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Extent of union membership revealed

Adam Zuchetti
Adam Zuchetti
29 November 2018 1 minute readShare

Ever wondered just how many employees belong to the industry’s trade union? New figures from the Bureau of Statistics have the answer, and a few surprises in terms of their actual make-up.

According to the ABS, union membership accounted for 15 per cent of all employees, as of August 2018. That equates to 1.575 million union members Australia-wide, out of a total of some 10.5 million employees.

Somewhat surprisingly, it is women who are more likely to be members than their male colleagues.


“Employees who are members of a trade union are more likely to be over 40, female and working full-time,” Bruce Hockman, the ABS’ chief economist, said in a breakdown of the figures.

Union membership was most common among the education and training sector, where one-third of employees are members.


This was closely followed by the public administrative and safety sector (30 per cent), as well as employees working across the electricity, gas, water and waste services industries (29 per cent).

By occupation, professionals had the highest rates of union membership (21 per cent), ahead of so-called “blue-collar” workers; machinery operators and drivers were next at 19 per cent, followed by community and personal service workers (18 per cent).

The full table is published below.

The ABS’ Characteristics of Employment Survey also found that 4 per cent of employees are registered with an employment agency or labour hire firm, but that only a third of these are paid directly by that agency.



Share of employees who are trade union members. Source: ABS

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

Extent of union membership revealed
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Adam Zuchetti
Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016. 

The two-time Publish Awards finalist has an extensive journalistic career across business, property and finance, including a four-year stint in the UK. Email Adam at [email protected]edia.com.au

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