Edition 2021

Foto omschrijving: CNV and FNV trade union staff serving coffee to workers on strike

How many workers belong to a trade union?

At the end of March 2021, 1.5 million people were members of a trade union. Trade union membership has not been this low since 1966. Over a two-year period, the number of men with a membership fell by 52 thousand (more than 5 percent) to 931 thousand (2021); the number of female union members fell by 7 percent to 573 thousand.

16%19%How many workers belong to a trade union?<25 yrs45 yrs to state pension age25 to 44 yrs2%23%53%State pension age and over22%

Three quarters of trade union members are 45 years or older; 22 percent of them are over the state pension age. The share of young union members (up to and including age 25) is low at 2.4 percent.

Trade union members (x million)
Periode Men Women
2016 1.07 0.65
2017 1.05 0.65
. .
2019 0.98 0.62
. .
2021* 0.93 0.57
* Provisional figure
Trade union members by age (%)
Leeftijd Under 25 yrs 25 to 44 yrs 45 yrs to state pension age State pension age and over
2017 3.9 25.6 51.9 18.7
2019 2.9 25.5 54.1 17.6
2021* 2.4 23.1 53 21.5
* Provisional figure

Membership rate highest in education

According to the Netherlands Working Conditions Survey 2020, conducted by CBS and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), 17.5 percent of all employees belong to a trade union: 18.9 percent of men and 16.1 percent of women. The membership rate was slightly lower in 2020 than in 2018 and 2019.

Among education workers, 31 percent are trade union members. The degree of organisation is also relatively high (30 percent) in public administration and in transportation and storage. At 6 percent, the sector information and communication has the lowest membership rate.

Trade union membership rates, 2020 (%)
Bedrijfstak Trade union membership
Sector .
Education 30.9
Public administration
and public services
Transportation and storage 29.8
Construction 22.8
Health and welfare 21
Manufacturing 21
Culture, sports and recreation,
and other services
Accommodation and food services 10.5
Agriculture, forestry
and fishing
Financial services 9.8
Trade 9.5
Business services
and real estate activities
and communication

The questions


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Explanation of symbols

Empty cell figure not applicable
. figure is unknown, insufficiently reliable or confidential
* provisional figure
** revised provisional figure
(between two numbers) inclusive
0 (0.0) less than half of unit concerned
2016–2017 2016 to 2017 inclusive
2016/2017 average for the years 2016 up to and including 2017
2016/’17 crop year, financial year, school year etc., beginning in 2016 and ending in 2017
2004/’05–2016/’17 crop year etc. 2004/’05 up to and including 2016/’17

Due to rounding, some totals may not correspond to the sum of the separate figures.

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Concept & image editor

Irene van Kuik


Janneke Hendriks

Richard Jollie

Hendrik Zuidhoek


Ronald van der Bie

Annelie Hakkenes-Tuinman

Michel van Kooten

Sidney Vergouw

Paul de Winden

Karolien van Wijk

Gert Jan Wijma


Frans Dinnissen

Gaby de Vet

Taalcentrum VU

Final editor

Elma Wobma

We thank all CBS colleagues who have contributed to this edition of The Netherlands in numbers.