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Employment in Australia's Forest Industries
The Australian Bureau of Statistics collects employment data in four forest-related subsectors: 'forestry and logging', 'log sawmilling and timber dressing', 'paper and paper products', and 'other wood products'. Total direct employment in these four subsectors combined increased marginally from 2001-02 to 2006-07, from 82,800 to 83,400 full-time equivalents. Total Australian employment increased by 11% in the period, so the proportion of the Australian workforce employed in the four forest-related subsectors fell from 0.91% to 0.82%.
The National Skills Company for the Forestry and Forest Products, Furnishing and Pulp & Paper Industries Ltd (ForestWorks) collects employment data on a wider range of businesses dependent on growing and using timber. It estimated that, in 2006, about 120,000 people were employed in businesses dependent on growing and using timber (see table). Among the larger groupings were timber product manufacturing (37,800 employees), timber merchandising (22,100 employees) and sawmilling and timber processing (19,100 employees).
Regionally important employment
The forest-growing and wood products sector is an important employer in many rural areas, such as Western Australia's Great Southern region, which has 127,500 hectares of tree plantations. Forest-related employment there has grown rapidly since the commencement of harvesting, almost doubling from 263 employees in 2001 to 500 in 2004. Plantation establishment, management, harvesting and processing have also supported the expansion of local contracting businesses: each direct job in the plantation forest industry in the region produces an estimated 0.7 indirect jobs. The supply of local independent employment in the forest sector and the integration of plantations with multiple forms of land use have contributed to a diverse economic base that has helped stabilise the population and improved prospects for long-term economic growth in the region.
|Sector||No of employees|
|Forest growing and management||7,348|
|Timber harvesting and haulage||8,973|
|Sawmilling and timber processing||19,081|
|Timber product manufacturing||37,800|
|Wood panel and board production||5,635|
|Pulp and paper manufacturing||11,024|
|Support service internal to industry||5,445|
|Support service external to industry||2,745|
Source: ForestWorks (2006)
The Green Triangle, which straddles the border between southeastern South Australia and southwestern Victoria, is another region in which the timber industry is an important employer. It contains around 20% of the nation's plantation estate - almost 300,000 hectares of radiata pine (Pinus radiata) and 150,000 hectares of blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) plantations. The forestry and wood processing sector there directly and indirectly employs about 8,760 people, or 12% of total employment in the region.
Non-wood forest products
Non-wood forest product industries generate considerable direct and indirect employment in some regional communities. For example, forests contribute raw material for a flourishing contemporary Indigenous arts and crafts industry that produces carvings, bark paintings, fibre craft weavings, ochres and dyes. This industry has grown substantially over the last few decades and now constitutes an important cultural and economic enterprise. Its overall value is not known, but it is thought to employ 4,500 Indigenous artists in 39 remote communities. Arts and crafts are often the only commercial commodities produced by remote Indigenous communities and income from the industry can amount to more than 40% of a community's cash income.
Honey is another non-wood forest product that provides substantial employment. Many of the continent's native forest trees produce large quantities of nectar to attract insects, birds, possums and fruit bats. This nectar is a major source of food for honeybees. Australia's apiary industry generates income of $60-65 million per year, of which $49 million is from honey production. Australia has just over 10,000 registered beekeepers who manage 600,000 hives producing around 30,000 tonnes of honey every year; 24-30% of this annual production is exported. New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria dominate the industry, with 82% of the beekeepers and 80% of the hives. South Australia, Western Australia and, to a lesser extent, Tasmania are also significant honey producers.
ABS (2007). Australian Labour Market Statistics, January 2007, catalogue no. 6105.0, ABS, Canberra.
ForestWorks (2006). Forest and Wood Products Industry Workforce and Industry Data Collection Survey Report 2006, National Skills Company for the Forestry and Forest Products, Furnishing and Pulp & Paper Industries Ltd and Forest and Wood Products Australia, Melbourne.
Schirmer J, Parsons M, Charalambou C and Gavran M (2005). Socioeconomic Impacts of Plantation Forestry in the South West Slopes of NSW, 1991-2004, report produced for FWPRDC Project PN04.4007, Bureau of Rural Sciences, Canberra.
GTRPC (2006). Economic and Employment Contributions of the Forest Industry to the Green Triangle Region, Green Triangle Regional Plantation Committee, Mount Gambier.
Koenig J, Altman J, Griffiths A and Kohen A (2006). 20 Years of Aboriginal woodcarving in Arnhem Land, Australia: using art sales records to examine the dynamics of sculpture production. Forests, Trees and Livelihoods 17.
MIG (2008). Criterion 6 - Maintenance and enhancement of long term multiple socio-economic benefits to meet the needs of societies, State of the Forests Report 2008. Montreal Process Implementation Group for Australia, Canberra.
RIRDC (2007). Commercial Beekeeping in Australia, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra.