Union Density in Canada, 2000 – 2010

Union density in Canada

From 2000 to 2010, union membership in Canada increased by approximately 19%, but during the same time period total union density (membership as a proportion of the workforce) in Canada declined from 32.8% to 30.8%.

The vast majority of union membership growth occurred in the public sector, with UFCW Canada as one of few private-sector unions registering a membership gain from 2000 to 2010.

Union density by Province

Union density varies significantly between the provinces. While union density has expanded in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Prince Edward Island, it has declined in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Density rates in Newfoundland & Labrador did not experience a change from 2000 to 2010, holding fast at 37.5%, representing the most unionized jurisdiction in the country. 

Union density by Industry

With a robust union density rate of 70%, the heavily unionized public sector is a key factor in Canada maintaining a steady level of unionization. The private sector in Canada remains largely non-unionized with a few notable exceptions like the construction and manufacturing industries, but the later has been especially devastated by the global economic crisis and severe job losses.

Union density by Country

Union density is registering a decline in almost every country due to drastic changes in labour legislation and the right-wing agenda that steers most Western governments. Despite the global shift to the right, countries like Sweden, Denmark and Finland are still registering high union density rates of 82% to 76%. Canada at 30% union density is midway on the international spectrum and more than twice the density rate of its neighbour and largest trading partner, the United States.



Vol. XI No. 07 • February 14, 2011