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2023 Basic Survey of Trade Unions — Organization Rate Lowest Ever —


The Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare has released the results of its 2023 Basic Survey of Trade Unions. This annual survey, which covers all trade unions in Japan, seeks to clarify the actual trade union situation across the country, such as the number of trade unions and union members and the distribution of union members at enterprise, industrial, and national levels.

Number of Trade Unions and Union Members

As of June 30, 2023, the number of single trade unions in Japan was 22,789 and the total number of their members was 9,938,000. Compared to the previous year, the number of single trade unions decreased by 257 (-1.1%), while their membership decreased by 55,000 (-0.5%).

The estimated organization rate (that is, the ratio of union members to the total number of employed persons) was 16.3%, down 0.2 percentage points from the previous year and the lowest level ever. The number of women union members was 3,473,000, an increase of 2,000, and the estimated organization rate among women (that is, the ratio of women union members to the total number of employed women) was 12.4%, down 0.1 points from the previous year.

Trends in Number of Trade Unions and Members and Organization Rate

  2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023  
Trade unions 24,983 24,682 24,465 24,328 24,057 23,761 23,392 23,046 22,789  
Members (1,000 persons) 9,882 9,940 9,981 10,070 10,088 10,115 10,078 9,992 9,938  
Estimated organization rate (%) 17.4 17.3 17.1 17 16.7 17.1 16.9 16.5 16.3  

Membership of Part-Time Workers

The number of part-time workers belonging to unions was 1,410,000: an increase of 6,000 (0.4%) over the previous year. Part-time workers accounted for 14.3% of all union members, the highest proportion ever, and their estimated organization rate was 8.4%.

Membership by Industry

By industry, the manufacturing industry had 2,624,000 members (26.6% of the total), followed by the wholesale and retail industry at 1,540,000 (15.6% of the total), and then the construction industry at 845,000 (8.6% of the total). Estimated organization rates were 25.5%, 15.9%, and 21.0% respectively.

Membership by Company Size

The number of union members in private companies (enterprise-based unions) was 8,692,000, a decrease of 18,000 (-0.2%) from the previous year; the estimated organization rate was 15.6%. By company size, the total number of union members in companies with 1,000 or more employees was 5,846,000 (67.3% of total union membership); the estimated organization rate in such companies was 39.8%. Companies with 300–999 employees had 1,087,000 union members (12.5% of total union membership), and companies with 100–299 employees had 545,000 union members (6.3% of total union membership). The estimated organization rate in companies with 100–999 employees was 10.2%. Small companies with 99 or fewer employees had 188,000 union members (2.1% of total union membership); the estimated organization rate in such companies was 0.8%.


RENGO’s Response

Statement by RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) General Secretary Hideyuki Shimizu on the Results of the 2023 “Basic Survey of Trade Unions”

In the midst of a steady increase in the number of employers, the estimated unionization rate decreased to 16.3% (a decrease of 0.2 percentage points compared to the previous year) due to a decline in the number of union members. This decline in the estimated unionization rate indicates an increase in workers not protected by collective labour-management relations, which must evoke in us a strong sense of crisis.

The entire confederation takes the decrease in the number of union members seriously and is actively working to address the factors contributing to the decline. Efforts are underway to curb the decrease in union membership through understanding the contributing factors and strengthening the organization.

The central headquarters, affiliated organizations, and regional federations are steadfastly committed to achieving the expansion goals set forth in the “Federation Organizational Expansion Plan 2030.” They are mobilizing their collective efforts to expand and strengthen the organization.

In an environment in which companies are strongly expected to fulfill their social responsibilities, the importance of labour unions checking and advocating for corporate management from the perspective of workers has grown. RENGO has also received requests for labour union involvement in approximately 20,000 annual labour consultations. RENGO will continue to play its role as a national center for the expansion and strengthening of collective labour–management relations, making the most of diverse opportunities to promote the significance of the existence of labour unions and the importance of union building to society.