The real test: how does Israel score on four goals for improving its education system?


It’s that time of year again – holidays around the corner, summer winding down, parents buying school supplies…once again the start of the school year is approaching. As kids gear up for the school year, where does Israel’s education system stand relative to the goals established for it?

Israel’s last two Ministers of Education, Shai Piron and Naftali Bennett, emphasized similar objectives for improving Israel’s education system:

1. To reduce gaps in budget allocations between different socioeconomic strata and population sectors;

2. To reduce the average number of students per class, particularly in primary schools in lower socioeconomic class areas;

3. To increase the percentage of students studying high-level math (five units);

4. To increase the number of students in technical-vocational education.

While there has been some degree of success in attaining these goals, they have not yet been fully achieved and each has a slightly different story.

In Hebrew primary education, the increase in the number of teacher-hours per student was minor. Most of the increase was in schools in the lowest socioeconomic quintile, but even this was very minor.

In Arab Israeli education, schools in the three lowest quintiles saw an average increase of 3-5% in the allocation of per student teacher-hours. However, the number of hours per student in Arab education across all socioeconomic strata is still much lower than the number of teacher-hours per student in the Hebrew system.

For middle schools, the increase in hours per student was small, but more pronounced in Arab than in Hebrew education.


The second goal set by the Ministry of Education — decreasing the number of students in primary school classes — has been attained to some extent since 2011, but not evenly in all education streams. Most of the decrease was in the Arab system, which started the period with larger classes.

To attain this goal, math instruction hours and math teacher jobs were added to the Israeli education system, and the university bonus for students with five units of math was raised to 30 points. To overcome many students’ reluctance to study higher-level math, a “safety net” was created to ensure that those who take five units of math and do not pass the test will be considered as having taken the four-unit exam and be awarded an additional 20 points (so long as they receive a grade no lower than 35).

The 2016 bagrut exam results indicate that these measures achieved the hoped-for outcome. Between 2013 and 2016, the share of students eligible for bagrut with five units of math rose from 10.6% to 13.8% of all bagrut exam takers.

Due to the changing nature of the labor market resulting from the increasing rate of mechanization and computerization, the Ministry of Education considers it more important than ever for those who do not choose to pursue higher education to have a profession they will be able to use in the future labor market. Such skills can be developed through vocational training.

Technical-vocational education developed differently in the Hebrew and Arab education systems. In the Hebrew sector, the percentage of high school students studying vocational education peaked above 50% during the 1990s, but, by 2010, it had declined to 33%. In the Arab education system, by contrast, technical-vocational education grew from 22% in 1990 to 40% in 2010. Since 2010, thanks to serious efforts by the Ministry of Education, the share has risen to 36% in the Jewish sector and to 43% in the Arab Israeli sector, for a total of 37.4% of high school students in 2015.

There has certainly been a certain degree of progress in each of these four areas. However, the main challenge continues to be that of more equally distributing education system resources between different population groups and socioeconomic strata. From this perspective, the changes that have occurred are moderate, and a great deal of work remains to be done.

Want to see the graphs themselves? Find them in the Picture of the Nation 2018.


What’s the story of the gap between Israel’s highest and lowest earners?

The recently published OECD Employment Outlook 2018 has caused a splash in the Israeli media with its important findings related to unemployment, the gender wage gap, and also the wage gaps between the Israelis who earn the most (wages in the 90th percentile) and those who earn the least (wages in the 10th percentile).

The OECD report finds that workers in Israel who earn wages in the 90th percentile earn more than 7 times as much as workers in the 10th percentile. This is a larger gap than the average in other developed countries, where the highest earners make a little under 3.5 times as much as the lowest earners. In fact, the gap in Israel is the highest among all OECD countries.

Already in 2014, researchers at the Taub Center examined wage disparities in Israel over the previous decade and expressed concern about the future. Income inequality in Israel had been steadily decreasing between the late 1990s and 2011. Nonetheless, the gap in 2011 remained among the highest in the OECD countries at the time, with those in the 90th percentile earning 4.9 times more than those in the 10th percentile (well under the 7.2 ratio of today). Despite the consistent decline, the researchers warned that certain trends would likely lead to growing income disparities in the future.

Essentially, the researchers explained that, due to automation (replacement of manual repetitive jobs by machines and robots) in the Israeli economy, the middle of the wage distribution was eroding and the two ends of the spectrum seemed likely to move farther apart.

And, they were right. Since 2013 the gap between the Israelis who earn the most and those who earn the least has been growing – and to such a degree that it is now even higher than it was back in the late 90s.

According to Shraberman, who published a follow-up report with Claude Berrebi in 2017, the demand for high-skilled workers in Israel’s labor market has increased greatly, driving up the wages of those at the high end of the wage distribution. Increases at the high-wage end of the spectrum outweigh changes that have taken place in the lower and middle parts of the distribution. Thus, even with government policy intervening to improve the condition of low-wage workers by raising the minimum wage, the gap between Israel’s highest and lowest earners is continuing to widen – and at an alarming pace.

“Our most important task is giving people the facts to allow them to make better decisions”

1. Of the many causes and organizations to get involved with, why the Taub Center?

helen ables To build a stronger Israel for all its citizens, I think it is important to support research that sheds light on the social and economic trends that shape Israel today and that will shape the country in the future. These are the issues that Israelis encounter in their day-to-day lives and that strongly contribute to quality of life. Also, in an increasingly polarized world, it is very important for leaders across the political spectrum to have a trusted and reliable source of data to inform their decisions.

2. What do you hope to accomplish in your tenure as Chair of the Taub Center’s Board?

I hope to support the organisation to continue to do the wonderful work that it already does. We recently completed the process of establishing a five-year strategic plan for the Center. During my time as Chair of the Taub Center Board I hope to work with my fellow board members and the staff of the Center to turn this wonderful vision into reality. I’m looking forward to hitting the ground running and helping to improve the Taub Center in this new capacity.

3. What piece or area of research over the past few years has most spoken to you and why do you feel that it is so important?

I’m fascinated by the changing demographic trends in Israel. Accurate information about the make-up and size of the various population groups is vital for planning and running the country. My favourite piece of research, however, is the study that shows that girls tend not to study high level maths and science (5-units). I believe that the findings of this study have already caused people to ask “why not?” and to encourage girls to study maths and science at higher levels.

