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Israel performs well in many measures of well-being, as shown by the fact that it ranks close to the average or higher in several topics in the Better Life Index.
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 23 938 USD 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 62% of women. People in Israel work 1 910 hours a year, more than the OECD average of 1 765 hours. Almost 19% of employees work very long hours, much higher than the OECD average of 9%, with 28% of men working very long hours compared with 9% for women.
Having a good education is an important requisite for finding a job. In Israel, 83% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, higher than the OECD average of 75%. There is little difference between men and women, as 82% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 84% 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, higher than the OECD average of 20.1 micrograms per cubic meter. Israel could also perform better in terms of water quality, as only 66% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, compared with an OECD average of 84%.
Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and moderate levels of civic participation in Israel, where 89% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, in line with the OECD average. Voter turnout, a measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 68% during recent elections, lower than the OECD average of 72%. 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 slightly narrower gap than the OECD average gap of 11 percentage points.
In general, Israelis are less satisfied with their lives than the OECD average, with 65% of people saying they have more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc.) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc.). This figure is lower than the OECD average of 76%.
OECD in Action
A Skills beyond School Review of Israel
Higher level vocational education and training (VET) programmes are facing rapid change and intensifying challenges. This report on Israel examines what type of training is needed to meet the needs of a changing economy, how programmes should be funded, how they should be linked to academic and university programmes and how employers and unions can be engaged. The country reports in this series look at these and other questions. They form part of Skills beyond School, the OECD policy review of post-secondary vocational education and training.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. In Israel, 83% of people say they are satisfied with their current housing situation, less than the OECD average of 87%. This relatively low level of subjective satisfaction reflects Israel’s performance in objective housing indicators.
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 1.1 rooms per person, less than the OECD average of 1.6 rooms per person and one of the lowest rates in the OECD.
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 23 047 USD.
Household financial wealth is the total value of a household’s financial worth. In Israel, the average household net financial wealth per capita is estimated at 55 932 USD, higher than the OECD average of 42 903 USD. While the ideal measure of household wealth should include non-financial assets (e.g. land and dwellings), such information is currently available for only a small number of OECD countries.
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 slightly 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 89% of individuals with at least a tertiary education have a paid job, compared with an estimated 33% for those without an upper secondary education. This 56 percentage point difference is much higher than the OECD average of 33 percentage points and suggests the job market in Israel is restrictive.
Women are still less likely than men to participate in the labour market. In Israel, 62% of women have jobs. This is more than the OECD average of 57% but less than the 71% employment rate of men in Israel. This 9 percentage point gender difference, however, is lower than the OECD average of 16 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.
Young people aged 15-24 in Israel face an unemployment rate of 12.1% compared with the OECD average of 16.3%.
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 0.9%, much lower than the OECD average of 2.7%. There is little difference on average between men and women in the OECD area when it comes to long-term unemployment. This is true in Israel, where the long-term unemployment rate for men and women is the same.
The wages and other monetary benefits that come with employment are an important aspect of job quality. In Israel, people earn 27 577 US dollars per year on average, less than the OECD average of 41 010 USD. Not everyone earns that amount however. Whereas the top 20% of the population earn an estimated 37 793 USD per year, the bottom 20% live on an estimated 13 115 USD 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 6.5% chance of losing their job, higher than the OECD average of 5.3%.
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. Helping others can also make you happier. In Israel, about 49% of people reported having helped a stranger in the last month, in line with the OECD average.
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, 89% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in a time of need, in line with the OECD average. There is little difference between men and women, as 89% of men believe they have this kind of social support, compared with 90% of women. While gender has little impact on social network support, there is a clear relationship between the availability of social support on the one hand, and people’s education level on the other. In Israel, 67% of people who have completed primary education report having someone to count on for help in times of need, compared to 91% for people who attained tertiary education.
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. Across OECD countries, 83% of people with university-level degrees have a job, compared with t 55% for those with only a secondary school diploma. Lifetime earnings also increase with each level of education.
Following a decline in manual labour over previous decades, employers now favour a more educated labour force. 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, 83% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, 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, 84% of women have successfully completed high-school compared with 82% of men. Among younger people – a better indicator of Israel’s future – 90% of 25-34 year-olds have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, also higher than the OECD average of 82%.
Israelis can expect to go through 15.7 years of education between the ages of 5 and 39, less than the OECD average of 17.7 years and one of the lowest in the OECD.
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.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Environment – Israel expand
The quality of our local living environment has a direct impact on our health. Outdoor air pollution is one important environmental issue that directly affects the quality of peoples’ 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 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 66% 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 84%.
