Despite Some Governmental Shortcomings, Israelis Remain Happy, Poll Says

The percentage of Israelis who are satisfied with their lives is similar to the figures for New Zealand, Australia and Mexico.

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Israelis holds-up banners as they march in the centre of the coastal city of Tel Aviv on July 30, 2011, to protest against rising housing prices and social inequalities in the Jewish state.
Israelis holds-up banners as they march in the centre of the coastal city of Tel Aviv on July 30, 2011, to protest against rising housing prices and social inequalities in the Jewish state.Credit: AFP

Israel’s government is disappointing citizens in two key areas – housing and education, according to a quality of life index published on Wednesday by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

This is the first thorough report of its kind to be published in Israel. It seeks to evaluate the results of government policy and to measure quality of life, and is being published following a 2012 government decision.

The statistics in the report were pulled together by the Environmental Protection Ministry in cooperation with other ministries and the OECD, which published its findings on Israel in January.

“National decision-making based on one measure – GDP or GDP per capita – is like driving while using only the speedometer. Speed isn’t everything; it’s a means of getting somewhere. Likewise, economic growth isn’t the goal; improving the quality of life is,” states the report.

The report finds that Israel has one of the highest rates of murder and terror victims in the Western world, and one of the worst pollution levels. The high housing prices are pushing the less well off into financial crisis, while the education system is lagging behind those of Western nations.

Yet Israelis are satisfied with their lives. In 2013, some 86% of respondents age 20 and up reported being very satisfied with their lives. The figure was 89% for Jews, 73% for Arabs. This figure has been increasing since 2002 – when the second intifada was raging, at which point it was 82% for Jews – and is higher than the OECD average. The percentage of Israelis who are satisfied with their lives is similar to the figures for New Zealand, Australia and Mexico.

In the 2012 global survey, some 49% of Israelis said they expected their lives to improve, versus the 52% average.

Only half of all Israelis (53%) are satisfied with their financial situation. Among those aged 20-44, the figure is slightly lower (49%); among Arabs it’s lower still (41%).

The figures are yet another expression of the gaps between Israel’s Arab and Jewish citizens. Some of the most notable reflections of this are the difference in life expectancy and in average income.

Besides the high rate of inequality and poverty in Israel, which are among the highest in developed nations, the rate of sexual harassment and sexual assault has been increasing over the past few years as well.

The OECD noted in its January report that Israel was among the worst-ranked nations in terms of poverty, housing costs, air quality and student performance. It also noted that Israeli Arabs fared worse in every quantifiable measure.

In discussions on building the index, representatives of the public had placed great weight on housing and education, ranking them 4.5 out of 5 in importance. Israelis also place great significance in job security and employment conditions, but are also concerned about family/work balance, which is considered particularly fragile in Israel.

The report found that about half of households in the poorest 10% spent more than 30% of their net income on housing – rent or mortgage – versus only 14.9% spent by those in the richest 10%. Since 2011, when the social justice protests broke out, spurred in great part by high housing prices, the percentage of those spending more than 30% on housing has only increased.

However, the Central Bureau of Statistics survey found that some 84% of Israelis are satisfied with their home and the area in which they live. Satisfaction rates were particularly high in the Tel Aviv suburbs Ramat Gan and Rishon Letzion – 93% and 88%, respectively – while satisfaction in Jerusalem lagged, at 75%.

Satisfaction with public transport was a poor 40%, versus 44% in 2002. Only 54% of Israelis reported being happy about the cleanliness of their area of residence.

Regarding employment, the report found that the median household income for 2014 was 15,200 shekels a month, an increase from 12,800 in 2002 in inflation-adjusted terms. However, the figure was 16,700 shekels for Jewish households, but only 9,000 shekels for Arab households.

Some 87.6% of Israelis reported being satisfied with their jobs in 2014, although only 60% said they were satisfied with their salary. In 2002, only 45% reported being satisfied with their salary.

According to OECD figures, Israelis work more than the OECD average – 40.9 hours a week in Israel versus 38.4 hours in the OECD – but earn less.

The survey also found that Israelis feel a sense of personal security despite the national security situation. Some 75% of adults under age 60 reported feeling safe while walking alone at night near their homes. Not surprisingly, that figure was higher for men than for women – 84% versus 63%.

However, violent death is more common in Israel than in other OECD countries. In Israel, there were 1.8 cases of violent deaths per 100,000 residents, versus 1.3 in the OECD, not including Mexico. Deaths from terror attacks came to 0.3 people per 100,000 residents in 2014, while murders totaled 1.5 people per 100,000 residents. While murders have been declining since 2000, Arabs are more than twice as likely to be murdered than Jews.

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