The Taub Center for Social Policies in Israel's annual report reveals a series of worrying findings on Israel’s socio-economic development, including deficiencies in health, education, welfare and employment.
The most worrying finding pertains to the unemployment rate among haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men, which is higher than it was 35 years ago. The greatest change in employment patterns among working-age haredi, men is the sharp drop in the rate of those employed in economic sectors other than education, which is still considered to be the field in which the vast majority of haredi women are employed.
According to the report, Israel is still leading in poverty rates and income gaps relative to other developed countries, by greater margins than those measured a few decades ago. Among haredim and Arabs, more than half of households are living in poverty, a higher rate than was measured twenty years ago. However, even when haredim and Arabs are removed from the sample, the poverty rate in Israel is higher than in other developed countries, with one quarter of the population living below the poverty line, including 21% of children living in Israel.
The poverty rate takes on new meaning when looking at their impact on basic needs and services. One fifth of the population in Israel reports that financial constraints limit their ability to buy food, and more than one third are forced to limit the heating or cooling of their homes. Among Israeli citizens who needed medical treatment, one sixth decided to forego medications or medical treatment, and 21% went without dental treatment.
In terms of education, the report points to an improvement in student performance in core subjects, but emphasizes that Israeli students are still at the bottom of the scale, relative to other developed countries. According to the report, the reason for this is, among other things, that it is difficult to analyze the accomplishments of students in the Israeli educational system, due to the lack of formal standards and measures for the various age brackets in the schools.
In higher education, however, the report paints a rosier picture, with a constant rise over the last decades in demand for academic education among Israeli citizens. The report also states that the low priority of the matter on the national agenda has caused a drop in the number of senior faculty members at the universities compared with the academic colleges, where the number of students has increased more than tenfold over the last two decades.
Low productivity, reduced tax burden
The employment market in Israel, according to the report, is not encouraging either. The report concludes that Israel is a few decades behind on the labor productivity index, relative to other developed countries, and the main reason for the stunted development is the cumbersome government bureaucracy, which harms physical and human capital.
When it comes to taxes, it is surprising to discover that the tax burden in Israel has been reduced in recent years, and is currently considered to be lower than average among OECD countries. That said, those who carry the bulk of the burden are earners in the top 10%, who accounted for three quarters of government income tax earnings for 2013.
As for employee working conditions in Israel, the report found that Israelis sill work more hours than their counterparts in G7 countries. However, conditions for women in the workforce have been steadily improving, alongside their increased participation in the workforce, across all age groups. The most significant change is led by the perceptions of Israeli women, which, according to the report, have led them to take a greater part in the workforce throughout their lives.
According to the report, the life-expectancy of residents of Israel has risen in recent years, alongside a drop in infant mortality. However, the overall state of healthcare in Israel is not encouraging: alongside a narrowing of resource and budget allocation for the healthcare system, there has also been a drop in the number of doctors and registered nurses working in the Israeli public health system. This contrasts starkly with the steady rise among OECD countries.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on May 7, 2014
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