Decent Rural Employment


The forestry sector is an important source of employment for rural people. About 13 million workers worldwide are employed in formal sector forest-related businesses. Another 41 million people are employed in the informal forestry sector. In particular, community and small-scale enterprises represent a key source of livelihood and income for rural people, accounting for the vast majority of forest enterprises in many countries. Activities such as reforestation, afforestation, agro-forestry and sustainable forest management present a great potential for green job creation.

However, most of the employment and business activity in the forestry sector is characterized by poor pay and low profitability. The rural poor typically cannot engage in higher valued added activities, like those associated with timber and tree‐planting, given the requirements for capital, technologies, and skills. Women, in particular, tend to be more involved in lesser paid, labour- intensive activities related to the collection and commercialization of non‐wood forest products. Due to its informal nature and the remoteness of worksites, forestry employment is seldom covered by national labour legislation, and access to social protection is limited. These factors make labour inspections and access to proper medical services especially difficult. Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable, because they are generally less protected and more exposed to exploitation and dangerous working conditions than locally based workers.

Moreover, employment in forestry is usually characterized by harsh working conditions, physically demanding tasks and poor unionization or collective organization of workers. Work in forestry is highly hazardous, particularly logging. Workers are exposed to heavy physical workloads, dangerous chemicals, extreme weather conditions and high levels of noise and vibration. Accidents are often caused by lack of training, limited supervision and inadequate tools and equipment. Increasingly, forestry operations, and notably harvesting, are carried out by small enterprises of contractors, leading to precarious and unstable employment practices in many countries.

The role of FAO:

FAO’s work in forestry aims to promote social and economic objectives while also managing forest resources sustainably. FAO focuses on the important function that forests play in the lives of rural communities and their potential for creating decent green jobs. In particular, FAO assists people in developing sustainable community-based tree and forest product enterprises with the help of participatory methodologies such as the Market Analysis and Development (MA&D) training approach. It supports the establishment and reinforcement of Forest Producer Associations that bring together small and medium-sized forest enterprises (SMFEs). Moreover, it contributes to better functioning business development and financial services for SMFEs. FAO also works to promote better awareness on occupational health and safety measures in the sector. The improvement of data and evidence on employment in forestry, especially of informal work, is also a priority for FAO.