Trade union density is a term used to describe the percentage of a country’s entire workforce that belongs to a trade union.
In 1960, Canada and the United States had similar trade union densities of around 30%. In other words, 3 out of every 10 workers at that time belonged to a union. Today, trade union density in Canada is still around 30%, however, in the United States that figure has dropped to about 11%. In contrast, some of Europe’s finest countries have moved in the opposite direction and now have trade union densities of over 70%.
That said, the question that needs to be asked is:
How does trade union density factor into the prosperity of a nation?
To answer that question we need statistics.
Legatum is a premium statistical organisation.
The Legatum Prosperity Index is the world’s only global assessment of wealth and wellbeing. It was developed by the Legatum Institute, which according to their website “is an independent, non-partisan organisation that researches and advocates an expansive understanding of global prosperity. Prosperity comprises both material wealth and well-being and includes factors such as liberty, opportunity, security and overall human flourishing.”
Unlike other studies that rank countries by actual levels of wealth, life satisfaction or development, the Prosperity Index produces rankings based upon the very foundations of prosperity – those factors that help drive economic growth and produce happy citizens over the long-term.
The index is based on 79 different variables analysed across 104 nations around the world. The 79 variables are grouped into 9 sub-indexes which are averaged using equal weights. The 9 sub-indexes are:
- Economic Fundamentals
- Democratic Institutions
- Social Capital
- Entrepreneurship and Innovation
- Safety and Security
- Personal Freedom
Here are the top 5 most prosperous countries in the world according to the 2009 Legatum Prosperity Index:
By the way, Canada ranks 7th and the United States ranks 9th.
You can compare countries heads-up with Legatum’s patented Prosperiscope:
Now, here are the countries with the highest trade union densities (%):
Rank Country Amount
# 1 Sweden: 70.8%
# 2 Finland: 70.3%
# 3 Denmark: 69.1%
# 4 Norway: 53.7%
# 5 Belgium: 52.9%
Notice any similarities?
Based on these statistics, the most prosperous countries in the world have the highest trade union membership.
Check out the numbers for yourself at the OECD Statistics Portal: