Executive Summary

​​This report provides recommendations on indicators that can be used to monitor the social and economic impacts of forestry in Australia, and other research that needs to be undertaken to improve understanding of these impacts. The report was prepared for the Forest Industries Branch of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

The indicators were developed to be cost effective, valid, replicable over time, applicable across different forestry sectors and at a range of geographic scales, and perhaps most importantly, to provide information on the relevant social and economic impacts. A key priority was to identify indicators that can be readily and cost effectively measured over time using available sources of data, as well as identify where further information is needed, but not as easily accessible.

Indicators were developed by reviewing the types of information needed about social and economic impacts of forestry, followed by identifying methods that can be utilised to measure these impacts. Information needs were identified by reviewing current forest policies, media reports on forestry, recent research recording public perceptions about forestry, and reports produced by stakeholders with an interest in forestry in Australia. Methods for measuring indicators were identified by reviewing the data currently produced on forestry by different organisations such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and reviewing methods used in recent research studies to measure the impacts of forestry.

The initial list of indicators identified were discussed at a workshop of forestry stakeholders, and prioritised based on these discussions. Indicators were then tested in two case study regions, and refined based on the results of the case studies. The results of the two case studies are presented in separate reports.

Based on this process, the following four types of indicators are recommended for monitoring the social and economic impacts of forestry in Australia:

  • Indicators which measure characteristics of the forest industry:
  • Direct employment in the forest industry;
  • Proportion of land utilised by the forest industry;
  • Estimated value and volume of production;
  • Efficiency of production, measured as labour productivity; and
  • Consumption of wood and paper products.

  • Impacts of the forest industry on the broader community:
  • Dependence on the forest industry, measured as the proportion of the employed labour force working in the forest industry;
  • Social characteristics of forestry-dependent communities;
  • Location of forest industry employment;
  • Impact of plantation forestry on rural population; and
  • Values, uses and perceptions of forestry activities.

  • Impacts of the forest industry on its workforce:
  • Income earned by forestry workers;
  • Physical and mental health of forestry workers;
  • Self-rated wellbeing of forestry workers;
  • Age and gender of forestry workers;
  • Forestry workers’ attachment to place;
  • Forestry workers’ cultural and family attachment to forestry;
  • Hours worked by forestry workers; and
  • Education qualifications of forestry workers.

  • Impacts of the forest industry on Indigenous people:
  • Quantity of Indigenous employment in the forest industry;
  • Types of Indigenous employment in the forest industry; and
  • Area of forest owned or accessed by Indigenous people.

The majority of these indicators can be measured at a range of geographic scales, from local to national scale. Most can be measured for different forestry sectors, such as the ‘forestry and logging’ and ‘wood and paper product manufacturing’ sectors. However, only a limited set can be measured separately for the plantation and native forest sectors; separating data for these sectors often involves considerably higher expense as much existing data collected about the forest industry does not differentiate between native forest and plantation based employment.

The recommended indicators enable consistent monitoring of some key social and economic aspects of forestry in Australia using cost effective approaches, but can only provide a limited picture of the wide variety of social and economic impacts related to forestry. Any indicator is by nature a limited representation, or proxy, of a more complex idea, and should be tested through undertaking more in-depth examination that enables assessment of the relevance and usefulness of the indicator, and how well it measures what it is intended to measure. In addition, some types of impact cannot be represented by cost-effective indicators, requiring more in-depth study at greater expense than is feasible for a set of indicators to be repeated regularly over time. The indicators recommended in this report should therefore be accompanied by less regular, in-depth studies which help to broaden and deepen understanding of social and economic impacts of forestry, and which can provide information that improves interpretation of the recommended indicators.

In particular, studies should be undertaken which improve understanding of successful strategies for increasing the capacity of Indigenous people to work in the forest sector; perceptions, attitudes and values of different groups about different types of forestry; the indirect impacts of the forest industry on employment and spending; how different people experience social and economic impacts related to the forest industry; factors influencing capacity of communities to adapt to forest industry changes; the meaning of changes to social and economic characteristics of forest-dependent communities and forestry workers; and community engagement strategies.

While there is a need for more costly and in-depth studies, the recommended indicators, if measured regularly, can provide an improved understanding of the social and economic changes associated with changing forestry activities in Australia, providing improved understanding of the social and economic impacts of forestry.

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Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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