4. We held our most recent board meeting at the Taub Center in Jerusalem – hearing from Taub Center researchers about ongoing research projects and from leaders outside of the Center who are working “on the ground” in the areas the Center studies. What was your biggest take-away from this experience?

The highlight of the board retreat for me was going to the Knesset and meeting with MK Aida Touma-Sliman. Not only was it interesting to be in Knesset and to hear MK Touma-Sliman’s perspective, but I also learnt a lot about the differences between the Arab and Jewish education streams. The unique structure of Israel’s school system is important to understand because of the implications this has on tackling issues such as inequalities in Israeli students’ educational achievements.

5. What gives you hope for Israel’s social and economic future?

Increasing the transparency in political discourse gives me hope for Israel’s future. At the Taub Center, our most important task is giving people the facts to allow them to make better decisions. Not only does the Center bring attention to the most pressing socioeconomic issues in Israel, but its findings also help leaders and the public stay well-informed and serve as a common jumping-off point for policy debate and decisions.

“Given its organizational strength and superb professional leadership, I expect the Center’s impact to expand with time”


1) What is an accomplishment you are proud of during your tenure as Chair of the Taub Center’s Board?

The strategic plan recently adopted by the Center brought the entire Taub Center family together to set five-year goals for the organization with help from many outside stakeholders. That such a large of group of people is devoted to the continued success of the Center, and was willing to bring insights to the table in a constructive fashion, reflects the importance of the Center to the future of the State of Israel.

2) How did you get involved with the Taub Center?

I was fortunate to have a family connection to the Center through my uncle, Jonathan Kolker, who served as President of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) from 1996-2000 and served on the Taub Center’s board for many years. JDC created the Center 36 years ago and during Jon’s tenure with JDC, he identified the Center as a key contributor to Israel’s future success. His interest was contagious and I followed the Center’s work from afar for about 10 years before joining the Board of Directors.

3) What do you think the role of research is in the policymaking process? What is your vision for the Taub Center in the future?

Evidence based research and a practical approach to developing policy options create a firm foundation for good policymaking. The Taub Center already excels in these areas and, given its organizational strength and superb professional leadership, I expect the Center’s impact to expand with time.

4) What piece or area of research over the past few years has most spoken to you and why do you feel that it is so important?

I have been excited by the Center’s groundbreaking research in the areas of productivity and prices. It feeds into many different areas that directly affect the quality of life – workforce development, prices of consumer goods, food security, etc. When I think about the factors in today’s economy that most dramatically affect the future of the State of Israel, I see this as a critical area.

5) Why do you think it is important for Jews living outside of Israel to be aware of the economic and social trends in the country?

I see strong and healthy relationships with Israel as a key factor in strengthening Jewish identity worldwide. For those relationships to flourish, Israel needs to show Jews around the world that it successfully supports and creates opportunities for all its citizens – in short, that it’s an Israel they can and should be proud of.

Israel is one country that essentially has two economies

Prof. Avi Weiss - Israel has two economies
Earlier this month, the OECD put out its 2018 Economic Survey of Israel, which included trends that are familiar to us at the Taub Center: data showing Israel’s remarkable improvement in comparison to other OECD countries, on the one hand, and a number of indicators of growing inequalities and concerns in Israeli society on the other.

This leads me to a question I am often asked: how can the Israel that is the “start-up nation” – the country that has produced Waze, Mobileye, and Checkpoint and has a notably high number of patents per billion dollars of GDP – be the same Israel as the one where wages are low and prices are high, inequality is large and growing, and a disposable income poverty rate that is the highest in the OECD?

The answer is that there are basically two Israeli economies that exist in parallel. A unique characteristic of the Israeli economy is the makeup of its exports, which largely rely on high tech companies. Israel’s high-tech sector is indeed characterized by high productivity and high wages, but this sector makes up only about 9% of the Israeli workforce.

Generally, we would expect this high-performing industry to have a positive effect on the entire economy as more workers flock to join it. However, high tech and other advanced technology companies have employees with very high skills, making it difficult for those with lower skills to move into these industries even though there is high demand for more workers.

Because worker mobility between local and export industries is low, efficiency, productivity, and wages are not increasing in the bulk of Israel’s economy, despite the success of high-tech in Israel.

To read more on Israel’s economy, please refer to A Macroeconomic Picture of the Economy in 2017.


Arab Israelis: Education, Employment, Health, and Welfare

In 2017, several of our research publications examined Israel’s largest minority sector – the Arab Israeli population. Why? Government Resolution 922, which has allocated NIS 15 billion to assist and promote Arab Israelis, has begun to be implemented.

To ensure this investment is allocated most beneficially, it’s important to highlight areas in which there have been improvements in this sector and pinpoint areas in which additional assistance is required.

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Prof. Yossi Shavit elected to the American National Academy of Education

Yossi picture“I’m honored to be elected to be part of this impressive group of scholars, and hope that working with members of NAEd will contribute to my work on educational policy and theory.”


The Taub Center is proud to announce that Education Policy Program Chair & Principal Researcher Professor Yossi Shavit has been elected to serve as a Foreign Associate Member in the American National Academy of Education (NAEd). The Academy consists of U.S. members and foreign academics who are elected on the basis of outstanding scholarship related to education. This organization stands at the forefront of addressing the most pressing issues in the field of education. It is also a hub for innovative researchers whose work is transforming the field of research in this area. The mission of NAEd is to advance high-quality research to improve education policy and practice.

Shavit is currently a Principal Researcher at the Taub Center, where he chairs the Education Policy Program. He has been an esteemed member of the Center’s research staff for a decade. In parallel, Shavit serves as the Weinberg Professor of Inequality in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at Tel Aviv University (TAU).

Shavit received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1983). He is a Spencer and Alon Fellow and a member of the honorary Sociological Research Association, as well as a former president of the Israeli Sociological Society, and past secretary of the ISA’s Research Committee on Stratification (RC28). Additionally, Shavit was a past faculty member at the European University Institute where he also headed the Social and Political Science department.

Shavit’s main interests are in the areas of Social Inequality and the Sociology of Education. Currently, he is studying social integration between Arab and Jewish students who attend mixed schools in Israel. He is also developing an interest in the effects of experiences and education in early childhood on children’s development, personality and achievements.

Some of Shavit’s recent work at the Taub Center include studies on class size, tracking in high schools, and stability and change in educational inequality. He also led the Center’s latest Herbert M. Singer International Policy Conference on educational inequality in Israel.

