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Israel performs well in few measures of well-being in the Better Life Index. Israel ranks above the average in health status and subjective well-being, but below average in education and skills, housing, environmental quality, personal security, work-life balance, social connections and civic engagement.
Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Israel, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is lower than the OECD average of USD 25 908 a year.
In terms of employment, over 67% of people aged 15 to 64 in Israel have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 65%. Some 71% of men are in paid work, compared with 63% of women. In Israel,almost 16% of employees work very long hours, one of the highest in the OECD where the average is 13%. About 24% of men work very long hours compared with 8% for women.
Good education and skills are important requisites for finding a job. In Israel, 85% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, higher than the OECD average of 75%. This is truer of women than men, as 84% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 85% of women. In terms of the quality of the education system, the average student scored 474 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), below the OECD average of 497. On average in Israel, girls outperformed boys by 11 points, a slightly larger difference than the average OECD gap of 8 points.
In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Israel is almost 82 years, two years higher than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 84 years, compared with 80 for men. The level of atmospheric PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 21.4 micrograms per cubic meter in large urban areas, higher than the OECD average of 20.1 micrograms per cubic meter. Israel could also perform better in terms of water quality, as only 68% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, compared with an OECD average of 81%, and one of the lowest rates in the OECD.
Concerning the public sphere, there is a sense of community and moderate levels of civic participation in Israel, where 87% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, slightly lower than the OECD average of 88%. Voter turnout, a measure of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 68% during recent elections, in line with the OECD average. Social and economic status can affect voting rates; voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 74% and for the bottom 20% it is an estimated 66%, a narrower gap than the OECD average gap of 13 percentage points.
In general, Israelis are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Israelis gave it a 7.4 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.6.
OECD in Action
Employment and Skills Strategies in Israel
This report delivers evidence-based and practical recommendations on how to better support employment and economic development in Israel. It provides a comparative framework to understand the role of the local level in contributing to more and better quality jobs. The report can help national and local policy makers in Israel build effective and sustainable partnerships at the local level, which join-up efforts and achieve stronger outcomes across employment, training, and economic development policies. Co-ordinated policies can help workers find suitable jobs, while also stimulating entrepreneurship and productivity, which increases the quality of life and prosperity within a community as well as throughout the country.Read this report
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Israel in Detail
Housing – Israel expand
Living in satisfactory housing conditions is one of the most important aspects of people’s lives. Housing is essential to meet basic needs, such as shelter, but it is not just a question of four walls and a roof. Housing should offer a place to sleep and rest where people feel safe and have privacy and personal space; somewhere they can raise a family. All of these elements help make a house a home. And of course there is the question whether people can afford adequate housing.
Housing costs take up a large share of the household budget and represent the largest single expenditure for many individuals and families, by the time you add up elements such as rent, gas, electricity, water, furniture or repairs. In addition to housing costs it is also important to examine living conditions, such as the average number of rooms shared per person and whether households have access to basic facilities. The number of rooms in a dwelling, divided by the number of persons living there, indicates whether residents are living in crowded conditions. Overcrowded housing may have a negative impact on physical and mental health, relations with others and children’s development. In addition, dense living conditions are often a sign of inadequate water and sewage supply. In Israel, the average home contains 1.2 rooms per person, less than the OECD average of 1.8 rooms per person.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Income – Israel expand
While money may not buy happiness, it is an important means to achieving higher living standards and thus greater well-being. Higher economic wealth may also improve access to quality education, health care and housing.
Household net-adjusted disposable income is the amount of money that a household earns each year after taxes and transfers. It represents the money available to a household for spending on goods or services. In Israel, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is lower than the OECD average of USD 25 908.
Household financial wealth is the total value of a household’s financial worth, such as money or shares held in bank accounts. In Israel, the average household net financial wealth per capita is estimated at USD 52 933, lower than the OECD average of USD 67 139. While the ideal measure of household wealth should also include non-financial assets (e.g. land and dwellings), such information is currently available for only a small number of OECD countries, and is not included here.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Jobs – Israel expand
Having a job brings many important benefits, including: providing a source of income, improving social inclusion, fulfilling one’s own aspirations, building self-esteem and developing skills and competencies. In Israel, around 67% of the working-age population aged 15 to 64 has a paid job. This figure is higher than the OECD employment average of 65%. Employment rates are generally higher for individuals with a higher level of education; in Israel an estimated 85% of individuals with at least a tertiary education have a paid job, compared with an estimated 32% for those without an upper secondary education. This 53 percentage point difference is much higher than the OECD average of 34 percentage points.
Women are still less likely than men to participate in the labour market. In Israel, 63% of women have jobs. This is more than the OECD average of 58% but less than the 71% employment rate of men in Israel. This 8 percentage point gender difference, however, is lower than the OECD average of 15 percentage points and suggests Israel could further improve employment opportunities for women but has generally been successful in addressing the constraints and barriers women face accessing work.
