• ABS Data Reveals Decline in Trade Union Membership
  • December 7, 2015 | Author: Adam Salter
  • Law Firm: Jones Day - Sydney, New South Wales Office
  • On 27 October 2015, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the results of its 2014 Characteristics of Employment Survey ("Survey"), revealing a significant decline in trade union membership to 1.7 million Australians. The Survey found that in August 2014, only 15 percent of people (1.6 million) were trade union members in their main job, compared with 17 percent in August 2013 and 40 percent in August 1992.

    Additionally, the Survey revealed that 8.4 million employed persons (84 percent) had never been a trade union member, while 1.5 million who were not currently trade unions members had previously been members. Tasmania had the highest level of union membership (24 percent) while Western Australia had the lowest proportion (13 percent).

    The Survey revealed that the level of union density in the public sector was 39 percent (down from 41.7 percent in 2013) compared with 10 percent in the private sector (down from 12 percent in 2013). Further, the data showed that union membership was strongest in the Education and Training division (34 percent), followed by the Public Administration and Safety and the Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services divisions (both 31 percent). The industries with the lowest proportion of trade union membership were the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing and Accommodation and Food Services divisions (both 2 percent).

    Since the release of the Survey, the Australian Council of Trade Unions has questioned the accuracy of the data, claiming that its 46 affiliated unions reported membership of 1.8 million in October 2015.