8. Conclusion

​​​This report has reviewed information needs related to the social and economic impacts of forestry and, based on this review, identified a set of cost-effective indicators which can be monitored at regular intervals over time, as well as a description of other work needed to better assess social and economic impacts of forestry.

Four types of indicators have been identified: indicators which describe key characteristics of the forest industry; the impacts of the industry on the broader community; the impacts of the industry on its own workforce; and the impacts of the industry on Indigenous people. Within each of these categories up to 10 specific indicators were identified and tested, and methods to measure each described.

These 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 recommended indicators should therefore be accompanied by 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.

That said, the indicators recommended, if measured regularly, can provide an improved understanding of the social and economic changes associated with changing forestry activities in Australia, and can be interpreted to provide an understanding of the social and economic impacts of forestry.

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