We know that Shavit’s research will continue to have a significant impact not only on Israeli society and policy, but on the international scale as well, and congratulate him on this outstanding academic accomplishment. We look forward to following his continued work at the Taub Center and elsewhere and are honored to have him as an integral part of our program.

A New Frontier for Israeli Research: Education Inequality and Early Childhood

A discussion that took place in Knesset this past Monday among the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee and the Education Committee, raised the issue that, despite a bill approved last year requiring the establishment of a national council on early childhood by February 2018, such a council has yet to be established. According to the bill, the goal of the national council would be to create a long-term national plan for early childhood care in Israel.

This issue is not only being discussed in Knesset, but has been a topic of much discussion at the Taub Center as well. Principal Researcher and Education Policy Program Chair Prof. Yossi Shavit has spent much of the past couple of years calling attention to issues of early childhood development. This subject is important because of the worrisome convergence in Israel between the very high levels of educational and income inequality.

Studies in other countries have shown connections between the latter – that is, socioeconomic status – and early childhood development, yet the subject remains relatively unexplored in research studies in Israel.

In January 2017, Prof. Shavit gave a presentation on this topic to three deputy directors-general and a number of department heads at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). This meeting, which included six Taub Center researchers, created a lot of interest in the topic and led, in turn, to a follow-up meeting between Prof. Shavit, Principal Researcher and Welfare Policy Program Chair Prof. John Gal, and Udi Praver, Deputy Director-General of the Department for Governance and Social Affairs at the PMO.

A few months later, Prof. Shavit presented this information to yet another esteemed group – President Reuven Rivlin’s senior advisors. Just last week, Prof. Shavit and Principal Education Researcher Nachum Blass discussed the importance of deliberating over early childhood education policy in the Education, Culture, and Sports Committee with Chair of the committee MK Yaakov Margi (Shas).

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These meetings further called attention to the fact that there is a lack of data on the subject of early childhood development and its connection to later achievements and educational inequality in Israel. The Taub Center is committed to bringing this topic to the attention of the Israeli research community and is working to fill in the gaps and bring Israel up to speed with the innovative research happening in this area around the world.

In that vein, the 2017 Herbert M. Singer International Policy Conference, which was organized and moderated by Prof. Shavit alongside Nachum Blass, highlighted the subject through two keynote addresses given by leading international experts. Nobel Laureate Prof. James Heckman (and member of the Taub Center International Advisory Council), who is a leading world expert in social and economic questions related to inequality, social mobility, and discrimination, spoke about the connection between poverty, stress, and development in early childhood (YouTube).

In addition, Prof. Dalton Conley, whose research focuses on how socioeconomic status is transmitted across generations, spoke about the relationship between biology, environment, and educational inequality (YouTube).

Among the participants on the conference’s final panel – focused on policy implications – was Daniella Ben-Attar, Israel representative of the Bernard Van Leer Foundation, who shared her insights (YouTube) on what is and can be done in the field to address the topic while policymakers formulate long-term, systemic solutions.

Ben-Attar on early childhood education

In response to all of these policy conversations, Prof. Shavit, Prof. John Gal, Prof. Isaac Friedman, and Dana Vaknin are working on a literature review that brings together the existing research on early childhood development and educational inequality, which is being generously supported by the Bernard Van Leer Foundation.

The Taub Center plans on disseminating the literature review to policy makers and choosing a topic for exploratory, interdisciplinary research in 2018 that spans across the fields of education and welfare.

“First and foremost, we aim for there to be agreement on the facts behind the issues, leaving the debate and formulation of solutions to the policymakers”

1. The Taub Center recently released its annual Singer Series: State of the Nation Report. How does the Center make sure the findings in the report reach Israel’s decision makers?

טובהHaving an impact on policy through direct communications with policymakers is at the core of the Taub Center’s mission, and our annual report is known to be a key resource to Israel’s top decision makers. Chapter by chapter, we consider how our research findings can help inform the political process. We then discuss the findings with relevant policymakers, and sometimes host workshops for the members of political parties and economics departments of various ministries.

But direct communication with decision makers is not sufficient on its own. Social change is often built from the ground-up, and a healthy democracy requires an informed public. Therefore we ensure not only that journalists receive our research findings, but that our research is also freely available to the public and communicated in a user friendly, accessible manner.

2. What types of government officials do Taub Center researchers and staff meet with?

We have the privilege of meeting with officials and staff at all levels of the policymaking process and from all political parties. At the national level, Ministers/ministry officials, Members of Knesset, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the President’s office are met with frequently throughout the year. At the local level, we meet with mayors and municipal officials, and speak at events that are hosted by municipal leaders.

It is also crucial to ensure that the next generation of Israeli leaders is equipped with well-rounded knowledge on social policy in Israel. To this end, we work with a number of cadet and future leader training programs, student leadership programs, and parliamentary assistants and advisors, ensuring that social policy decisions are fact-based today and into the future.

3. How has Taub Center research had an impact on the policymaking process in the past?

Our researchers are frequently at the table; presenting data at policy discussions relating to education, labor markets, economics, health, and social welfare in Israel. For example, the Taub Center’s Principal Education Researchers were invited to open a meeting of the Knesset Education, Culture and Sport Committee with a presentation on inequality in the education system.

The discussion thereafter, which included officials from the Ministry of Education, the Bank of Israel, and a number of other key actors in the education field, was centered on the issues raised by the researchers, and the session resulted in the Committee’s submission of official recommendations to the Minister of Education based on Taub Center research.

Periodically, legislation is crafted based on Taub Center research, including a bill that recently became law granting fathers parental leave. Our research has also been cited in Supreme Court decisions and by the President. We are also present “behind the scenes”with Taub Center researchers serving as a resource to ministry staff members as they submit briefings to the Prime Minister’s Office.

4. How does the Taub Center maintain its non-partisan status while engaging with government officials?

Guided by a team of skilled economists and other social scientists, the Center’s research questions are posed to seek out facts; not to reach conclusions that serve a particular agenda or political leaning. As such, our findings are presented uniformly, regardless of the political orientation of our audience.

When appropriate, we offer various policy options, but we do not offer recommendations. First and foremost, we aim for there to be agreement on the facts behind the issues, leaving the debate and formulation of solutions to the policymakers. We meet with policymakers across the entire political spectrum from every party. Beyond this, the Taub Center selects its research topics in-house, meaning policymakers cannot commission us to conduct research, and to maintain our strictly non-partisan status, we accept no government funding or donations from political entities.