Unemployed persons are defined as those who are not currently working but are willing to do so and actively searching for work. Long-term unemployment can have a large negative effect on feelings of well-being and self-worth and result in a loss of skills, further reducing employability. In Israel, the percentage of the labour force that has been unemployed for a year or longer is currently at 0.8%, much lower than the OECD average of 2.8%. There is little difference on average between men and women in the OECD area when it comes to long-term unemployment. In Israel, the long-term unemployment rate for men is slightly higher than for women, with respectively 0.9% and 0.7%.
The wages and other monetary benefits that come with employment are an important aspect of job quality. Israelis earn USD 28 817 per year on average, less than the OECD average of USD 36 118. Not everyone earns that amount however. In all OECD countries, men still earn more than women, with an average wage gap of 15.5%. In Israel, men earn 21.8% more than women. Also, whereas the top 20% of the population earn an estimated USD 39 492 per year, the bottom 20% live on an estimated USD 13 704 per year.
Another essential factor of employment quality is job security. Workers facing a high risk of job loss are more vulnerable, especially in countries with smaller social safety nets. In Israel, workers face a 5.0% chance of losing their job, lower than the OECD average of 5.4%.
More ResourcesWell‑being in the workplace: Measuring job quality
Community – Israel expand
Humans are social creatures. The frequency of our contact with others and the quality of our personal relationships are thus crucial determinants of our well-being.
A strong social network, or community, can provide emotional support during both good and bad times as well as provide access to jobs, services and other material opportunities. In Israel, 87% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in a time of need, less than the OECD average of 88%. There is a 2 percentage point difference between men and women, as 88% of men believe they have this kind of social support, compared with 86% of women.
A weak social network can result in limited economic opportunities, a lack of contact with others, and eventually, feelings of isolation. Socially isolated individuals face difficulties integrating into society as a contributing member and fulfilling personal aspirations.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance OECD Insights: Human Capital
Education – Israel expand
A well-educated and well-trained population is essential for a country’s social and economic well-being. Education plays a key role in providing individuals with the knowledge, skills and competences needed to participate effectively in society and in the economy. Having a good education greatly improves the likelihood of finding a job and earning enough money.
Israelis can expect to go through 15.8 years of education between the ages of 5 and 39, less than the OECD average of 17.7 years and one of the lowest levels in the OECD.
Graduating from upper secondary education has become increasingly important in all countries, as the skills needed in the labour market are becoming more knowledge-based. High-school graduation rates therefore provide a good indication of whether a country is preparing its students to meet the minimum requirements of the job market. In Israel, 85% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, higher than the OECD average of 75%. Across the OECD, slightly more men aged 25-64 have the equivalent of a high-school degree compared with women from the same age group. In Israel, however, 85% of women have successfully completed high-school compared with 84% of men. This is also trueat the university level, as more women complete tertiary education than men in Israel, at 52% and 43% respectively. This 9 percentage point gap is larger than the OECD average of 4 percentage points.
But graduation rates, while important, speak little to the quality of education received. The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reviews the extent to which students have acquired some of the knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in modern societies. In 2012, PISA focused on examining students’ reading ability, skills in maths and level in sciences, as research shows that these skills are more reliable predictors of economic and social well-being than the number of years spent in school.
The average student in Israel scored 474 in reading literacy, maths and sciences, lower than the OECD average of 497. On average, girls outperformed boys by 11 points, slightly more than the average OECD gap of 8 points.
The best-performing school systems manage to provide high-quality education to all students. In Israel, the average difference in results, between the students with the highest socio-economic background and the students with the lowest socio-economic background is 115 points, much higher than the OECD average of 96 points. This suggests the school system in Israel does not provide equal access to high-quality education.
Better Policies for Better Lives
Effective vocational education and training
Israel’s post-secondary vocational education and training (VET) system is diverse, with relatively good labour market outcomes for graduates. Options include one-year technician studies and two-year practical engineering programmes, a wide range of shorter vocational courses under the Ministry of Economy, and professional certifications. These certifications can sometimes be taken at the end of an educational programme, and sometimes as a stand-alone examination.
There are also many vocational programmes at bachelor level and above in universities and other tertiary academic institutions. Bearing in mind the range of these different options, as well as diverse private sector sources, and targeted programmes directed at disadvantaged groups, the system offers options for most of the relevant client groups.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Environment – Israel expand
The quality of our local living environment has a direct impact on our health and well-being. Outdoor air pollution is one important environmental issue that directly affects the quality of people’s lives. Despite national and international interventions and decreases in major pollutant emissions, the health impacts of urban air pollution continue to worsen, with air pollution set to become the top environmental cause of premature mortality globally by 2050. Air pollution in urban centres, often caused by transport and the use of small-scale burning of wood or coal, is linked to a range of health problems, from minor eye irritation to upper respiratory symptoms in the short-term and chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer in the long-term. Children and the elderly may be particularly vulnerable.
PM10 – tiny particulate matter small enough to be inhaled into the deepest part of the lung – is monitored in OECD countries because it can harm human health and reduce life expectancy. In Israel, PM10 levels in urban areas are 21.4 micrograms per cubic meter, slightly higher than the OECD average of 20.1 micrograms per cubic meter and the annual guideline limit of 20 micrograms per cubic meter set by the World Health Organization.
