2. Summary of recommended indicators and other studies needed

​​​​This section summarises the social and economic indicators recommended, and briefly describes further research needed to improve current understanding of the social and economic impacts of forestry.

2.1 Recommended indicators

The following tables provide a brief description of the indicators recommended for monitoring social and economic impacts of forestry. All are able to be measured over time using either existing data, or relatively low cost surveys. As with any indicator, each has limitations, care is needed in interpreting the meaning of the indicator, and the indicators should be understood as representing a subset of the possible data that could be collected on social and economic impacts.

Recommended indicators are grouped into four categories, which can be used to monitor the following over time: 

  • Table 1: Characteristics of the industry, e.g. total number of jobs and production;
     
  • Table 2: Impacts of the industry on the broader community;
     
  • Table 3: Impacts of the industry on its workforce; and
     
  • Table 4: Impacts of the industry on Indigenous people.  
       
     
    Table 1: Characteristics of the forest industry: recommended indicators

    Indicator

    Description - Characteristics of the forest industry

    Direct employment in the forest industry

    Type: Social and economic 

    Scale1: Local, regional, national

    This indicator describes how many people are employed in the forest industry, in the following sectors:      

    • Forestry and logging           
    • Wood and paper manufacturing           
    • Plantation forestry (hardwood, softwood, MIS and non-MIS)           
    • Native forestry   
    The absolute number and rate of change over time can be compared to the workforce for other industries.

    Proportion of land utilised by the forest industry

    Type: Social and economic     

    Scale: Local, regional, national

    This indicator describes the proportion of land in a given area being utilised by the forest industry, separated into native forest and plantation sectors.

    Estimated value of production

    Type: Economic    

    Scale: Regional, national

    Estimated value of production of the forest industry for a defined period of time and defined products.  The absolute number and rate of change over time can be compared to other industries and to overall gross domestic product/gross state product1.

    Estimated volume of production

    Type: Economic     

    Scale: Regional, national

    Estimated volume of production of the forest industry for a defined period of time, at defined points in chain of production. The rate of change over time can be    compared to other industries and/or gross domestic product/gross state product.

    Efficiency of production (labour productivity)

    Type: Economic     

    Scale: Regional, national

    This indicator measures the volume of output (roundwood, sawnwood, wood based panels, paper and paperboard) produced per unit of labour input. This provides a measure of the efficiency of labour. Rate of change over time can be compared to other industries.

    Consumption of wood and paper products

    Type: Social and economic

    Scale: National 

    Consumption rates for different wood and paper products, per capita. Consumption rates can be compared to other countries.


           

     

    1’Scale’ refers to the scale at which the indicator should or can be measured, based on testing each indicator in two case study regions. The reports on each case study provide detailed discussion on the scale of reporting appropriate to each indicator.

       
     
    Table 2: Impacts of the forest industry on the broader community: recommended indicators

    Indicator

    Description – Impacts of industry on broader community

    Dependence on the forest industry (%    employment)

    Type: Social

    Scale: Local, regional, national

    Measures the proportion of the workforce in a given area that depend on the forest industry for employment. Increased dependence of a region on the forest industry is likely to indicate the region will experience greater impacts from any changes to the forest industry. Overall dependence and change over time in dependence can be compared to other regions, and other industries.

    Social characteristics of forestry-dependent regions

    Type: Social

    Scale: Local, regional, national

    Monitors key characteristics of forestry-dependent regions believed to be related to that region’s ability to adapt to change, and how these change over time, namely:           

    • Total population;           
    • Unemployment rate;           
    • Educational qualifications;           
    • Median age;           
    • Median household income; and          
    • Proportion of population in different age groups.       
    Forestry-dependent regions can be compared to other regions to identify any differences in social characteristics of regions that are more or less dependent on forestry.

    Location of forest industry employment

    Type: Social

    Scale: Local

    Measures the proportion of forest industry employees based in small, medium and large towns, compared to the total labour force and agricultural labour force. This indicator identifies the likely distribution of forest industry employment and hence which types of towns/cities experience change when the forest industry changes.

    Impact of plantation forestry on rural    population

    Type: Social

    Scale: Local

    Measures the rate of change in rural population in areas experiencing plantation expansion, compared to the average rate of change in rural population across all areas. This indicates whether expansion of plantation forestry has impacts on rural population levels.

    Values, uses and perceptions of    forestry activities

    Type: Social

    Scale: Local, regional, national possible – for repeated    monitoring over time, national scale is most cost effective

    Measures a wide range of indicators on public perceptions of forestry and uses, values and attitudes related to forestry. Gathering data on perceptions is usually done via a survey of a statistically significant sample of the population whose views are being examined. By repeating the survey over time, it is    possible to identify how values, attitudes, uses and perceptions are changing.

    In addition to the small number of topics suggested to be regularly monitored through a survey, more in-depth irregular studies are needed to look at a broader range of aspects of values, uses and perceptions of forestry.

