Israel ranked 25th out of 36 countries in the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development’s 2012 Better Life Index, placing rock bottom for
the quality of its civic engagement.
The OECD published the results of
this year’s survey late on Tuesday, ranking its 34 members plus Russia and
Brazil on material living conditions and quality of life. The report assessed
the countries in 11 categories: housing, income, jobs, community, education,
environment, civic engagement, health, life satisfaction, safety and work/life
Australia, Norway and the United States occupied the index’s top
three spots, while Turkey finished last behind Mexico and Chile. Israel ranked
just behind South Korea, but performed marginally better than the Slovakia,
Poland, Greece and Portugal.
Israel performed most impressively in the
health section, scoring 8.8 out of a possible 10 points to finish behind only
Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia and Canada.
It was ranked high for
having an average life expectancy of 82 years, two years above the OECD average
of 80. However, the OECD sounded a warning over its relatively high level of
atmospheric PM 10 – air pollutant particles small enough to enter and damage the
Israel scored below average in most of the 11 categories,
including education, in which it finished 28th with a score of 4.9.
report acknowledged that 80 percent of adults aged 25-64 have earned the
equivalent of a high-school degree, above the OECD average. But it pointed out
that Israeli students scored an average 459 in reading literacy, math and
science in the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment, below the
global average of 497. It added that Israeli females outperformed their male
counterparts by 13 points, wider than the average OECD gap of 9
Overall, Israelis were found to be more satisfied with their
lives than the average citizen of other OECD countries. Israeli men gave their
lives a grade of 7.4 out of 10 and Israeli women gave their lives a grade of
7.3, compared to the OECD average (for both genders) of 6.7. However, Israel’s
life satisfaction data revealed a particularly high degree of social inequality;
the top 20% of Israeli income earners graded their lives an 8.0, but the bottom
20% only graded theirs a 6.6.
A lack of affordable housing was one of the
central issues highlighted by last year’s social justice protests, and it was
this issue that the OECD identified as Israel’s Achilles’ heel. The report found
that Israelis spend an average of 22% of their disposable income on keeping a
roof over their heads, about the same as the OECD average. But it emphasized
that the country suffers from a problem of overcrowded housing, pointing out
that the average home contains 1.2 rooms per person, less than the OECD average
of 1.6 rooms per person.
Israel’s most glaring weakness was civic
engagement, in which it ranked last, below even Russia. Israelis were only
slightly more distrustful of their political institutions than the OECD average,
but the country’s score was downgraded because of weak freedom of information
laws. According to the OECD, Israelis can file an information request in writing
or online, but not yet by telephone or in person.
In addition, the report
said, there are no provisions for anonymity or protection from
The report was released as OECD finance ministers gathered
at an annual conference in Paris. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz emphasized the
importance of investments in his speech to the conference on Wednesday, saying:
“Investments are the main engine of growth, and Israel will continue to make
every effort to increase them.”