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Pulp and Paper Manufacturing


This page provides information and data on the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing industry.

Australia’s Pulp and Paper Manufacturing industry generates products that can be found in virtually every business and household across Australia, ranging from the paper used in books and magazines to cartons, paper stationery, tissues, nappies, paper towels and sanitary goods.

A world leader in sustainability and innovation, the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing industry uses independently certified renewable resources; internationally recognised best practices for recycling; and continuously improves its energy/water efficiency and emissions.

The industry’s structure is made up of six sectors encompassed within primary and secondary manufacturing. Outputs from the primary manufacturing sector of Pulp, Paper and Paperboard are used by secondary sector manufacturers, which include:

  • Corrugated Paperboard and Paperboard Container Manufacturing
  • Paper Bag and other Paper Product Manufacturing
  • Paper Stationery Manufacturing
  • Sanitary Paper Product Manufacturing
  • Paper Product Merchandising.

The proportion of people employed by the industry has steadily decreased between 2006 and 2016 according to the Australian Forest and Wood Products Statistics March and June Quarters 2018 report. During 2018 the industry was made up of 679 manufacturing businesses and 1,057 paper product wholesaling businesses, employing approximately 30,000 people. A significant proportion of the industry is made up of non-employing and small businesses, with a few large-scale multinational companies dominating operations.

The industry makes a significant contribution to Australia’s economy and regional communities. It is highly concentrated in regional Victoria and New South Wales, with around 75% of industry business located in these two states and roughly half of the jobs sustained by this industry located in regional Australia.

The Pulp and Paper industry contributed $3.7 billion to the Australian economy in 2018. Although certain sectors of the industry have experienced significant growth in 2017/18, the impact of digitisation has been felt with reduced demand for paper products like newspapers and envelopes leading to an overall contraction of the industry in the past five years.

Nationally recognised training for the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing industry is delivered under the PPM – Pulp & Paper Manufacturing Industry Training Package.

For information on the Forestry and Timber Processing and Products industry sectors please visit the respective pages.

Information sourced from the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast and the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing IRC’s 2020 Skills Forecast.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

IRC and skills forecasts

IRCs now submit comprehensive Skills Forecasts to the AISC every 3 years, with abridged annual updates submitted in the intervening 2 years.

Pulp and Paper Manufacturing

Employment trends

Please note: any employment projections outlined below were calculated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics prior to COVID-19.

Employment snapshot

Employment levels for the Converted Paper Product Manufacturing industry sector have fluctuated over the period 2000 to 2020. Levels have been increasing since 2017 and reached a high of around 9,800 in 2020, however, employment levels are projected to decrease to roughly 8,100 by 2024.

The employment level in the Pulp, Paper and Paperboard Manufacturing industry sector has declined overall between 2000 and 2020, from around 8,800 to 5,400. A further decline to roughly 3,600 is projected by 2024.

An overall decline in employment levels has also occurred in the Pulp, Paper and Converted Paper Product Manufacturing nfd industry sector, between 2000 and 2020, from around 6,600 to 3,500. A further decline to roughly 2,200 is projected by 2024.

The occupations of Paper and Wood Processing Machine Operators and Printers make up over 15% of the Pulp, Paper and Converted Paper Product Manufacturing industry, however, the biggest growth in employment levels are predicted for the occupations of Other Stationary Plant Operators and Forklift Drivers, at 10% and 9% respectively.

Training trends

Training snapshot

There was no training activity in the PPM Pulp & Paper Manufacturing Industry Training Package during 2018 or 2019, with no program enrolments or program completions. Program enrolments had declined from 47 in 2015, to 27 in 2016 and to 6 in 2017. Program completions dropped from 34 in 2015 to 5 in 2016 and no completions have been recorded since 2016.

There were no enrolments in apprenticeships or traineeships.

