Beyond numbers: income, employment and decent work in forestry

The event “Beyond numbers: income, employment and decent work in forestry” provided new evidence of forests' contribution to national economies and employment. It also discussed some of the current challenges and megatrends affecting the world of work, such as climate change, mechanization, and demographic shifts, as well as some emerging opportunities to create green jobs and decent work as we transition to a sustainable, circular bioeconomy.

The event builds on the discussions in the context of the XV World Forest Congress, and provided an opportunity for participants to learn more about pieces of evidence published first-hand on The State of the World Forests 2022, in particular the figures on forest total contributions to national economies and on formal and informal employment.

Watch the webcast here.

Mr Ekrem Yazici, Deputy Chief of the UNECE/FAO Joint Forestry and Timber Section, delivered his opening remarks celebrating the long-standing cooperation between FAO, ILO and UNECE on the topic of employment in the forest sector. He recalled that forests generate wealth and millions of jobs, “but its contribution may be much larger. Considerable value remain unreported, also due its characteristic informality”, he affirmed.

Forests matter

To address the issue, Ms Thaís Linhares-Juvenal, FAO Senior Forestry Officer, and Ms Yanshu-Li, University of Georgia, presented outcomes from the study titled "Forest sector contribution to national economies 2015: the direct, indirect and induced effects on value added, employment and labour income". Key findings demonstrate that the forest sector's contribution to national economies extends beyond the industry itself, into many other sectors: a relevant analysis for policy-makers looking for overall developmental pathways.

The estimations revealed the global forest sector contributing with more than USD 661 billion to national GDPs; when accounting for indirect and induced effects, the contribution reaches more than USD 1,523 billion. The publication is available for download here.

Ms Yonca Gurbuzer, FAO and Rattiya Lippe, Thünen Institute, provided an update on facts emerging from a joint effort to fill in data gaps and to improve employment statistics in the forest sector. Indeed - beyond the numbers - better data can provide the evidence-base policy advice needed to create more decent jobs and to improve the lives of people.

As data availability and data harmonization on employment is increasing, estimations show that the forest sector generates jobs for at least 33 million people, and forest products are used by billions. Evidence also indicates the persistence of informality, gender-gaps and other challenges.

In this light, securing adequate – safe, healthy and decent – work conditions and respect for international standards remain a priority, as emphasized by Mr Waltteri Katajamäki, ILO. “Everyone should enjoy the basic, universal principles of freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour; the effective abolition of child labour; the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation; and a safe and healthy working environment”*, explained the ILO representative.

A second panel showcased how coherence between the forest sector and other sectors can promote economic growth in the context of a new bioeconomy (Mr Markus Lier, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Finland); debated the necessity of producing national accounts, including for NWFPs, still remarkably underestimated (Mr Humberto Navarro de Mesquita Junior, Brazilian Forest Service); presented some exciting trends and opportunities to leverage Green Jobs, in the context of societal and technological transformation in Europe (Ms Vera Steinberg, Forest Europe Secretariat); and finally, the importance of supporting workers, young workers and their rights through an inclusive approach (Mr Derek Nighbor, ACSFI,FPAC, Canada).

Employment matters

FAO Senior Forestry Officer Mr Sven Walter concluded the session by emphasizing the importance of collaboration. "Today, we heard about the importance of collaboration from countries, academia, international organizations, policy processes, youth, and the private sector. Working together is a responsibility of all of us", he said. "We have data, but we need better data and better information to make informed decisions." In this regard, FAO is ready to assist countries. Finally, he emphasized some key actions needed to scale up opportunities "to address informality, enhance the sector's attractiveness, improve communication, and invest in forest education. To invest into the future".

last updated:  Friday, December 2, 2022