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Union workers more likely than nonunion workers to have retirement benefits in 2019

October 25, 2019

Ninety-four percent of civilian union workers and 67 percent of nonunion workers had access to retirement benefits through their employer in March 2019. Access means the benefit is available to employees, regardless of whether they chose to participate. Eighty-five percent of union workers and 51 percent of nonunion workers participated in an employer-sponsored retirement benefit plan. The take-up rate—the share of workers with access who participate in the plan—was 90 percent for union workers and 77 percent for nonunion workers.

Retirement benefit access, participation, and take-up rates for union and nonunion civilian workers, March 2019
Retirement plan type and measure Union Nonunion

All retirement benefits access

94% 67%

All retirement benefits participation

85 51

All retirement benefits take-up rate

90 77

Defined benefit access

79 17

Defined benefit participation

70 13

Defined benefit take-up rate

88 77

Defined contribution access

47 62

Defined contribution participation

33 45

Defined contribution take-up rate

69 72

Defined benefit retirement plans, also called pensions, provide workers with guaranteed retirement benefits. These plans may determine benefits through a formula based on age, length of service, and preretirement earnings of participants. Defined benefit plans are available to 79 percent of union workers and 17 percent of nonunion workers.

Defined contribution retirement plans specify the level of employer contributions and place those contributions into individual employee accounts. Forty-seven percent of union workers and 62 percent of nonunion workers had access to an employer-sponsored defined contribution plan in March 2019.

These data are from the National Compensation Survey — Benefits program. For more information, see Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2019.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Union workers more likely than nonunion workers to have retirement benefits in 2019 at (visited July 23, 2024).

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