United Kingdom - Labor

The total working population of the United Kingdom in 2002 was 29.7 million. In 1999, services accounted for 74% of the labor force, with industry 25% and agriculture only 1%. Between 1983 and 1992 there was a substantial shift in employment from previously dominant manufacturing to service industries. Employment in industry, which had been 7,788,000 in 1983, was down to 4,986,000 in 1998. The official unemployment rate was 5.2% in 2002.

The Employment Relations Act protects union organization, the statutory right to strike, and minimum employment standards. Nearly all trade unions of any size are affiliated with the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the national center of the trade union movement. Founded in 1868, the TUC was one of the prime movers in the formation of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). The TUC is the recognized channel of consultation between government departments and the unions on general labor matters. There is a separate Scottish Trades Union Congress. The legal status of the trade unions is defined by the Trade Union and Labor Relations Act of 1974. Restrictions on the power of the trade unions are embodied in the Employment Acts of 1980 and 1982 and in the Trade Union Act of 1984. About one third of the workforce is covered by collective bargaining agreements.

The standard workweek ranges between 35 and 40 hours. Besides the statutory public holidays, most employees have at least four weeks' annual vacation with pay. Children under the age of sixteen are not permitted to work unless it is part of an educational experience. The minimum wage for adults was $5.95 in 2002.

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