Access to clean water is fundamental to human well-being. Despite significant progress in OECD countries in reducing water pollution, improvements in freshwater quality are not always easy to discern. In Israel, only 68% of people say they are satisfied with water quality. This figure is one of the lowest in the OECD where the average satisfaction level is 81%.
More ResourcesOECD Environmental Outlook to 2030 How's Life?: Work and Life Balance
Governance – Israel expand
Trust in government is essential for social cohesion and well-being. High voter turnout is a measure of citizens’ participation in the political process. In the most recent elections for which data are available, voter turnout in Israel was 68% of those registered. This figure is in line with the OECD average.
Even if the right to vote is universal in all OECD countries, not everyone exercises this right. There is little difference in the voting rates of men and women in most OECD countries. This is the case in Israel, where the voter turnout of men and women is similar, at an estimated 67% and 69%. While on average there are few differences between men and women concerning participation in elections, income can make a big difference in voter turnout. In Israel, voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 74%, whereas the participation rate of the bottom 20% is an estimated 66%. This 8 percentage point difference is lower than the OECD average difference of 13 percentage points.
In general, women are in the minority among elected representatives and although their number has slightly increased in the last decade, it is still well below parity. In Israel, only 23% of the seats in national parliament are held by women, less than the OECD average of 28%.
Ensuring that government decision making is not compromised by conflicts of interest is key to maintaining trust in government. Transparency is therefore essential to hold government to account and to maintain confidence in public institutions.
Freedom of information laws (FOI) allow the possibility for individuals to access undisclosed information. For such policies to be successful, the public should have a clear understanding of their rights under the law, should be able to file requests with ease and should be protected against any possible retaliation. People in Israel can file a request for information either in writing or online, but not yet by telephone or in person. In addition, there are no provisions for anonymity or protection from retaliation.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Health – Israel expand
Most OECD countries have enjoyed large gains in life expectancy over the past decades, thanks to improvements in living conditions, public health interventions and progress in medical care. Life expectancy at birth in Israel stands at almost 82 years, two years above the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 84 years, compared with 80 for men, close to the average OECD gender gap of five years with a life expectancy of 82 years for women and 77 for men. Higher life expectancy is generally associated with higher health care spending per person, although many other factors such as living standards, lifestyles, education and environmental factors have an impact on life expectancy.
When asked, “How is your health in general?” 80% of people in Israel reported to be in good health, more than the OECD average of 68%. Despite the subjective nature of this question, answers have been found to be a good predictor of people’s future health care use. Gender, age and social status may affect answers to this question. On average in OECD countries, men are more likely to report good health than women, with an average of 70% for men and 66% for women. In Israel, the average is 82% for men and 78% for women. Not surprisingly, older people report poorer health, as do those who are unemployed, or who have less education or income. About 96% of adults with a disposable income in the top 20% in Israel rate their health as “good” or “very good”, compared to about 84% for those with a disposable income in the bottom 20%.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Life Satisfaction – Israel expand
Happiness or subjective well-being can be measured in terms of life satisfaction, the presence of positive experiences and feelings, and the absence of negative experiences and feelings. Such measures, while subjective, are a useful complement to objective data to compare the quality of life across countries.
Life satisfaction measures how people evaluate their life as a whole rather than their current feelings. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Israelis gave it a 7.4 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.6.
There is little difference in life satisfaction levels between men and women across OECD countries. This is true in Israel, where men gave their life a 7.5 grade, only slightly higher than the 7.3 grade given by women.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Safety – Israel expand
Personal security is a core element for the well-being of individuals, and includes the risks of people being physically assaulted or falling victim to other types of crime. Across the OECD, assault rates have generally declined in the past five years. In Israel, 6.4% of people reported falling victim to assault over the previous 12 months, much more than the OECD average of 3.9%. There is little difference between men and women in assault rates, at respectively 5.9% and 6.8%.
The homicide rate (the number of murders per 100 000 inhabitants) is a more reliable measure of a country’s safety level because, unlike other crimes, murders are usually always reported to the police. According to the latest OECD data, Israel’s homicide rate is 2.3, lower than the OECD average of 4.0. In Israel, the homicide rate for men is 3.5 compared with 1.1 for women.
However, while men are at a greater risk of being victims of assault and violent crime, women report lower feelings of security than men. This has been explained by a greater fear of sexual attacks, the feeling they must also protect their children and their concern that they may be seen as partially responsible.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Work-Life Balance – Israel expand
Finding a suitable balance between work and life is a challenge for all workers, especially working parents. The ability to successfully combine work, family commitments and personal life is important for the well-being of all members in a household. Governments can help to address the issue by encouraging supportive and flexible working practices, making it easier for parents to strike a better balance between work and home life.
An important aspect of work-life balance is the amount of time a person spends at work. Evidence suggests that long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardise safety and increase stress. The share of employees working 50 hours or more per week is not very large across OECD countries. In Israel, 16% of employees work very long hours, one of the highest in the OECD where the average is 13%. Overall, more men work very long hours; in Israel 24% of men work very long hours, compared with 8% for women.