5. What types of audiences does the Center reach abroad?

The Taub Center has come to serve as a resource to international governing bodies, as well as the broader Jewish community outside of Israel. We hold annual briefings for delegates from the OECD, IMF, and Bank of Israel, and the research findings discussed in these meetings tend to be cited in the OECD’s bi-annual report on Israel.

We have also shared our findings with foreign embassies and political delegations to Israel from countries around the world. In reaching the broader Jewish communities outside of Israel, we meet with Jewish Federations, student groups, Rabbinical and gap year students, and other members of Jewish groups around the world. Our research findings are presented to these types of groups both within Israel and abroad, and help to provide them with a picture of Israel’s socioeconomic situation.

How to keep seeing us on Facebook

Due to Facebook’s recent changes, you may see less of the Taub Center in your News Feed. The algorithm was changed in order to prioritize content from friends and family, and downgrade articles, videos and photos shared by publishers and brands.

On our Facebook page we strive to bring attention to interesting facts, that we hope will help you stay informed on the socio-economic situation in Israel.

In order to make sure you do not miss out on Taub Center posts in the future, please follow these simple steps.

First, make sure to follow us on Facebook by giving our page a “Like”.

If you’re on a desktop, once the box marked “Like” is checked, hover with your mouse above “Following” and select under “See First” IN YOUR NEWS FEED.

see first on facebook

If you’re on a mobile device and the box “Liked” is checked, please tap “Following” …

follow on mobile

… and then select “See First” in the new screen that appears.



Of course, Facebook is trying to give you the content you would like to see, so by liking, commenting on or sharing our posts, you will not only stay connected with us, but you will also make sure Facebook knows you wish to keep seeing our posts!

Paying out-of-pocket


Eating healthy is too expensive for low income families in Israel

An important factor in maintaining good health is a healthy diet. In Israel, the Ministry of Health recommends the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and low on animal proteins. Based on estimating the cost of such a healthy diet, an average family in the lowest income quintile would need to spend 65% of its income on food in order to eat healthy.

In practice, they spend 42%, meaning that these families, while still spending a substantial portion of their income on food, are either cutting back on the quality or on the quantity of the foods they eat. The wealthiest Israelis in the highest quintile need only spend 7% of their income to afford a healthy diet and, in practice, spend about 10% of their income on food.


Israeli households are spending more on healthcare, primarily due to private insurance plans

The percentage of Israel’s health services funded by the government is 15 percentage points lower than the average percentage in other developed countries. Consequently, private expenditure on health out of total household spending has increased in Israel: from 4.5% in 2000 to 5.7% in 2015. The primary reason for the increase is the purchase of private insurance plans, which rose from 18% of household spending on healthcare in 2000 to 37% in 2015.

This means that Israelis need to spend more out-of-pocket in order to receive the desired care in private settings, even though the care is administered by doctors from the publicly-funded system whose work in the private sphere leaves facilities in the public system underutilized. The current situation is causing inefficiencies in the system, and gaps in access to health services between households of different income levels and between the different geographic regions in Israel persist.

kidsThere has been a decline in household spending on preschool for 3-4-year-olds since the Compulsory Education Law was extended

Starting in the 2012-2013 school year, the Compulsory Education Law was extended to cover all 3-4-year-olds, resulting in government coverage of public preschool program costs along with subsidies for many private preschool programs for children of these ages. Due to the increase in government spending, the law resulted in a decline of 11.5% in the average parental payment for 3-4-year-olds specifically. However, at the same time, there was a slight increase in parental spending on daycare for 2-year-olds, such that average household spending per child for all preschool-aged children (ages 2-5) fell by only 3% following implementation of the law.

The main beneficiaries from the universal implementation of the Compulsory Education Law for 3-4-year-olds were middle and upper class households, and not those in the two bottom consumption quintiles. This is because preschool subsidies were already in place for most lower-income families prior to the 2011 social protests.

In Israel, a greater share of the burden of caring for the elderly falls on households than in most other developed countries

The relatively heavy financial burden on Israeli households is clear when considering the public/private breakdown of funding sources for long-term care of the elderly. Israel’s long-term care system stands out for its relatively high share of private spending on care; at nearly 45%, it is almost triple that of the OECD average of 16%. The money that households spend on long-term care is divided among a number of different areas: about 39% of household spending on such care goes to payment for caregivers (often foreign workers), about 37% goes to assisted living facilities, and about 22% goes toward insurance premiums.

Most pressed are middle class households who, on the one hand, cannot afford to hire caregivers or afford privately funded assisted living facilities and, on the other hand, are not poor enough to qualify for state supported institutional care.


Why getting into college isn’t enough

We’ve reached that time of year when students are hunkering down to study for finals and wondering how much all of the hard work they are putting into their academic studies will pay off. At the same time, a new batch of potential students are gearing up to start their academic journeys and, in the process, deciding which path to pursue.

“Study hard and you will succeed.” We always say it and yet this statement doesn’t necessarily ring true. Despite the high share of Israelis who hold an academic degree, there seems to be a misalignment in Israel between the composition of human capital and the needs of the labor market, at least among certain population groups.

What does that mean, exactly?

It means that many students are pursuing degrees in fields where demand for more workers is relatively low and, on the flipside, not enough students are pursuing degrees in certain fields where more workers are needed.

Demand and supply surveys by the Central Bureau of Statistics show that, as of 2016, there was a relative abundance of workers in certain professions and a degree of difficulty recruiting workers in other industries. This is evident in the ratio of employment seekers to job vacancies in the various occupations.

For example, among agents in business, management, law, welfare, and culture there are 3.7 employment seekers for every available job, as opposed to 0.7 workers for every available job for academic professionals in science, engineering, and information and communication technologies. Thus, there are not enough workers to fill the positions available in the latter category.

As described by researcher Gilad Brand: “the advanced industries already face limitations in the supply of workers – that is, the workers who have the required skills are already employed in the sector.”


These trends have implications on differences in employment between men and women in Israel. While women make up over half of those studying for an undergraduate degree in areas like law and business and management, they make up less than 40% of physical science students and less than 30% of students studying mathematics, statistics, and computer science.

