higher rates for older women are in part attributable to their concentration in industries with high union density, such as health care, education, and the public service,” explains Waggott.

“These numbers reflect trends which are likely to continue,” he concludes.

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