Transfer stimulates dialogue between the European trade union movement and the academic and research community. It contributes research findings on issues of strategic relevance for trade unions, in particular with regard to developments at the European level. Transfer publishes original peer-reviewed research on issues such as new developments in industrial relations, social policy, and labour market developments.
Volume 8 Issue 3, Autumn 2002
In contemporary debate the main threat to European trade unions is often associated with the external forces of globalisation. In this issue of Transfer we draw attention to the internal union challenges arising from the shift in employment towards private sector services, which, in recent decades, has contributed to the de-standardisation of work and erosion of union membership and power throughout western Europe. These challenges are not independent of the broader restructuring of the international economy, but they reflect dynamics that are intrinsic to economic development and modernisation. Technological progress, rising wealth, productivity, education and female labour market participation, ageing of the population, and changing work-family life relations propel demand for non-tangible products and social services. The shift in the structure of employment has, over the last decades, caused profound changes in the basis for union organisation, recruitment and policies. Today, the service sector accounts for more than two thirds of employment in OECD-countries and in several countries more than half of all jobs are found in private sector services, where union density is markedly lower than in manufacturing and public services. In many of the fast-growing business and ICT-related services, collective organisation has been virtually absent.