A Picture of the Nation 2016

PRESS RELEASE: A Picture of the Nation 2016

The booklet presents a picture of Israel across various topics, such as the cost of living, housing, inequality, labor force trends, wages, education and health. Among the new findings in this publication: transfers between educational streams, industries that cause productivity gaps and the share of young adults who own their home.

A Picture of the Nation 2016 Taub Center

For the fourth consecutive year, the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel is publishing A Picture of the Nation, a booklet of original, user-friendly and easy-to-read figures and accompanying explanations. The publication presents the situation in Israel’s society and economy in several key areas: welfare, health, education, labor market trends, productivity, and price levels. The publication, based on Taub Center research, presents an overall picture of the socioeconomic situation in Israel, highlighting areas in which Israel performs well, those where improvement can be seen, and those in which a change of course is needed.

For the first time, this booklet presents infographics designed by students from HIT (Holon Institute of Technology), which are based on findings from selected Taub Center studies.


Among the most striking findings in the Taub Center’s A Picture of the Nation 2016:

  • After controlling for the national security component of taxes and expenditures, the share of taxes in Israel is among the lowest in the OECD countries – a fact that attests to government policy of less involvement in market activities. The relation between the sources of revenue and their use, though often ignored, is critical in understanding public policy. Tax receipts as a share of GDP in Israel are much lower than the OECD average. As a result, Israel’s revenues are lower, and so, too, is the country’s ability to invest in a variety of areas, including infrastructure and welfare programs. (pg. 13)
  • Old-age pensions have risen while child allowances have decreased. Between the years 2000 and 2014, among all the cash benefits of the National Insurance Institute, the vast majority of expenditure was for those benefits earmarked for the elderly – the Old-age and Survivors allowance and the Long-term Care allowance. Over the years, there has been a clear, increasing trend in spending devoted to this population, a fact that primarily reflects the demographic trend of an aging population. In contrast, there has been a decline in child allowance payments, following changes in the legislation between 2002 and 2004 that reduced this benefit. (pg. 22)
  • The majority of the population purchases supplementary health insurance or commercial insurance in addition to the health coverage provided by the state. Out of 20 OECD countries, Israel ranks third in the share of citizens holding private health insurance. In 2012, about 80% of the population had supplementary insurance offered by the health funds, and slightly over 40% held commercial insurance. Many Israelis are double-insured, as almost everyone who has private insurance is also insured through supplementary insurance. The share of those purchasing supplementary insurance increased by almost 60% between 1999 and 2012, and the share of commercial insurance holders grew by almost 80% in the same years. Almost all households with high income have supplementary health insurance, while only about half of households in the lowest income levels have such coverage. These figures indicate inequality in access to high-quality, timely medical care – an issue that has raised concerns in the past few years. (pg. 31)
  • Trends in pupil transfers between education streams shows evidence of a move away from more religious educational settings. Among Jews, movement from more religious schools to less religious ones is greater than movement in the opposite direction. That is, more pupils transfer from Haredi schools to state and state-religious schools and from state-religious to state schools than move from the state schools to the more religious schools. The largest number of transfers was from state-religious education to state education, a figure which is even more notable given the small share of state-religious schools in the education system (about 15%). (pg. 38)
  • Across all sectors, women are more educated than men. Across population groups, the share of women who hold a bachelor’s degree is greater than men. The difference is especially large in the Haredi sector, where the share of women with a first degree (about 26%) is about twice as high as that of men. The low share of degree holders among Arab Israelis indicates the importance of accessibility to higher education for this population sector. The group with the highest share of degree holders is secular Jews, followed by Jews who consider themselves national-religious. (pg. 44)
  • Seven industries are responsible for about 75% of the labor productivity gap between Israel and the OECD. Labor productivity is an important factor in determining workers’ wages. Productivity in Israel is low relative to the OECD, and the gap is widening over time. The majority of the productivity gap between Israel and the OECD stems from seven industries where the productivity gap is particularly large – the majority of them in the service sector. The “other business services” sector (which includes legal and accounting services) is responsible for a gap of about $3.32 per work hour, which is about 27.7% of the total gap between Israel and the OECD. Additional industries that contributed substantially to the total productivity gap are wholesale trade (16.4%), hotels and restaurants (9.0%), retail trade (5.7%), food and tobacco (5.4%), and land transport (5.4%). In contrast, it appears that those industries that were opened to imports and exposed to meaningful competition from abroad (like the textile industry) were forced to become more efficient in order to survive; this is manifested via a rise in their productivity levels and a narrowing of their gap relative to the OECD. (pg. 70)
  • In general, men earn higher wages than women, except among Haredim and Arab Israelis. Among Haredim, and in contrast to other population groups, women’s wages are higher than men’s; among Arab Israelis the gap between men and women is relatively low. The difference between population groups is explained by different levels of education and participation rates in the labor force. In the Arab Israeli population, the majority of women holding a bachelor’s degree are working while those women without a degree are employed at much lower rates. In contrast, the majority of Arab Israeli men work regardless of their education level. Thus, the wages of women in this group are heavily weighted by those with a high education level, while the wages of men in this group are heavily weighted by those with a lower education level. (pg. 78)
  • The price of housing and rental properties has risen sharply since 2007, while real wages have not risen since 2000. Since the beginning of the millennium, nominal wages have risen in parallel with the consumer price index, such that real wages have not risen for at least 15 years. Housing prices and rental prices have risen much faster than the CPI – although each has risen at a different rate, in contrast to theoretical projections. The shortage of affordable, long-term housing in the rental market allows housing prices to move even further away from the expected level of prices in a balanced market. This situation underlies the importance of the creation of an organized rental market in Israel. (pg. 85)
  • Among young couples, the home ownership rate has decreased. As long-term rentals are not viable options in Israel, young couples tend to dream of home ownership, even at a high price. It is not surprising that a very high share of over 45-year-old Israelis live in a home they own – primarily because these homes were purchased before the sharp rise in prices at the end of the past decade. Younger populations, though, have been greatly influenced by the rise in prices. Among those aged 35-44, the share of singles who do not live in a flat they own rose to about 36% in 2014 in contrast to less than 30% in 2004. Among those aged 25-34, the share rose more than 10 percentage points during the same period, with more than 60% living in a flat they do not own. (pg. 86)

The Picture of the Nation Report covers a variety of additional areas, including new research on topics such as the employment of mothers, tax receipts, and poverty rates in Israel.

Click here to read the full Picture of the Nation 2016. 

Share of fathers taking parental leave in Israel and the OECD

Men earn significantly more than women in most sectors, but not among Arab Israeli and Haredi sectors

Decreasing home ownership for young couples in Israel

The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, headed by Prof. Avi Weiss, is an independent, non-partisan institution for socioeconomic research based in Jerusalem. The Center provides decision makers, as well as the public in general, with a big picture perspective on economic and social areas. The Center’s interdisciplinary Policy Programs – comprising leading academic and policy making experts – as well as the Center’s professional staff conduct research and provide policy recommendations in the key socioeconomic issues confronting the State.

For details, or to arrange an interview, please contact Itay Matityahu, Director of Marketing and Communications 052-290-4678.