Taub Center research over the past few years has shown that this misalignment is particularly pronounced among some of Israel’s weakest population groups: particularly, Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men and Arab Israeli women.

Haredi men are particularly affected by these trends because they study fields that already have a large excess of workers. When comparing the study majors of male Haredi degree holders with those of secular Israeli men, we find that about 40% of male Haredi academics earned degrees in law and business administration, versus about 27% of secular Jewish men with a degree.

In contrast, the situation is reversed when looking at science-related subjects (engineering and architecture, mathematics and computer science) — 34% of secular male academics hold degrees in those fields, versus almost 25% of Haredi degree holders.


This phenomenon is connected to place of study as well. More than half of male Haredi students are enrolled in private colleges, where a higher percentage of students pursue these already-saturated fields than students do when enrolled in public colleges.

In public colleges, 52% of Haredi male students study engineering and architecture; 16% study math and computer sciences; 13% study business administration; and, 11% study social sciences. In private colleges, on the other hand, the vast majority of male students study law or business administration – 50% and 43%, respectively.

A similar misalignment is seen among Arab Israeli women. The share of Arab Israeli women studying in academic institutions has increased greatly, especially among Bedouin and Druze women – an increase of nearly 50% between 2008 and 2013. However, a high share of Arab Israeli women (42% of Muslim and 46% of Bedouin women) pursue degrees in the field of education, as compared with 16% of non-Haredi female Jewish academics.

This is surprising given the fact that Arab Israeli girls in high school study in science and engineering tracks at higher rates than Arab Israeli boys or Jewish girls. Nonetheless, by college this trend reverses and a smaller percentage of Arab Israeli women study science or engineering than non-Haredi Jewish women.

Not only do a large portion of women study education, but female Arab Israeli women with degrees in other fields also end up working in education, meaning that an even larger percentage of Arab Israeli women are pursuing careers in a field in which the market is saturated. According to researcher Hadas Fuchs: “it is worth considering more extensive measures, such as guiding high school pupils to consider higher education in fields that are ‘in-demand’ and encouraging other employment possibilities.”


It is important for graduates in Israel to be aware of the skills that are in demand in Israel’s labor market and fields in which it is more competitive to get a job. When popular fields of study in higher education and the needs of the labor market do not align, it is difficult for workers to adjust their skills. This can result in challenges for Israel’s productivity and economic growth and can also contribute to widening wage gaps between sectors, already among the highest in the West.

It should be noted that there has been much improvement in recent years in higher education enrollment among both Haredi men and Arab Israeli women – a very positive trend toward more meaningful integration in the labor market. However, the real test lies in how to guide students – especially those from weaker population groups – towards these “in-demand” fields in the labor market, which offer more employment possibilities and higher wages.

“The more detailed the information available to Israel’s leaders…the greater their capacity to tailor solutions”

Avi picture
Following the publication of our annual report, we’ve asked Executive Director Prof. Avi Weiss a few questions about the new Taub Center research findings.

1. What are some of the central features of this year’s Singer Series: State of the Nation Report?

The 2017 report provides an in-depth picture of the current state of affairs in Israel, including changes that have occurred during the past year or years, central issues facing decision makers and, when appropriate, a survey of policy options. This year we’ve chosen to concentrate a significant portion of our research on the largest minority sector in Israel – the Arab Israeli population. The reason for this choice at this time is the beginning of the implementation of Government Resolution 922, which has allocated NIS 15 billion to assist and promote Arab Israelis. We believe that in order to ensure that this investment is allocated most beneficially, it’s important to highlight the areas in which we see improvements in this sector and pinpoint those areas in which additional assistance is required.

2. So what findings does the report include that specifically relate to the Arab Israeli population?

Two chapters in the book are dedicated to the Arab Israeli population. The first is dedicated to the academic education of young Arab Israelis. The chapter finds that there has been substantial improvement in high school and higher education enrollment, especially among women. However, large gaps among population groups (i.e. Muslims, Christians, Druze, and Bedouin) within the sector remain. It seems that the gaps in educational achievement between the Jewish and Arab Israeli populations can be largely explained by the weaker average socioeconomic background of the Arab population. The second chapter, on the health of the Arab Israeli population, finds that the life expectancy of the Arab population in Israel is the highest in the Arab-Muslim world, but it is low compared to the Jewish population and the OECD average. It also finds gaps in access to health services and resources between Jewish and Arab Israelis.

3. What are some of the report’s most important findings relating to overall economic growth and the Israeli labor market?

The past year witnessed an increase in employment and real wages, and a decline in the unemployment rate, which is at a historic low. However, per capita growth in Israel is low relative to other countries, and labor productivity is not growing at all. Within the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) population, employment is on the rise, but there are differences by gender, Haredi stream (i.e. Litvak, Sephardic, Chabad, or Hasidic) and residential district in employment rates, typical employment industries and average wages. In another study we found that philanthropists who immigrated to Israel donate more money than Israel-born philanthropists and are also more generous, as are female-headed households (although the average donation by male-headed households are larger).

4. What issues does the report raise in the areas of welfare, education, and health?

The report examines Israel’s level of welfare spending, particularly what has been spent thus far to implement the recommendations of the Elalouf Committee for the War Against Poverty, and disparities that exist in municipal social welfare budgeting as a result of the national matching system for allocating funds. It also looks at inequality in the education system and the link between the likelihood of students experiencing ostracism and personal characteristics such as sector, social status, gender, and grade level. With regard to health, the report explores issues relating to public and private financing, prices for medical care, and the implications of an aging Israeli population on the health system.

5. What can we learn, not only from examining the trends of Israel’s minority groups relative to the population at large, but from examining differences in trends within these groups?

The report looks at trends within both the Haredi and Arab Israeli population groups, exposing differences by gender, geographic location, and streams or subgroups. This breakdown of data helps us identify areas of weakness and opportunities for growth – both for implementing existing plans and for future policy. The more detailed the information available to Israel’s leaders and the public, the greater their capacity to tailor solutions to the country’s most pressing socioeconomic issues.

Informing the discussion: Is the current method for funding social services at the local level equitable?


Shavit Madhala (right) and Prof. John Gal (second to right) present at the Knesset State Control Committee on Monday, December 18, 2017. Click here to support our work.

There is considerable inequality in the financing of welfare services between strong and weak local authorities in Israel. This was the topic of a rousing discussion in the Knesset State Control Committee (הוועדה לענייני ביקורת המדינה) earlier this week, where Taub Center researchers Prof. John Gal and Shavit Madhala were not only part of the policy discussion, but central to it.