The Pulp and Paper Manufacturing IRC's 2020 Skills Forecast notes that while all Pulp and Paper Manufacturing-related qualifications are available as traineeships, there are no recognised apprenticeships in the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing industry. When state-based or national funding is made available for taking on new apprentices, industry employers are not eligible to apply because no Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) deliver accredited Pulp and Paper Manufacturing-related training.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s VET students by industry.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

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Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

The following generic skills have been identified as important for the industry:

  • Learning agility/Information literacy/Intellectual autonomy and self-management skills
  • Design mindset/Thinking critically/Systems thinking/Problem solving skills
  • Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) skills
  • Technology use and application skills
  • Communication/Collaboration, including Virtual collaboration/Social intelligence skills.

In addition, the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast has identified the following priority skills for the industry:

  • Pulp de-inking and bleaching for high and medium grade paper products
  • Technology skills for paper bag, paper stationery and sanitary paper product manufacturing.

With the availability of training materials, trainers and assessors within large scale businesses, there is an overarching preference among the industry to conduct in-house training to minimise disruptions to business efficiency and productivity that occur when employees participate in off-site training. In-house or vendor training in response to technology upgrades is also considered a more efficient method for businesses, minimising interruptions to production. Additional barriers to formal training include restricted access to publicly funded training support and limited access to formal training providers as currently there are no Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) that provide training in Paper and Pulp Manufacturing-related qualifications.

As outlined in the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast a diversity of challenges and opportunities are faced by the industry, brought about by a range of factors:

  • Resources – The scarcity of wood fibre and a growing global demand for the resource continues to be a concern around the world. In response to this, Australia has high rates of secondary fibre production which provide necessary resources and opportunities for the industry, with industrial paper and paperboard recycling rates equal to Europe and the United States.
  • Environment – Although the industry is a world leader in sustainability and innovation through its use of energy and water efficient practices, considerable efforts and advancement are being made to ensure the sustainability of the industry. Water systems are used across pulp and paper facilities which enable the recycling of wastewater for things like farm irrigation. The sector is also looking to expand on the ability of pulp and paper mills to deliver baseload electricity to the grid with a move towards investing in Energy from Waste (EfW) at major mills.
  • Business and economics – Growth in the industry is driven by two main segments, the packaging and tissue markets. The tissue market however faces ongoing competition from predominantly Chinese imported tissue products which put consistent pressure on local producers who are sustained by the marketing strategies for branded products. Global growth in online shopping, increasing product consumption, increase in pre-packaged foods and manufacturing are behind the high demand for packaging paper.
  • Emerging products and markets – Emphasis is being placed on the economic potential of bioenergy and bioprocessing, these occur when pulp and paper mills use chemical processing to extract new value from fibres and residues. Currently these by-products are used to create energy for the mills, but global developments suggest these processes can be used for higher value products like ethanol, polymers, carbon fibres and diesel fuel. It is expected these emerging by-products and associated processes will demand new skillsets from workers.
  • Technology – In order to keep up with changing market demands mainly resulting from increased digitisation, the conversion of newsprint mills to containerboard producers are considered inevitable, even with the significant associated conversion costs.
  • Cross sectoral concerns / dependencies – Infrastructure development with a focus on air freight and digital networks for real-time supply chain management have been identified as key areas of focus for improving efficiency and competitiveness in the market.

The Pulp and Paper Manufacturing IRC's 2020 Skills Forecast reports that the industry has experienced a tumultuous year with major impacts from drought, bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been unforeseen and record demand for products such as toilet paper, tissues, medical, sanitary and packaging products as well as a recovered materials export ban. At the same time, the industry has continued with its push for a circular economy and move towards up taking bioenergy and biomass opportunities. There have been sectoral changes highlighted by consumers increasingly moving to online and digital habits, Australian grocery stores moving to reduced paper quality and the closure of mill sites.

Bio-manufacturing and recovered paper offer opportunities for specific skill development in the industry. Work is underway to ensure bio-manufacturing is conducted in a standardised, safe and effective manner. Current proposed projects aim to re-establish formal vocational education and training within the industry. The first project will review and rationalise the Pulp & Paper Manufacturing Industry Training Package, identifying any possibilities for the utilisation of cross-sector units and ensuring accredited qualifications exist with core competencies supported by a larger bank of electives. The second project aims to develop a suite of nationally consistent training and assessment materials to support technical units of competency within the Pulp & Paper Manufacturing Industry Training Package as a result of the above review. These projects will ensure the Training Package is developed to reflect the evolving industry roles and skill requirements and assist in attracting Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) back to the industry.

