Happiness Is Personal, Not National, Israelis Say

Forget war, wage inequality or the price of dairy. When it comes to ranking their quality of life, Israelis eschew the big picture in favor of what affects them right now, according to a new survey.

Tali Heruti-Sover.
Tali Heruti-Sover
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Tali Heruti-Sover.
Tali Heruti-Sover

Actually, it may not be the economy, stupid.

Despite the widespread social-justice protests of 2011 and the cries against high rent and inflated food costs that marked recent elections here, only 69 percent of Israelis believe that national economic situation is taking a toll on their quality of life, according to a new report from the nonprofit organization Kalkala Bat Kayama. The organization surveyed 400 Israelis, from all regions of the country, over the past year in a bid to measure the public's quality of life and progress in Israel.

The survey was conducted as part of a project headed by Roni Daniel and funded by the Heinrich Boell Foundation. To test his subjects, Daniel prepared workshops in which he showed participants the subjects of education, health, security, employment, family and community and environment and asked them to rank criteria most crucial to them within each subject.

Survey participants ranked issues of personal importance higher than those relating to the general public, leading Daniel to conclude that Israelis don't see the big picture of their lives, choosing instead to focus more narrowly on the issues that affect them immediately.

In the economic realm, 93 percent of participants ranked family economy at the top of the factors affecting their quality of life. And when it came to any influential factors, only 69 percent of respondents listed the national economy at all.

In discussing health and security, the results were similar. Eighty-seven percent of respondents said that having personal access to a physician is the number one factor affecting their health. In comparison, only 73 percent marked the general indicators – including public health, life expectancy and number of deaths and births – as affecting their quality of life in any way. In the category of security, the most influential measurement was civilian crime (88 percent), while national security was ranked second in importance (78 percent).

Asked to discuss education, 85 percent of participants said the quality of their teachers mattered most. And when it came to employment, a whopping 100 percent of respondents said job conditions affected their quality of life. Other factors in this category are the average salary relative to the Western world, average buying power, social benefits, whether or not they are able to earn a pension, the number of unionized workers and the ratio of free time to work time.

In comparison, only 78 percent of the respondents emphasized equal rights in the job market, and only 69 percent noted their degree of job satisfaction as a factor in overall quality of life. Fifty-six percent put an emphasis on the importance of having a variety of job options, and the same percentage said it was crucial for the state to provide job training for the unemployed.

Israeli workers have some of the longest hours in the world. In the family category, free time with loved ones was the leading factor affecting quality of life.

Illustration: An Israeli family.Credit: Ilya Melnikov

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