Forestry, wood, pulp and paper sector

The forestry sector employs globally some 13.7 million of formal workers, equivalent to 0.4% of the total labor force. Ten countries concentrate more than 60% of the total employment (including the three sub-sectors: logging, wood processing, and pulp & paper). Out of these, China, with 3.5 million formal jobs in the sector, accounts for 26% of the world employment. The top 10 countries by forest sector employment are: China, USA, Brazil, Russia, India, Japan, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, and Malaysia. Despite the generally small contribution of the sector as a formal employer, some studies estimate that the number of jobs attributable to forestry could be much larger and that these figures are likely to be a vast underestimate of the true levels of employment in forestry.

In terms of the level of employment, different tendencies have been registered worldwide during the last years. With few exceptions the number of workers in the sector declined in Europe and North America, and increased in Latin America and Asia. Decline has taken place due to rise in the productivity and substitution of labour for machinery. Increase has been driven by various factors, including abundance of cheap skilled labour, relatively abundant forest resources, high rate of economic growth, specific polices to encourage development and investment in the sector and a general improvement of the investment climate.

The sector is characterized by a high degree of informality, particularly in developing countries. A tendency that reinforces the weight of informal work in the sector is the expansion of illegal logging. There are wage disparities within the forestry sector and some studies have pointed out that they reflect the differences in the value added per worker in each sub-sector. Although women are important in the wood industry and forestry operations around the world, their work is often overlooked. Forestry in general and logging in particular are hazardous. While there are signs of decreasing accident levels, there are also examples where the safety and health situation has deteriorated, for instance in many Central and Eastern European countries, where the drive towards land restitution has brought many inexperienced new owners to the forests.

Examples of ILO's work in the forestry sector includes, inter alia, the production of tools such as guidelines, code of practice and manuals, the organization of national-level workshops, provision of technical advise, and partnerships such as with Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).