The study Gal and Madhala conducted along with Haim Bleikh was the trigger for convening a committee meeting on this subject, and the two were asked to open the meeting by presenting the new study’s findings. The study examines the consequences that the matching funding method has on local authorities’ provision of welfare services.

Social workers and other professionals employed in the local authority social service departments deal with the problems of around 464,000 households in distress who receive a range of services including care for the elderly, individuals with disabilities, and youth at risk. The study is a chapter from the forthcoming State of the Nation Report 2017 (set for release next week), which was pre-released by the Taub Center earlier this month.

The matching method means that for every shekel invested by the local authority for these welfare services, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare supplements three shekels. Thus, in practice, 75% of the welfare budget is financed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare and 25% by the local authority. Israel’s Supreme Court is currently examining a petition against this funding method that claims it is not equitable across the local authorities.

The Taub Center’s findings served as the basis for the rest of the committee discussion, during which many MKs and heads of localities argued for the need to abolish or modify the matching system because, as Committee Chair MK Shelly Yachimovich (Zionist Union) put it, the current funding method is “irrational and unjust, further strengthening the strong and further weakening the weak.” A number of mayors gave passionate accounts of the services they have had to forgo in their communities because they are strapped for resources.

While the topic of inequitable funding for social services across local authorities was already being discussed publicly, participants in the committee meeting noted that the debate thus far had been lacking the support of solid facts and figures – which the Taub Center, in turn, was able to provide (to learn more about the study’s findings, click here).

Among those in attendance were the minister and director general of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, mayors of local municipalities, and a number of members of Knesset, various ministry officials, journalists and more. MK Yachimovich requested that the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare submit a report analyzing options for reform in the realm of social service budgeting in local authorities within a month.

In addition, the Knesset Research and Information Center turned to the Taub Center researchers to learn more about the study as they gather information for a legislative proposal being written by MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union).

There have been requests for follow-up meetings with the Taub Center researchers at the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, in the Knesset, and in several municipalities, as well as considerable media coverage of the study’s findings, which has helped to bring the conversation out of the policy sphere and to the broader public.

This is just one way the Taub Center’s research has an impact on Israeli society. Fuel real discussion, real action, and real change by supporting independent, unbiased research today!

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Researching Tomorrow’s Headlines: Long-Term Care

In February 2017, a Taub Center research team – Principal Researcher and Health Policy Program Chair Prof. Dov Chernichovsky, Dr. Avigdor Kaplan (who was appointed Director General of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare in January 2017), Senior Researcher Dr. Eitan Regev, and Prof. Yochanan Shtessman – published a study on the state of long-term care in Israel. The study found that Israeli long-term care arrangements are both inefficient and unequitable.

The system is inefficient because, despite the national level of income and relatively young population, Israel spends as much as wealthier and older European countries on long-term care. It is unequitable because households in need of long term care must rely largely on their own resources to cover such care.

The researchers proposed several policy options for restructuring long-term care including a universal long-term care basket (separate from the medical care basket to which every Israeli is already entitled), more funding sources for this coverage, and concentrating long-term care services under one authority.


For long-term care coverage, about four and a half million Israelis rely on extra group insurance provided through the HMOs, about one million Israelis rely on private group insurance provided through places of work, and about three million people remain uninsured altogether. For a number of years the group insurance provided through employers has been considered an unsustainable option, and has recently become the topic of heated public debate in Israel.

According to Prof. Chernichovsky, the study had been “in the works” for a while, but the authors were waiting for the right time to publish it. Early 2017, when this issue was already brewing under the surface of Israeli society, proved an optimal release time for two reasons. First, part of the new government’s coalition deal in 2016 was a renewed long-term care plan by the Ministry of Health that the Taub research team considered insufficient. Second, the prospect that the Ministry of Finance would eliminate private group insurance policies through work places seemed imminent.

The study’s publication in February coincided with news reports about abuse of elderly Israelis in nursing homes. Its findings raised broader questions about Israel’s treatment of its elderly population and the availability and affordability of long-term care and was therefore covered substantially by the press at the time of its release.

Over the past few months, Taub Center research on this topic has resurfaced and become indispensable in the wake of the Ministry of Finance plan to terminate group insurance through places of work (as expected) beginning on January 1, 2018, and the subsequent threats of a general strike by Israel’s labor union – The Histadrut.

In the months following the study’s publication, Prof. Chernichovsky met with (at the time) Minister of Health Rabbi Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu), and Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Haim Katz (Likud), as well as their senior advisors. More recently, Prof. Chernichovsky has had multiple meetings with MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union), who is leading an initiative to establish universal long-term care, to discuss the Center’s findings and the policy options presented in the study.

Prof. Chernichovsky also met with MK Yaakov Perry (Yesh Atid), who is particularly involved in the issue. In early November, MK Perry and MK David Amsalem (Likud), Chairs of the Knesset Caucus to Advance the Country’s Preparedness for the Aging of the Population, invited Prof. Chernichovsky to speak to the caucus as an expert in this field. The Minister of Health participated in the caucus meeting as well. Subsequently, Prof. Chernichovsky was asked by MK Tali Ploskov (Kulanu), who was also involved in the caucus meeting, to serve as an economic advisor to a Knesset sub-committee she is heading on the welfare of the elderly.

Prof. Chernichovsky has leveraged the opportunity provided by the heated policy debate over group insurance provided through places of work to publically discuss the need for a larger reform in long-term care policy in Israel. He has been consulted by and quoted in the media on the study specifically and the subject that it addresses in general. Its findings have become a trusted reference to those currently engaged in the debate over long-term care in Israel.



“Donate today and help improve Israeli society, one data point at a time”

Before 2017 ends, show your support for a better Israel by supporting the Taub Center’s research.

  1. What kind of impact does Taub Center research have on Israeli society?

michalThrough our research we make sure to provide Israeli decision makers and the Israeli public with a picture of the most pressing issues affecting Israeli society. This information is equally relevant for international groups working with Israel, and in that vein we make an effort to reach global leadership with a vested interest in Israel’s future as well. We shed light on both positive and negative trends relating to Israel’s economy and society.

As an independent and non-partisan research institution, we are in a unique position to be a trusted and reliable resource for anyone and everyone interested in Israel’s socioeconomic situation. And, we provide all of this information for free.

