The impact of unions on pay levels in lower-skilled jobs

Publication date: 4 Oct 2001 | Publication type: National Institute Economic Review | Theme: Employment & Social policy | NIESR Author(s): Forth, J | Journal: National Institute Economic Review No. 176

The decline in trade union influence over the past two decades raises the question of whether pay levels in lower-skilled jobs now lie outside the unions' sphere of influence, as tacitly acknowledged by their acceptance and later endorsement of the principle of the statutory minimum wage. This article examines pay levels among lower-skilled jobs in the private sector in Britain using the Workplace Employee Relations Survey of 1998. It shows that trade unions still had a positive impact upon pay levels in lower-skilled jobs and identifies those forms of unionism associated with the largest premiums. However, the article also shows that the activities of trade unions did little to counteract the forces generating the lowest levels of pay.

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