       
     
    Table 3: Impacts of the forest industry on its workforce: recommended indicators

    Indicator

    Description – Impacts of forest industry on workforce

    Income earned by forestry workers

    Type: Social

    Scale: Regional, national

    Measure of the income earned by forest workers, compared to the average for the labour force as a whole. Forestry workers can be broken into individual forestry sectors (e.g. forestry & logging; wood & paper product manufacturing).       

     

    Physical health – reported injury rates

    Type: Social

    Scale: National

    Measures the rate of occupational disease and injury per 1,000 forest industry workers. Forest industry rates of disease and injury can be compared to those in other industries and across all Australian industries.

    Self-rated health (physical and mental)

    Type: Social

    Scale: Regional, national

    Measures self-assessed health based on how often workers report experiencing physical and mental health problems such as difficulty sleeping, depression, stress or anxiety and physical injury while working, as well as the level of work-related risk arising from physical conditions in their work place, hours worked, equipment used, noise and stress.  Measured via direct survey of forest workers.

    Self-rated wellbeing

    Type: Social

    Scale: Regional, national

    Measures self-assessed well-being. Comparison can be made to results of regular national surveys of wellbeing (e.g. the Australian National Unity Wellbeing Index2) if the survey measures wellbeing using a comparable scale. Measured via direct survey of forest workers.

    Age

    Type: Social

    Scale: Regional, national

    Identifies the age distribution of forestry workers, compared to age distribution of the broader labour force.       

     

    Gender

    Type: Social

    Scale: Regional, national

    Identifies the proportion of men and women employed in the forestry industry, compared to gender distribution of the broader labour force.


           

    Attachment to place

    Type: Social

    Scale: Regional, national

    Identifies level of attachment to the local area they live and work in, as determined by questions relating to the length of time lived in the local area and whether forest workers expect to stay in the area in the future. This can help indicate the potential impacts of changes in forestry jobs which involve changing availability of employment in particular regions. Measured via direct survey of forest workers.

    Cultural and family attachment to forestry

    Type: Social

    Scale: Regional, national

    Identifies level of cultural and family attachment to the forest industry. Cultural and family attachment to forestry can influence flexibility and willingness to work in other industries if there is a change in forestry-based employment.  Measured via direct survey of forest workers.

    Hours worked

    Type: Social

    Scale: Regional, national

    Identifies the number of hours worked per week by forest industry workers, compared to the overall labour force. Higher working hours are often considered indicative of lower well-being for workers.      

     

    Educational qualifications

    Type: Social

    Scale: Regional, national

    Monitors the proportion of forest industry workers with different levels of formal educational qualifications, compared to the average for the labour force. The    presence of low levels of education can indicate potential literacy and industry development challenges, and predict difficulty adapting to changing skills needs and technology.

     
       
     
    Table 4: Impacts of the forest industry on Indigenous people: recommended indicators

    Indicator

    Description – Impacts of forest industry on Indigenous people

    Indigenous employment in the forest industry –quantity

    Type: Social and economic

    Scale: Regional, national

    Identifies the proportion of forest industry workers who are Indigenous, compared to the average for the labour force as a whole. It can help identify achievement against the goals of the National Indigenous Forestry Strategy.

    Indigenous employment in the forest industry – type

    Type: Social and economic

    Scale: National

    Identifies the proportion of Indigenous people employed in the forest industry with different types of occupation (eg manager, administrative, field worker). This enables improved understanding of the types of employment Indigenous people have in the forest industry. The rate of Indigenous and non-Indigenous employment for each occupation types within the forest industry can be compared.

    Area of forest owned or accessed by    Indigenous people

    Type: Social and economic

    Scale: Regional, national

    The total area of forest owned or accessed by Indigenous people.


           

     


The recommended indicators do not  include several types of indicator that might be expected. In particular, it is  not recommended that downstream economic impacts be measured on a regular  basis, due to the high cost of ongoing monitoring. The following section  provides recommendations on occasional higher-cost studies which should be  undertaken to accompany the regular monitoring of the recommended indicators.  These studies can broaden understanding of social and economic impacts beyond  the limited picture that can be provided by the recommended indicators, and  provide information enabling improved interpretation and use of the recommended  indicators.

2.2 Other studies needed

The previous section identified a set of cost effective indicators which can be monitored over time to identify some of the likely social and economic impacts of forestry in Australia. As with any set of indicators, they have limitations:

  • The recommended indicators do not represent all types of social and economic changes associated with the forest industry;
  • Indicators measure social and economic changes, but must be accompanied by studies which identify what these changes mean – in other words, how they impact forest industry workers and/or the broader community; and
  • Indicators cannot uncover the diversity of ways individuals are changing, as they represent the average change experienced across a large group of people.

For the cost effective indicators recommended in Section 2.1 to be of greatest use, they should be accompanied by other studies which are undertaken less regularly, and provide a more in-depth understanding of social and economic impacts of forestry.

