4. Conclusions

​​The indicators reported in this document provide a broad overview of the key social and economic characteristics of forestry and forestry workers, and of the communities that are dependent on forestry, in north east Tasmania. The indicators can be used to identify how these characteristics are changing over time, and hence to examine social and economic change related to the forest industry. These social and economic changes may have many impacts on different people. It is important to undertake further work to improve the extent to which the social and economic changes shown in the different indicators can be understood in terms of their impacts on different individuals and groups. More in-depth studies are needed to identify downstream economic impacts, of the ways people experience the changes identified in the indicators and what these changes mean for their lives, and of perceptions about forestry, amongst others.

The results of analysing the indicators suggest that the forest industry in Australia and north east Tasmania have some important differences. These differences suggest a range of potential issues if the forest industry experiences change in the future.

In particular, some parts of north east Tasmania are highly dependent on the forest industry, indicating a high vulnerability to experiencing impacts of changes to the industry. North east Tasmanian forest workers have a relatively high attachment to the localities they live in and to the forest industry, indicating higher vulnerability to experiencing social impacts if their employment in forestry changes. Social characteristics of forestry dependent regions are fairly similar to non-forestry dependent regions in north east Tasmania; this is not unexpected given that even in highly forestry dependent regions more than 80% of the labour force work in industries other than forestry.

Occupational disease and injury rates are high in the forest industry, although most forestry workers indicate high levels of satisfaction with their jobs and lives overall. The major source of dissatisfaction with their work comes from external decisions made about the industry, rather than from internal conditions within the industry, for most workers. Workers earn slightly higher than average incomes, and are more likely to have post-school qualifications than is average for the labour force.

Indigenous participation in the Tasmanian forest industry labour force is currently higher than average for Australia, but growing more slowly than the average. Further work is needed to identify how best to encourage and facilitate Indigenous participation in the industry.

It would be useful to undertake studies which enable improved interpretation of the meaning of the social and economic characteristics and changes identified here, in order to better utilise the indicators tested in this case study. While this report has attempted to interpret what the data measured in indicators means in terms of social and economic impacts of the industry, further study is needed to be able to make better use of this data. While this report has identified social changes associated with the forest industry, and social and economic characteristics of the industry, it is difficult to identify what these indicators mean in terms of impacts on communities and forestry workers in the regions. These further studies would enable improved utilisation of the recommended indicators.