Comparing the content of collective agreements across the European Union: Is Europe-wide data collection feasible?


Collective bargaining is central to wage-setting and working conditions, but knowledge about what exactly has been concluded in collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) in Europe is limited. In light of the debate about a European Minimum Wage, whereby some countries set wage floors in collective agreements and not through legislation, this information gap has become evident. Based on desk research and experience with the WageIndicator CBA Database and similar databases, this article aims to explore the feasibility of an EU-wide CBA data collection to tackle these blind spots. We estimate a total of over 85,000 CBAs are in force in EU27, of which the large majority in Germany. Almost all EU countries maintain a CBA registry, covering either all CBAs or only multi-employer CBAs. In 20 EU countries full-texts CBAs can even be found online. We conclude that an EU-wide CBA database could cover all CBAs for nine countries, all multi-employer CBAs for another nine countries and a partial selection of CBAs for two countries. Data collection for the remaining countries has to rely on CBAs collected from social partners individually. Realisation of an EU-wide CBA database seems a doable but definitely very challenging task, though less so when targeting one or a few sectors. When these CBA texts would be collected and coded, the content of CBAs could be compared across EU member states. We present the WageIndicator CBA database as an example of a cross-country coding scheme for CBA texts and explore text-mining options as a promising way forward as to reduce coding efforts.

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