  1. Why support the Taub Center?

I know a research institute might not be the first place you think of when planning your annual charitable donations. But, especially in the era of “alternative facts,” it is so important to have data that everyone – from all across the political spectrum – can rely on. We provide this kind of information because we think that all policy, social movements, and civil society programs should be based in solid, well-researched data. Here at the Taub Center we think that facts should lead the way to a stronger Israeli society.

  1. Is it true that the Taub Center doesn’t accept any funding from the Israeli government?

In order to maintain our independence, the Taub Center does not accept any government funding. At all. This allows us to be a trusted source of information for all Israeli citizens and leaders. In order to do all of the work we do, and make all of our material available for free to the public, we rely entirely on private support from people like you.

  1. How does contributing to the Taub Center make a difference? Where is my money going?

The funds we collect make all of the Center’s activities possible. Firstly, it enables us to do the research – to have top quality experts in the field, access to relevant databases, and other key resources. Secondly, it allows us to host lectures and conferences (such as our recent Herbert M. Singer International Policy Conference – “Educational Inequality in Israel: from Cradle to University”) and to disseminate our research findings in accessible and creative ways to anyone who wants to be better informed.

  1. Why donate now?

This year, in anticipation of Israel’s 70th birthday, we’ve launched a campaign to make Israel better by working together. Everything we raise between now and December 31st will allow us to look back and think ahead, shedding light on the most critical issues in Israel. And, even more importantly, it will enable us to make sure this information gets into the hands of the leaders who make decisions in Israel and the public who drive their priorities. Donate today and help improve Israeli society, one data point at a time.

What’s the state of education in Israel? Five questions and answers with a leading expert in the field

  1. What is the vision behind the upcoming Taub Center conference on education in Israel?

The inequality in scholastic achievements among Israeli students is among the highest in the developed countries. Moreover, gaps in education between the social classes have remained stable over the years. As part of the conference we will discuss possible explanations for these unfortunate phenomena. We will examine whether the explanation for inequality between the classes is genetic, whether it stems from the structure of the education system or from the economic and cultural situation of the families in which children are raised.

  1. One of the most important themes of the conference is inequality in the education system. Where, in your opinion, is this inequality most evident, what causes it, and what can be done to reduce it?

The educational abilities and emotional resources of young children have a significant impact on their educational and economic achievements and on their social functioning in adulthood. Cognitive abilities and emotional resources are shaped by environmental stimuli that children are exposed to at the earliest ages and even during pregnancy, before they are born.

Children are also adversely affected by the stress they are exposed to in the early stages of life. The chances that children growing up in families with weak socioeconomic backgrounds will obtain the necessary stimuli for proper development are lower than for those who grow up in well-off families. Therefore, these socioeconomic gaps must be reduced.

  1. One session of the conference will focus specifically on vocational education. What do you see as the future of vocational education in Israel? Should this type of education be promoted, changed, or abandoned in Israel’s modern society?

The central question is how to provide vocational/technological training without it having an adverse effect on the future achievements of its graduates. Experts in the field offer different answers to this question. Some propose including vocational/technological components in all curricula, so that each student in Israel will receive an integrated education – theoretical and vocational.

Others suggest postponing the process of choosing between academic and vocational tracks to the extent possible in order to enable students to change their minds about their direction. The most radical solution is that wage gaps between the various professions should be narrowed, thereby reducing the future economic gaps between graduates of the different educational tracks.

  1. What are some of the most exciting areas in education research internationally and to what degree are these being researched in Israel?

Research on education has advanced greatly in recent years. Most studies focus on only a portion of the factors known to be connected with educational and social achievements. Recently more and more studies have gathered data on multiple factors. These longitudinal studies track subjects from a very young age through adulthood, and collect biological data (DNA samples, for example) as well as psychological and social data.

The studies compare these findings to examine how the institutional and cultural differences between countries affect aspects of education. The level of knowledge transmitted through such studies is extremely high, as is their cost. Israel’s government needs to fund basic research and infrastructure of this kind.

  1. As the Knesset comes back into session, what are the most important policy issues relating to education that should be addressed during this coming year?

The most important issue in education in Israel is the high level of inequality in achievement. A multi-year program should be initiated to significantly reduce class inequality in educational achievement. The program would initially focus on early childhood, but wouldn’t stop there.

It would improve the income of poor families with young children, increase the quality of daycare centers – including through professional training for the teaching staff – and expand training and counseling services provided to young parents and parents with financial difficulties.

Sign up for the conference – “Educational Inequality in Israel: from Cradle to University” – here!



Get a degree, find a job? Not so fast

eitanwebsitebio croppedRecent decades have seen a substantial rise in the share of Israelis attending academic institutions. This trend has not passed over any sector in Israeli society – and even in the Haredi sector recent changes were quite dramatic. However, the impressive growth in the number of Haredim studying for an academic degree in recent years has been and continues to be accompanied by significant challenges, as I’ve written about previously. One of these challenges lies in choosing a field of study that will provide quality employment opportunities with suitable wages in the future. It is important to note that a particularly high percentage of Haredi students, (especially those enrolled in private colleges) study law or business administration – fields in which the labor market is already saturated. Is this phenomenon a result of poor choices on the part of Haredi students, or does it stem from the limited supply of degree programs available to them?

It seems that both explanations are correct, but the latter sheds light on a larger problem in Israel’s higher education system. The excessive focus of academic institutions on a small number of (popular) fields of study is not only problematic for the Haredi experience in academia, but rather is a large-scale epidemic that affects all higher education in Israel.

The “College Revolution” in Israel began in 1995, in the wake of legislation that allowed, for the first time, non-university institutions to train students pursuing their bachelor’s, and later graduate, degrees. This has had some dramatic effects (some positive and some negative) on the Israeli labor market and on Israeli society as a whole. There is no doubt that increasing the supply and accessibility of higher education in the geographical and social periphery has increased the share of academically-educated workers in the labor force, improved human capital, and contributed to narrowing gaps. Even population groups that have refrained in the past from entering the labor market began to acquire an academic education and to gradually join the workforce. Thus, for example, in the past decade alone, the employment rate of Arab Israeli women has increased from 21% to 40%. However, alongside these positive trends, the “College Revolution” has come at a high price to the Israeli economy – one that is hidden beneath the surface. In order to understand this, we need to explore the situation in greater depth.

