Public’s sense of well-being at all-time high, says report

Taub Center index reflects signs of economic recovery; haredim have higher- than-average score, despite poverty.

Haredi Israeli flag 311 (photo credit: Sarah Levin)
Haredi Israeli flag 311
(photo credit: Sarah Levin)
For the first time in two years, Israeli society is feeling more socially and economically stable, according to a report published Monday by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies.
The Taub Index of Social Confidence, a public opinion survey examining the attitudes of 1,000 Israeli citizens on social issues such as the standard of living, employment and unemployment, economic security and exposure to violence in society, showed that overall there has been a 17-percent increase in social confidence in the country, from 56.2 points in 2009 to 66 points this past year. This is the highest index rating since the center began measuring it in 2001.
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“The improvement seems to be for everyone across the board, although obviously there are different levels of social confidence for different population groups,” commented Prof. Ayal Kimhi, deputy director of the Taub Center and a lecturer of agricultural economics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
While some sectors showed lower levels of social and economic satisfaction, according to the index’s measurements, Kimhi said that overall the study reflected a positive mood in Israeli society and clear signs of an economic recovery.
“In 2008 and 2009, after the onset of the global economic crisis, people were pessimistic, but we can see that in 2010 we are moving out of a recession, and people are far more optimistic,” he said.
Perhaps the index’s most surprising revelation had to do with the haredi population, which did not express low levels of social or economic satisfaction despite continual reports of growing poverty and economic hardship in that sector.
“The haredim do not see themselves as socially weak,” explained Kimhi. “On the contrary, they do not think they are in a bad situation, perhaps because they have a strong and supportive social network in their community.”
The index score for the haredi population rose to 68 points, much higher than in previous years and also higher than the national average, the study found.
Also revealed was the low level of social-economic confidence among Israel’s Arab population, with almost half of those questioned saying they continued to experience financial difficulties meeting their basic living needs in 2010.
Of the Arab citizens questioned for the study, 19% said they had serious financial worries, compared to only 10% of Jewish Israelis, and 15% said they felt their social and economic situation was likely to worsen in the coming year, a feeling shared by only 6% of Jewish respondents.
The situation among immigrants from the former Soviet Union was similar, with the index revealing a low social confidence score of only 61 points. Worries expressed by that population included feelings that their standard of living was not sufficiently high, and a lack of optimism about the future.
Even though the index highlights some of the wide economic gaps among various sectors in Israeli society, it also shows that the longterm trajectory has been similar, with each group’s social confidence increasing by a similar amount.
For example, divided up according to salaries, the Taub Index found that the score among those with above-average incomes was relatively high in 2010, reaching 74.4 points compared to 72.6 in 2009, and for those with lower incomes, the points increased from 49 in 2009 to 56 last year. The gap between the two groups narrowed in 2010 – from 25 to 18 points – even though those with lower incomes expressed a much lower level of social satisfaction, the report found.