Press Release: Stronger Unions, more equality: how income inequality is linked to Trade Union Density

A recently published peer reviewed paper published in the International Labour Organisation’s International Labour Review and authored by Roberta Montebello, Jonathan Spiteri and Philip von Brockdorff from the University of Malta (the latter is also member of the Workers’ Group at EESC) provides empirical results to confirm that income inequality is related to the trade union density rate across 26 sampled European countries.

The panel data study in effect provides the evidence that strong trade union density helps reduce income inequality with trade unions more likely to shape economic and social policy through effective social dialogue and strong labour market policies and institutions. On the other hand, when trade union density is weak this is correlated with higher levels of income inequality and an imbalance of economic power.

A presentation was held at the Worker’s Group meeting on 26th October 2022. In his presentation, Philip von Brockdorff stated that, with the evidence provided by this study and in the context of declining trade union density and collective bargaining coverage in the sampled countries, there needs to be a reversal of this trend to support social cohesion and economic convergence across the EU.

On his part Oliver Röpke, President of the Workers’ Group referred to the relevance of strengthening the role of trade unions through the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights as well the minimum wage directive to improve working conditions for workers across the EU thereby reducing income inequalities. 'Promoting collective bargaining and enhancing the role of social partners and the power of Unions', Olive Röpke said, 'is a fundamental tool for a fairer, more equal society. We knew this and now we also have empirical evidence proving it'.

Work organisation