Politics and Analysis
Introduction to the social partners
31. August 2022
In Denmark, industrial relations are regulated by social partners. The Danish government and parliament seek to minimize intervention in the labour market.
Denmark has a long-standing tradition of high unionization and strong workers’ organizations (trade unions) and employers’ organizations. They are commonly known as the ‘social partners’.
Industrial relations in Denmark are regulated by the social partners
In the private sector, the collective bargaining process is based on the framework defined by the social partners in the General Agreement of 1899. The two main bodies involved are:
The Danish Trade Union Confederation (FH), which is the largest trade union body in Denmark. FH is made up of 64 unions with 1.3 million members and is generally recognised as the most representative confederation in both the private and public sectors.
The Confederation of Danish Employers (DA), which is made up of 11 private-sector organisations representing approximately 25,000 companies that employ 30% of the total workforce (50% in the private sector).
Similar systems for negotiation and agreements exist between the state and the public sector unions.
High unionization rate
Although membership of a trade union or an employers’ organization is voluntary, there is a long tradition of widespread participation. The unionization rate varies according to job and sector but is approximately 70% – one of the highest in Europe. The high level of membership and organization generates a strong sense of ownership.
The social partners negotiate wages and working conditions
The Danish government and parliament seek to minimize intervention in the labor market, leaving it to the social partners to negotiate agreements on wages and working conditions. Actual legislation applies mainly to workers not covered by collective agreements. The same principle applies to EU directives. If the collective agreement ensures worker’s rights that equal those in an EU directive, the worker will not be covered by the Danish legislation implementing the EU directive.
The social partners have the main responsibility for regulating working conditions and keep the labour market dynamic, a process that helps maintain the influence and relevance of the social partners. The partners can also conclude bipartite and tripartite agreements with the government to address new challenges and transitions that emerge.