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Who are the forest workers of today? Who will they be in the future? Trends and opportunities facing modern jobs in the forest sector

14 October 2020

Forest jobs of today are no longer what they used to be.

Over the past few decades, the forest sector has undergone significant structural and organisational changes, from large corporate structures to sectoral fragmentation and the outsourcing of work to contractors. Increased competition among different expectations for forest functions and the rise of ecological awareness impacted forest management objectives. As a result, they evolved from the extraction of natural resources to conservation and focus on a wide range of forest ecosystem services. The employment and working conditions in the forest sector also changed substantially, reflecting a transformation in the perception of occupational risks, health, safety and well-being of forest workers.

Today the traditional forest sector workforce in the UNECE region is decreasing in number, employs few women, minorities and is becoming older. However, the public perception of forest jobs does not reflect all merits of the forest sector. The employment figures do not include an increasing number of professionals working in biodiversity conservation, landscape management, forest education, monitoring, certification, tourism and many others.

It is these professions that will guarantee the future of forests and the sector’s standing up to the challenges of the green recovery and a shift towards a sustainable, circular economy. Forest workforce of tomorrow will rely on innovation, rural and urban connections, links with science and technology as well as equal opportunities for women, young people and minorities.

A new UNECE and FAO study on forest sector workforce in the UNECE region brings some important questions to our attention, namely:  

1.    How are employers, workers and governments navigating the occupational hazards seemingly endemic to the sector, and is the situation improving?  

2.    How can we attract more young people and women into forest work?

3.    How can we ensure that forest jobs are decent, sustainable and safe for people who choose to undertake them, and what does the future hold for green jobs in the forest sector?

To answer these questions and inspire an invigorating discussion, UNECE and FAO hosted a webinar on forest sector workforce on 14 October 2020, presenting some of the key findings   on trends, challenges and opportunities for the forest sector workforce in the region.

You can watch the recording of this webinar here.

The presentations can be downloaded here.