Union membership – next gen workers

With over 1.8 million members, unions are an important voice for employees in Australia. Together these people help to get a better, fairer deal for employees. But how might the next generation of workers get involved? 

Unions help set the pace for improvements in working conditions and pay for all employees. Notable achievements include compulsory superannuation, paid parental leave and a greater awareness of the problem of bullying in the workplace.

Nearly half the workforce or almost 5 million people enjoy pay and conditions set by collective agreements negotiated by a union. Another 16% depend directly on the Award system or the minimum wage that was put in place and is still defended by the union movement.

While union membership varies from industry to industry, there are some areas of employment where union rates are much higher than the average.

The chart below shows how union membership varies from industry to industry. The highest rate of union membership is in education and training. This includes your teachers, as well as educators in pre-school, primary schools, TAFE and university.Other jobs with higher rates of union membership include public administration and safety. This includes public servants, local government workers, firefighters, paramedics and police. Union membership is also high in healthcare and social assistance, this includes nurses and care staff.

2012 DATA TABLE: Employees in main job, Industry of main job, By trade union membership in main job-Proportion of all employees who were trade union members (ABS 2013)

There have been some very big changes in the Australian workforce in the past two generations, including:

• More private sector jobs and less government jobs
• Fewer blue collar jobs and more white collar jobs
• Fewer manufacturing jobs and more service industry jobs
• More part time/casual and part time work.

FACT: Around 1.8 million workers are union members. That’s 18 per cent of the full-time workforce. (ABS August 2012).

Questions for the workers of the future

How will climate change affect the work we do?

How will the next generation of technology change the way we work?

How will we cope with an ageing population?

Will working hours be longer or shorter in the future?

Will more women become leaders at work, in unions and government?

Australian Curriculum Links:

Work Studies/Year 10/Career and life design: The nature of work
Analyse emerging approaches to work and the implications these have for workers to be flexible, proactive and responsive

Work Studies/Year 10/Career and life design: The nature of work
Explain the roles of a range of services and agencies that support employment, self-employment and unemployment.

Relevant Resources

Future of work
Job trends and growth industries
Read More
About Unions
What is a union?
Read More
About Unions
Union structure
Read More