Impact of Trade Unions on Economic Performance: The Case of Singapore

TitleImpact of Trade Unions on Economic Performance: The Case of Singapore
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsChew, Soon Beng
JournalSingapore Economic Review
Keywordsmacro-focused union, Singapore, strategic collective bargaining, trade unions, union social responsibility

Trade unions may exact a heavy cost on an economy, but there is one mode of trade unionism that will enable the trade union to play a positive role in economic development. This mode of unionism, which may be characterized as macro-focused, requires the trade union to work closely with the ruling party in order to contribute to economic development. The required symbiosis between such a trade union and the ruling party may not be sustainable when there is a change in government. This paper argues that a union can remain macro-focused as long as it is not part of any political party and therefore can work with any government regardless of which political party is in power. The paper will examine the various conditions, both economic and non-economic, under which such an outcome can exist and be sustainable. The paper will also analyze how a macro-focused union induces workers to join the union based on the results of a field survey of 690 respondents in Singapore.