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Facts & Figures

The graphs on this site were prepared on the basis of information gathered within the EWC Database (EWCDB) of the ETUI. Click on the pictures to enlarge!

The slides can be downloaded from the EWCDB-Website in DE, EN, ES, FR, IT, NL and PL.

Creation of EWC bodies – evolution

After more than two decades of operation, the total number of transnational bodies for information and consultation (EWCs created) has reached 1418 active bodies, with 1094 of them active (operating) in June 2016. We have observed a steady, though moderate (and gradually declining) growth pace in the number of EWCs each year. The rate of the creation of such bodies was highest in 1996 (introduction of Directive 94/45/EC and deadline for voluntary EWC agreements) and in 1999–2000 (extension of Directive 94/45/EC to UK and Ireland). Since 2002, the annual number of newly created EWCs has been, on average, 30–35, with on average 20-25 new ones per year creted in the past 5 years.

On the other hand, EWCs have also been terminated as a result of various processes: mergers between multinational companies (MNCs), acquisitions/takeovers or the bankruptcy of MNCs.

For the most recent statistics on EWCs visit http://www.ewcdb.eu/stats-and-graphs

and read the 'European Works Councils and SE works councils 2015. Facts and figures.'

Active EWC bodies and involvement of employees from new EU member countries and EU applicant countries

EWC bodies currently active, by sector of activity

It is evident that the rate of establishment of EWCs varies by sector. The sector of activity of multinational companies was identified as early as 2004 by Marginson and Gilman* as one of the sources of constraint on the choices made by management and employee negotiators in concluding an EWC agreement (Marginson and Gilman 2001: 95). The ETUI database of EWCs corroborates this. Historically, the highest number of EWCs has been in multinational companies in the metal sector, followed by the chemical, building & woodwork and hotels & agriculture sectors. Similarly, various branches of the service sector, when added together, have a large share of companies with EWCs. In general, traditional branches of industry, such as the metal sector – characterised by large factories, gathering large numbers of employees in one place – make it easier to organise employees and launch the establishment of EWCs. Other sectors, with smaller companies and much more dispersed workforces (e.g. transport and textiles) often find it more difficult to coordinate the establishment of EWCs. In these sectors, there are also fewer large companies which meet the requirements of Directive 94/45/EC, thereby resulting in a smaller number of EWCs.

* Gilman, M. and Marginson, P. (2004): ‘Negotiating European Works Councils. Contours of constrained choice’, in: Fitzgerald, I. and Stirling, J. European works councils: pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will?, Routledge, 2004, ISBN 0415309867, 9780415309868

EWC bodies currently active, by country of headquarters

It seems that national traditions and corporate culture (country of origin/headquarters of an MNC) do have an impact on the establishment of EWCs. The national distribution of EWCs by country of headquarters of the parent company shows significant variations between the EU member states.


can be seen in this figure, the highest number of currently active EWCs is found in German companies, followed by US-based multinational enterprises operating in Europe, and British, French and Swedish companies.

EWC bodies currently active, by category of employment in EEA

Company size measured by number of employees seems consistently to play an important role in terms of defining initial conditions for the establishment of an EWC. The highest rate of existing EWCs was identified in the largest multinational enterprises, with over 10,000 employees (36% of the total), and in the smallest MNCs below 5,000 employees (37%). For companies between 5,000 and 10,000 employees the rate is only at 16%.

EWC bodies currently active, by category of internationalisation (number of EEA countries in which the company has operations)

EWC bodies currently active, by type

The ETUI’s EWC database classifies these bodies according to type of installation agreement. On this basis, we can estimate the distribution of specific types of EWC. Currently, the majority of active EWCs are bodies established according to art. 6 of Directive 94/45/EC. Arrangements for these bodies are required to meet the minimum requirements laid down in the Directive. Interestingly, still almost half (49%) of all active EWCs were established voluntarily before 22/09/1996 (entry into force of Directive 94/45/EC or, for the UK and Ireland, before the entry into force of Directive 97/44/EC). The voluntarily established EWCs are not subject to minimum standards (subsidiarity requirements) of the EWC directives and retained this status also after the entry into force of the new, recast Directive 2009/38/EC.

On the other hand, the works councils established in SEs currently represent a small, but steadily growing group (more information on employee representation in SEs can be found in the section ‘European Company’). Finally, there is a marginal group of EWCs established on the basis of an information and consultation procedure rather than as permanent bodies meeting on a regular basis.