European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Strikes in Europe (version 2.1, January 2015)

This visual presentation shows the development of days not worked due to industrial action per 1,000 employees and the participation in industrial action per 1,000 employees in most European countries since the year 2000.

This visual presentation shows the development of days not worked due to industrial action per 1,000 employees and the participation in industrial action per 1,000 employees in most European countries since the year 2000.

This map can also be downloaded in PDF format, click here

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Frequently Asked Questions and answers – last update December 2014

Feedback on these pages is welcome. For this purpose, please contact kvandaele@etui.org.

On the visual presentation of the indicators

On the indicators used

  • What does this indicator ‘days not worked due to industrial action’ per 1,000 employees mean?
  • How reliable, in general, is the data on ‘days not worked due to industrial action’?
  • What does this indicator ‘workers involved in industrial action’ per 1,000 employees mean?

On interpreting the data/indicators

It should be noted that any interpretation of the strike data is dependent on the time span and the countries involved.

  • Why is the weighted average calculated in the slides 1, 4 and 5?
  • Has the Great Recession affected the development in days not worked due to industrial action?

On the data and sources used

  • When you open the file, you will see the weighted average of the days not worked per 1,000 employees due to industrial action in Europe since the year 2000. The next two slides show you a map of Europe with the average days not worked per country in the period 2000-9 and since the Great Recession, i.e. since 2009. If you are interested in more detailed data on one particular country, you can open an info-sheet by clicking on that country.
    The country-specific info-sheets provide information on the development of the days not worked and the workers involved in industrial action per 1,000 employees since the year 2000. The country-sheets provide short explanations for the peaks in the days not worked. Information is also available on the prevalent regime of the collective bargaining system; on the legal status of the right to strike and its strictness in the market sector and government sector; and, finally, on the data sources used and the data coverage.
    By clicking on the white silhouette of the country, you can go back to the map of Europe to choose another country. If, however, you are interested in how a country fares compared to other countries, you can click on the white writing of the various indicators in order to open a graph displaying comparative information for all countries.
    To close the comparative graph, click on the red icon in the bottom left-hand corner of the graph.
    For those users who prefer short cuts, all the country-specific info-sheets and the comparative graphs for all countries are included as slides, in alphabetical order, on the right-hand side.
  • The days not worked due to industrial action or the strike volume can be generally defined as the indicator that is the result of multiplying the number of workers involved, either directly or indirectly, or both, and the duration of the industrial action for any strike or lockout. This result is divided by the number of employees in employment and then multiplied by 1,000 in order to correct for the size of the dependent workforce and to make comparisons over time and between countries. Although lockouts should in principle be separated from strike actions from a power-relations perspective, most data on industrial action do not make a distinction between these two types of industrial action. The number of days not worked due to industrial action per 1,000 employees is considered the most reliable indicator for making historical and country comparisons, although systems for collecting data on industrial action can change over time and are not identical between countries.
  • The data on the days not worked due to industrial action underestimates the actual number of days not worked. There are several reasons for this underestimation, including systematic under-reporting of strikes, changes made in collection methods, and deliberate exclusion of strikes. Particularly ‘small’ strikes, i.e. of short duration with only few workers involved, simply go unnoticed. Although such small strikes do not substantially influence the number of days not worked, this is not to say that they may not be important. Also, some statistical bureaux have set a formal threshold for collecting the data on industrial action or deliberately do not collect data on certain types of strike, such as general strikes or strikes in certain regions or in certain sectors such as the public sector. Finally, it should be noted that the data reflects only the number of observed industrial action and that the data at the aggregated level masks sectoral differences and does not report on any other collective or individualised expressions of conflict at work.
  • The workers involved in industrial action, or strike size, can be defined as those workers actually participating in industrial action, by being either on strike or lockout, and who are thus ‘directly’ involved in the action. Other workers might well be ‘indirectly’ involved by being laid off as a result of the industrial action. The strike data often includes those ‘indirectly’ involved workers, thereby making estimates about actual propensity to strike less accurate. The number of workers involved in industrial action is divided by the number of employees in employment and then multiplied by 1,000 in order to correct for the size of the dependent workforce and to make comparisons over time and between countries.
  • The weighted average calculated in the slides of Figures 1, 4 and 5 is needed to correct for the volume of employees in employment. Thus, countries with a large number of employees in employment contributed more to the final average of days not worked than countries with a small number of employees in employment. The weighted average is more accurate compared to the simple average for assessing the overall development of the days not worked due to industrial action in Europe.
  • In a number of countries the Great Recession has certainly triggered a significant increase in days not worked due to industrial action in Europe in various years, the timing of which differs from country to country, mainly due to strikes in the public sector and general strikes. Such political mass strikes have clearly contributed to the increase in the weighted average of the strike volume in Europe in 2010 – see Figure 1.
    At least two additional, important remarks should be added. On the one hand, political mass strikes are pretty much absent in, particularly, Nordic Europe and also in traditionally low ‘strike-prone’ countries like Germany. On the other hand, proving unions’ capacity as mobilisation machines, (defensive) political mass strikes are geographically concerted in southern Europe, but recent official strike data are no longer available for countries like Greece, Italy or Portugal. Also, for a large number of countries in central and eastern Europe no data on industrial action is available. Thus, relying exclusively on official strike data makes it very difficult to assess the impact of the Great Recession on the development of days not worked due to industrial action.
  • We do not really know why a number of countries have recently stopped collecting data on industrial action. This decision is formally explained by ‘austerity reasons’ in most countries. However, a mixture of ‘sheer embarrassment’ about a high strike volume, increasing disinterest of political authorities, their fear of being less attractive for foreign direct investments, or purely ideological motives, are probably the real underlying reasons. What is more, Eurostat, the statistical bureau of the European Union, no longer collects data on industrial action.
  • A mixture of different sources has been used in cases where there only partial data on industrial action were available or if no official data were available at all.
  • In France two sources are available for the recording of days not worked due to industrial action. DARES provides data about the days not worked in the private sector, based on a survey of companies with 10 employees or more, although only the days not worked per 1,000 employees in employment is made publicly available. The data from the Direction générale de l’administration et de la fonction publique provides figures on days not worked in the public sector and some semi-public enterprises: there is thus strike data for ‘fonction publique de l’Etat’ but no data for ‘fonction publique territoriale’ and ‘fonction publique hospitalière’, except for the year 2008 in case of the public hospital sector. The share of the employment in the public sector is calculated by dividing the employment covering the three public sectors (fonction publique de l’Etat, fonction publique territoriale and fonction publique hospitalière) by the total number of employees in employment – both national sources are used for the nominator and denominator. This share of about 22 per cent is used to determine the employment in the private sector, which is then used to determine the days not worked in the private sector. The days not worked in the public and private sector are then added and divided by the total number of persons in employment (source Eurostat). All in all, the days not worked due to industrial action are probably still underestimated as the number of days not worked in fonction publique territoriale and fonction publique hospitalière (except for 2008) is not known.
  • No, there is, as far as we know, no (recent) data available for Greece, Italy, Luxembourg or Portugal. With regard to Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, no official data is available at all.