Trade union membership dips in the UK

Union membership across all sectors falls to 22.3%

2 Jun 2023| News

From the Labour Research Department (LRD):

UK trade union membership dipped last year, with the proportion of employees who were trade union members reducing to 22.3% (6.25 million workers), down from 23.1% in 2021.

According to the Department for Business and trade, this was the second successive year where the proportion has declined, and these years represent the lowest two union membership rates on record among UK employees since comparable records began in 1995. However, they were preceded by four successive years of growth.

Released this week, the annual figures show that the number of private sector female employees who were union members fell by around 129,000 on the year, accounting for two-thirds of the fall.

Private sector decrease

The fall was also driven by the decrease in private sector members, down 152,000 to 2.4 million, the lowest level on record. There was also a decrease in trade union membership numbers among public sector employees of 48,000, to 3.84 million in 2022.

The data also showed that:

  • around two-thirds (63%) of employee union members have a degree or equivalent or other higher education qualification, compared to slightly under half (49%) of non-union employees;
  • close to half (48%) of employees who were trade union members had been with their current employer for 10 years or more, compared to under a quarter (24%) of non-union member employees; and
  • regionally, the proportion of employees who were union members fell in England, Wales and Scotland in 2022. The biggest fall was of 4.2 percentage points to 31.4% in Wales. In contrast there was an increase of 1.8 percentage points to 32.3% in Northern Ireland.

The TUC pointed out that the figures address 2022, before the membership gains noted by many unions confronting the cost-of-living crisis and below-inflation pay.

A TUC spokesperson told Fact Service:

Unions are winning for working people every day. These figures don’t reflect the growth in members unions have seen over the recent period of action to secure fair pay.

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