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Membership in trade unions continues to fall

Less than six out of 10 employees in Finland belong to trade unions.

Kaupan myyjä kassalla.
Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Finland’s trade unions continue to lose members. According to a report by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment (TEM), just over half of male and two thirds of female employees were represented by employee organisations in 2017.

In all, 1.4 million employees, or 59 percent, belong to unions in Finland.

TEM said the degree of unionisation has fallen by five percentage points since 2013. Membership in unions has declined most in the industrial sector, where nine percent fewer employees were represented by unions in 2017 than four years previously.

The ministry also noted that the number of union members is considerably lower in private service sectors, where less than half of employees belong to unions.

Finland’s largest union group is the blue-collar Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), which represents 17 unions and their 900,000 members.

Caretaker PM Juha Sipilä’s outgoing coalition government had a rocky relationship with the unions and raised their ire numerous times by attempting to – and succeeding in – cutting employee benefits and pay in order to improve Finland's competitiveness.

Last autumn, several unions organised strikes to protest a proposed law that would make it easier for small companies to fire workers. Parliament passed the law nonetheless, albeit in a watered-down form.

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