In particular, there is a need to undertake studies which provide an understanding of the impacts of changes, as this can assist interpretation of the meaning of changes in the recommended indicators over time. These studies can also act to check the validity of the indicators, ensuring they are useful measures of the concepts they are intended to represent.

Table 5 below briefly lists the key types of studies needed to make best use of the recommended indicators. These are described in more detail in later sections of this report. 

Table 5: Other studies needed to better understand social and economic impacts of forestry

Topic

Studies needed

Indigenous capacity to undertake work in the forest industry

Work is required to build a greater understanding of Indigenous people’s capacity to undertake fulfilling and successful work in the forestry industry. Factors influencing capacity include the ability to work unsupervised, or work in a supervisory or management role, confidence, the long-term availability of work in the local region, the ability or willingness of Indigenous people to change location in order to obtain work, the work culture within the community, educational attainment and the attainment of forestry-specific skills.

Improved understanding of attitudes, values and uses of forests

Continued research is needed which examines the attitudes, values and perceptions of forests and forest management held by different individuals and groups. In particular, studies are needed which go beyond identifying how many people hold particular attitudes, values and perceptions, to developing an understanding of why different people and groups have differing values and attitudes.

Indirect impact of forest industry on employment and spending

Like any economic activity, the forest industry generates ‘flow on’ (or ‘indirect’ or ‘upstream and downstream’) expenditure and employment in local and regional communities, which is generated as a result of spending by forestry businesses and workers. There is currently limited data on the downstream impact of employment and spending by the forest industry for many Australian regions, and almost none which separates the impacts of native forests and plantations.

Many input-output studies have been undertaken to identify downstream impacts of the forest industry as a whole for a defined region, but this has still resulted in reasonably limited coverage of different regions, and has rarely examined the downstream impacts of native forest and plantation related activities separately. Further work is needed to extend coverage of regions, and to specifically examine downstream impacts of different forest industry sectors.

Studies examining subjective experiences of impact

Communities and individuals may experience a diversity of positive and negative social and economic impacts as a result of forest industry-based activity. The way people experience impacts depends on their perceptions and understandings of those impacts. Studies are required to gain a greater understanding of how perceptions of impact relate to measurable social and economic changes, and whether the impacts identified are solely a result of forest industry-based activities, or a greater array of factors. This can assist policy makers, the forest industry and communities in better understanding the impacts of forestry – both positive and negative – and how to maximise positive and minimise negative impacts.

Studies to better understand the resilience and adaptability of forest-dependent communities

A considerable body of work currently suggests that communities that have particular social and economic characteristics are more readily able to adapt to changing circumstances, such as change in the forest industry. However, there has been relatively little study of the applicability of these theories in the context of the forest industry. Studies are required to better understand the multiple attributes which influence the resilience and adaptability of forest-dependent communities, and to assess the resilience and adaptability of communities based on the presence or absence of these attributes. A greater understanding of the requirements for resilient and adaptable communities would allow the comparison of suggested attributes to traditionally used proxy indicators, to assess their reliability and usefulness.

Social and economic characteristics of forest-dependent communities and forestry workers

The use of objective data (eg total population, unemployment rate, median age, gender) to assess the social and economic characteristics of communities can identify how communities are changing, but does not assist in understanding why they are changing, or the impacts of the changes observed. Similarly, the recommended indicators can provide a detailed profile of how the forestry workforce is changing – for example, whether it is ageing, or the gender balance is shifting – but this does not necessarily help to understand the impacts of these changes. In-depth qualitative studies can generate an understanding of the meaning of social change, both in forestry dependent communities and in the forestry workforce. This analysis can then assist in more meaningful interpretation of the recommended indicators.

Rate of road accidents attributable to forest industry-related road use

Further examination is needed of the potential to develop indicators comparing the rate of forest industry-related road accidents and other road accidents, in order to determine whether forest industry vehicles are more or less likely to be involved in road accidents than other road users. Further work is needed to assess if it is possible to identify appropriate indicators; it is possible data are not currently collated in ways that enable this type of analysis to be undertaken.

Community engagement processes

While not directly related to improving understanding and interpretation of the recommended indicators, community engagement is essential to any impact assessment process. Community engagement research is needed to improve communication and understanding between the stakeholders who have an interest in Australian forestry. While community engagement is commonly recommended as a way of generating strategies for maximising positive and minimising negative social and economic impacts of forestry activities, relatively few studies have examined which types of community engagement techniques are most effective for Australian forestry. The types of stakeholders involved in discussions over forestry issues change over time, indicating a need for regular studies to ensure community engagement strategies evolve over time to meet the changing needs of stakeholders involved in forestry in Australia.


1 Many measures of the economic value of the forest industry are possible. Gross value of production has been selected as data on value of production are more readily accessible than data on other aspects such as expenditure or investment in infrastructure and works, and because production data are readily comparable across industries.

2 For  more information, see http://www.australianunity.com.au/wellbeingindex/">http://www.australianunity.com.au/wellbeingindex/  The Australian Unity Wellbeing Index has been undertaken since 2001 on a  regular basis and is expected to continue into the future.

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