A Note on the Trade Union Membership Patterns of Young Adults

AuthorD. N. Ashton,M. Hoskins,M.J. Maguire,M. Spilsbury
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8543.1987.tb00712.x
Publication Date01 Jul 1987
British Journal
of
Industrial Relations
25~2
July
1987
0007-1080 $3.00
A Note on the Trade Union Member-
ship
Patterns
of
Young Adults
M.
Spilsbury,
M.
Hoskins,
D.
N.
Ashton
&
M.
J.
Maguire*
INTRODUCTION
Recent years have seen various attempts to estimate the determinants
of
unionisation in Britain. At the aggregate level these investigations’ have
related annual changes in union density to such variables as the lagged
union density, the inflation rate and other variables assumed to affect
unionisation. More recently cross-sectional studies at industry and
establishment level2 have considered quite extensive lists of variables
affecting union density. At the most disaggregated level Bain and Elias
(1985)
examined the variations in unionisation between individuals using
the National Training Survey (NTS). This paper uses a different, more
recent, survey to examine the unionisation patterns amongst young adults.
Aspects examined are the situations when trade unions are not available in
the workplace and changing trade union membership when individuals
change
jobs.
A further point of analysis is the
level
of
trade union density
amongst young adults. Bain and Elsheikh,
(1979)
suggest that there are
plausible reasons why young workers should have a lower propensity to
unionise:
‘To
the extent that young workers are better educated than older workers, they
may be less likely to unionise because of a feeling that their educational capital will
enable them to progress in their careers individually and without the aid
of
unions.
Older workers may have a better appreciation than younger workers
of
what
working conditions were like in the “bad old days” and
of
the contribution which
unions have made to improving their conditions. And some unions provide
superannuation and sickness benefits to members, and these are likely to be more
attractive to older than to younger
worker^'^
and furthermore
‘.
. .
the level
of
unionisation is determined not only
by
the
propensity
to unionise
but also by the opportunity to unionise, and older workers will generally have had
more opportunities to join unions and unions will generally have had more
opportunity to recruit them’.4
*Labour Market Studies, University
of
Leicester.

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