The decline, which follows a longer-term slide in union membership rates in many countries, reflects a variety of factors. Legislation allowed some financially troubled companies to opt out of their bargaining agreements. The recession also made it more difficult to renew existing pacts. Meanwhile, some governments made it harder to negotiate national and sector-wide agreements reached by union federations and employer groups, favoring company-level pacts instead.
The study makes the case that wage inequality is rising, so public policies are needed to shore up collective bargaining and make it more inclusive. It says that bargaining coverage varies widely across a broader group of 75 countries, ranging from one or two percent of employees in Malaysia and Ethiopia to nearly 100% in Belgium and France.