How representative are social partners in Europe? The role of dissimilarity

Marta Martínez Mature, Pedro Silva Martins

Research output: Working paperDiscussion paper


Social partners (trade unions and employers’ associations) shape labour institutions
and economic and social outcomes in many countries. In this paper, we argue that, when
examining social partners’ representativeness, it is important to consider both affiliation
and dissimilarity measures. The latter concerns the extent to which affiliated and nonaffiliated firms or workers are distributed similarly across relevant dimensions, including
firm size. In our analysis of European Company Survey data, we find that affiliation
and dissimilarity measures correlate positively across countries, particularly in the case of
employers’ associations. This result also holds across employers’ associations when we use
firm population data for Portugal. Overall, we conclude that higher affiliation rates do
not necessarily equate to more representative social partners as they can involve greater
dissimilarity between affiliated and non-affiliated firms.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherGlobal Labor Organization (GLO)
Number of pages35
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2020

Publication series

NameGLO Discussion Paper
PublisherGlobal Labor Organization (GLO)


  • Employers’ associations
  • Social dialogue
  • Collective bargaining


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