• Jelle Visser
  • Patrick Dufour
  • René Mouriaux
  • Françoise Subilieu
Part of the The Societies of Europe book series (SOEU)


French unionism is in many respects exceptional: the relationship between capital and labour, and among unions, is more adversarial and ideologically charged than in most other European countries. The intrusion of and dependence upon the state is more pronounced. Trade unions are to a far greater extent fragmented and ideological, while political rivalry between different union currents and organizations is overwhelming. The century-old picture is one of union weakness, in membership numbers as well as organizational resources and capacity of leadership. Except for three brief moments in history, all French unions taken together have never organized more than a quarter of French workers. After 1976, a period of de-unionization began, halving the size of the French union movement. In the 1990s, decline appears to have halted, though the fragmentation of unions in ever more organizations has accelerated, especially during and after the strike movements at the end of 1995. Currently, only one of every ten workers belongs to a trade union, the lowest union density rate anywhere in the Western world. These members are divided between no less than fourteen union centres, of which six have full and two have partial representative status. A further characteristic is that union membership is highly concentrated in the public sector, among civil servants and among employees in public utilities or nationalized firms, whereas unionism in private industry is exceedingly weak.


Trade Union Public Administration Local Union Union Membership Work Council 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Bernhard Ebbinghaus and Jelle Visser 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jelle Visser
  • Patrick Dufour
  • René Mouriaux
  • Françoise Subilieu

There are no affiliations available

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