Better Policies for Better Lives
Reducing air pollution
Air quality has long been a priority of Israel’s environmental policy. Overall emissions of major air pollutants tended to decrease or stabilise during the 2000s. However, because of rapid population and economic growth and the associated increase in energy and transport demands, air pollution hotspots remain at industrial sites and in major urban areas. Particulate matter and ground-level ozone concentrations frequently exceed limit values for the protection of human health.
The Clean Air Law, which entered in force in 2011, consolidates the regulatory framework for air management policy. In addition, the Law creates a legal basis for imposing air emissions levies on large industrial facilities. The air quality monitoring network is among the densest in the world and data are made widely available to the public.
Many local authorities in Israel have actively engaged in national environmental initiatives or launched their own programmes. In 2008, for example, 18 major Israeli municipalities signed up to an initiative calling for the development of municipal plans with clear, measurable targets for reducing air pollution, as well as urban greenhouse gas emissions.
Although these initiatives clearly represent a step forward, in order to achieve long-term air quality goals more efforts are needed, especially to reduce air emissions from transport activities.
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. In Israel, 34% of people say they trust their national government, less than the OECD average of 39%. High voter turnout is another measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process. In the most recent elections for which data is available, voter turnout in Israel was 68% of those registered. This figure is lower than the OECD average of 72%.
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 have a strong influence on 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 11 percentage points, and suggests there is broad social inclusion in Israel’s democratic institutions.
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, a slightly smaller difference than the average OECD gender gap of six years with a life expectancy of 83 years for women and 77 for men.
Higher life expectancy is generally associated with higher healthcare spending per person, although many other factors such as living standards, lifestyles, education and environmental factors have an impact on life expectancy. Total health spending accounts for 7.7% of GDP in Israel, less than the average of 9.4% in OECD countries. Israel also ranks below the OECD average in terms of total health spending per person, at 2 239 USD in 2011, compared with an OECD average of 3 322 USD. Between 2000 and 2010, total health spending in Israel increased in real terms by 3.6% per year on average, a slower growth rate than the OECD average of 4.0%.
Throughout the OECD, tobacco consumption and excessive weight gain remain two important risk factors for many chronic diseases. Around 18.5% of adults in Israel smoke daily, compared with an OECD average of 20.9%. In many OECD countries, large proportions of the population are overweight or obese. In Israel, the obesity rate among adults based on self-reported height and weight is 15.7%, lower than the OECD average of 17.2%.Obesity’s growing prevalence foreshadows increases in the occurrence of health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and asthma, and higher health care costs in the future.
When asked, “How is your health in general?”82% of people in Israel reported to be in good health, higher than the OECD average of 69%. 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 72% for men and 67% for women. In Israel, the average is 84% for men and 80% 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 88% 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. It captures a reflective assessment of which life circumstances and conditions are important for subjective well-being. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Israelis gave it a 7.1 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 7.2 grade and women 7.0. Education levels, however, influence subjective well-being. Whereas people who have only completed primary education in Israel have a life satisfaction level of 6.3, this score reaches 7.4 for people with tertiary education.
Happiness, or subjective well-being, is also measured by the presence of positive experiences and feelings, and/or the absence of negative experiences and feelings. In Israel, 65% of people reported having more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc.) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc.). This figure is much lower than the OECD average of 76% and one of the lowest in the OECD.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Safety – Israel expand
Personal security is a core element for the well-being of individuals, and largely reflects 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 2.2, below the OECD average of 4.1. In Israel, the homicide rate for men is 3.4 compared with 1.0 for women.
Fear of crime is another important indicator as it can constrain behaviour, restrict freedom and threaten the foundation of communities. Despite a general reduction in assault rates in the past five years, in many OECD countries feelings of security have declined. In Israel, 63% of people feel safe walking alone at night, lower than the OECD average of 69%. While men are at a greater risk of being victims of assaults and violent crimes, 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. Some couples would like to have (more) children, but do not see how they could afford to stop working. Other parents are happy with the number of children in their family, but would like to work more. This is a challenge to governments because if parents cannot achieve their desired work/life balance, not only is their welfare lowered but so is development in the country.
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, jeopardize safety and increase stress. People in Israel work 1 910 hours a year, more than the OECD average of 1 765 hours. The share of employees working more than 50 hours per week is not very large across OECD countries. However, in Israel, close to 19% of employees work very long hours, one of the highest in the OECD where the average is 9%. Overall, men spend more hours in paid work: in Israel 28% of men work very long hours, compared with 9% for women.