The industry workforce is ageing, with only 11% of paper and wood processing machine operators aged under 24 years old. Whilst Australians are generally working longer across many industries, there is a concern that employers cannot access a younger next generation of workers to maintain industry skills and knowledge. Making VET qualifications more accessible to younger people, either through the VET in Schools program or RTOs, would promote the industry to potential employees, especially if training and career pathways are made clear.

COVID-19 impact

The Pulp and Paper Manufacturing IRC's 2020 Skills Forecast highlights that the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing industry was granted essential industry status and continued to operate throughout the COVID-19 crisis to ensure Australians continued to have access to essential goods and services including:

  • Toilet paper, tissues, medical products, sanitary products and other paper products experiencing record demand
  • Cardboard packaging for supermarket and retail deliveries, including pharmaceuticals
  • Food and beverage packaging
  • Newspaper for most of Australia's metropolitan and regional newspapers, which are an essential source of information for the community.

Policies and procedures have been developed and implemented to minimise the risk of the spread of COVID-19. The following strategies for dealing with any skills shortages as a result of COVID-19 has also been developed. Any immediate needs to replace operators involved in a localised outbreak of COVID-19 are best dealt with by upskilling lower level operators – it is easier to backfill lower level roles than to recruit or transfer in skills from other occupations or industries. In order to be able to respond to workforce gaps due to a COVID-19 outbreak, the following needs to be done:

  • Identify skills gaps for operators who need to upskill to fill roles that are impacted – this includes specific gap identification and mapping for industry enterprises
  • Identify routes for cross-skilling – so that operators can move between areas of the plant to fill gaps
  • An entry level course or skill set developed for lower level roles
  • Development of learning and assessment materials for this entry level skill set or course. Materials must be available for mixed mode delivery in some skill areas (such as live stream), online delivery in others (underpinning knowledge). Mixed mode learning and assessment materials for identified skills gaps for operators are also required to ensure quick and industry standardised delivery and assessment.

Employment in the largest sectors of Pulp and Paper Manufacturing were expected to remain steady prior to COVID-19. It is unclear what the impact of COVID-19 will be on employment, but it could be anticipated to remain steady or increase, with higher demand for Australian produced toilet paper and other paper products; and increased use of packaging materials with greater levels of online purchasing and delivery. Parcel volumes in the national-wide lockdown period reached similar levels to peak periods such as Christmas and online sales such as Black Friday and Boxing Day.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

Relevant research

Australian Forest and Wood Products Statistics March and June Quarters 2018 – Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

The Value of Being 'Essential' – IndustryEdge


Industry associations and advisory bodies

Australasian Pulp and Paper Technical Association (Appita)

Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA)




Employee associations

Australian Workers’ Union (AWU)

Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU, though commonly still referred to as CFMEU)


Industry research and development services bodies

Bioresource Processing Institute of Australia (BioPRIA)

Forest and Wood Products Australia Ltd (FWPA)

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2020, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, employment projections to May 2024
    • 150 Pulp, Paper and Converted Paper Product Manufacturing
    • 151 Pulp, Paper and Paperboard Manufacturing
    • 152 Converted Paper Product Manufacturing
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2024
    • 7113 Paper and Wood Processing Machine Operators
    • 3923 Printers
    • 7129 Other Stationary Plant Operators
    • 7213 Forklift Drivers
    • 8321 Packers.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020, Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 - EQ06, viewed 1 August 2020

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, 2000 to 2020, May quarter
    • 150 Pulp, Paper and Converted Paper Product Manufacturing
    • 151 Pulp, Paper and Paperboard Manufacturing
    • 152 Converted Paper Product Manufacturing.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by 2 digit Pulp, Paper and Converted Paper Product Manufacturing industry, and 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET students and courses from the PPM Pulp & Paper Manufacturing Industry Training Package.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2015 to 2019 program enrolments
  • 2015 to 2019 subject enrolments
  • 2015 to 2019 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

Priority and generic skills data have been extracted from the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast

Updated: 05 Nov 2020
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