Turning the tide? Economic reforms and union revival in India

Vidu Badigannavar, John Kelly, Manik Tiwary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite nearly three decades of ostensibly pro-employer economic reforms in India, trade union membership and density in India appear to have risen. Although similar trends have been reported and investigated in other emerging economies such as China and South Africa, the union revival thesis in India is yet to be fully explored. Using large-scale official survey data from 1993–1994 to 2011–2012 and primary data collected through 56 interviews with key stakeholders, this paper investigates the patterns of union membership growth in India. Findings indicate varying degrees of growth in union membership across all industrial sectors and employment types. We draw upon theoretical insights from economic theories of union growth, comparative politics and social movement unionism to explain union membership growth in India.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)364-385
Number of pages22
JournalIndustrial Relations Journal
Issue number4
Early online date15 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021 The Authors. Industrial Relations Journal published by Brian Towers (BRITOW) and John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Funding: We gratefully acknowledge the financial assistance received from the British Academy‐Leverhulme Trust in undertaking this research.


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