About two years ago, my colleague Gilad Brand and I investigated the problem of labor productivity in Israel and tried to understand why it is so low compared to other developed countries. Labor productivity is the average monetary value of an hour worked. This is a good measure of the level of efficiency and productivity of the worker, which is dependent on his training, professionalism, and the technological level of the equipment he uses. The higher the labor productivity, the higher workers’ wages will be and the higher the standard of living is in the country. In order to understand why labor productivity in Israel lags behind the rest of the developed world, we compared various industries in Israel to the corresponding industries in 12 OECD countries. The comparison focuses on problematic sectors whose contribution to the productivity gap is particularly large. Not surprisingly, in almost all sectors of the economy (except for the high-tech industries), labor productivity in Israel was lower. However, this finding in and of itself did not improve our understanding of the problem.

Our breakthrough came when we compared the relative size of the Israeli industries to the relative size of the corresponding industries in the OECD. We found that in Israel, a certain industry termed “other business services” is exceptionally large. In fact, about one quarter of all employees in Israel’s business sector are employed in this industry, compared with only one eighth in the OECD countries. Although this industry includes, among other things, occupations such as security guards, cleaning workers, and cooks, the majority of it is made up of academic occupations requiring high-skilled workers such as lawyers, accountants, economists, and managers.

It is important to emphasize that workers with an academic degree – and not security guards – make up the bulk of this industry and account for its inflated size. For example, in Israel there are three times more lawyers per 1000 people than in most developed countries. The share of accountants and business administration graduates is also exceptionally high in Israel.

Why is this problematic? Well, if the share of lawyers or accountants was doubled or tripled, the “economic pie” itself would not get bigger. These lawyers or accountants would not bring additional value to Israel’s economy as would, for instance, high-tech companies, industrial factories, or agriculture enterprises whose products can be exported. I’m not claiming that we don’t need lawyers or accountants, but if other developed countries do well with a third of what we have – why does the Israeli economy need so many people in these jobs? The simple answer is that it doesn’t. In fact, the excess of workers turning to these industries comes at the expense of the more productive industries that suffer from a lack of manpower – especially manufacturing.

Undergraduate students in universities and academic colleges

How did we get into this situation? By allowing many private colleges to open in the 1990s, the State was able to provide access to higher education to a larger segment of the population, but never clearly defined the range of degree programs these institutions should offer. In fact, the prevailing assumption was that the market would adjust itself (according to the “invisible hand” principle), and that therefore the private colleges would inevitably offer their students degree programs that suit the needs of the labor market. The reality, however, is very different. Many private colleges have focused their attention and efforts on a limited number of study tracks with prestigious reputations (such as law, accounting, and business administration), which has enabled them to attract many students who are willing to pay large sums of money for the opportunity to acquire a desirable profession. In hindsight, it’s clear that these offerings are appealing but do not match the needs of the labor market (rather, it serves the interests of the colleges), and has led many graduates to find themselves with few real employment opportunities. Unfortunately, this grim reality is particularly damaging to Haredi students, especially those studying in private colleges.

How, therefore, is it possible to choose a study track that will provide a proper livelihood? The answer depends, of course, on the individual and the circumstances. It’s no secret that the high-tech and computer science sectors offer the highest salaries, but not everyone can become a programmer or a computer engineer (for those who can, I would strongly recommend doing so). Even for those who are not “computer geniuses” there are ways to enter the high-tech world. Software testers, for example, undergo a short training process in comparison to academic training, and earn respectable salaries. While Israel’s high-tech industry may be large compared to other countries, there is no shortage of available jobs. On the contrary, there is very high demand for more skilled workers. Nonetheless, it is clear that this sector alone will not provide employment for the vast majority of those looking for a job.

Where, then, are there other opportunities for good jobs with good wages? Well, in manufacturing. While the law and accounting firms are overflowing with college graduates, the manufacturing industry desperately needs more skilled workers. There is a serious lack of technicians, practical engineers, turners, welders, electricians, and machine operators in Israel. The training courses in these areas are relatively short – certainly in comparison to an academic degree – and the State subsidizes a large portion of the training costs or covers the costs in full. There is no need to pass a certain threshold on tests such as the bagrut or psychometric exams in order to be accepted into these training programs. Furthermore, at the end of the training, a worker can join the industry with a starting salary that is significantly higher than the starting salary for most workers with an academic degree.

If this is so, why is there such a severe shortage of workers in these industries? Firstly, it should be noted that until recently, the State didn’t provide enough training tracks for industrial workers, and the factories chose not to train those workers themselves. This is because worker turnover nowadays is faster than in the past and, therefore, it isn’t worthwhile for firms to invest in costly worker training. Secondly, non-academic professions in Israel have unjustly acquired an inferior reputation. Many people may remember that about three years ago, at a cabinet meeting on vocational training, Silvan Shalom admonished Prime Minister Netanyahu, saying: “Send your son to be a tinsmith or a welder…” (Calcalist, October 22, 2014). This statement accurately reflects the mentality of a large swath of the Israeli public. In a country where most young adults are engaged in an academic “arms race” – trying to keep up with their peers in the pursuit of additional degrees – manual labor has become an inferior and derided alternative.

But for those who can ignore the background noise and social stigma, short training courses and rapid integration into industries with respectable incomes are attractive. In fact, when weighing the costs and benefits, they may prefer this option over investing several years and tens of thousands of shekels to enter a saturated profession where good wages aren’t guaranteed. I’m not saying that acquiring an academic degree is not worthwhile. But I would also highly recommend that those considering their career paths find out in advance what future awaits them in the labor market.

This op-ed was published in the Times of Israel on October 23, 2017.

Eitan Regev - Taub Center

Dr. Eitan Regev is an economist and senior researcher at the Taub Center and…Read More




What are the most important trends in higher education in Israel?

Hadas1. What are some of the most important demographic trends we have seen in academia in recent years?

On the one hand, we see that the increase in the share of those pursuing an academic degree has come to a halt. After years of very significant growth in the number of higher education students, which began in the 1990s with the opening of private academic colleges and has led to a situation where today there are more students in private colleges than in the public universities, the rate has stabilized at about half of the young Israeli population. On the other hand, we see that population groups that used to pursue higher education at relatively low rates are still increasing their share among higher education students. Particularly noteworthy are Arab Israeli women, whose rate of those pursuing an academic degree has increased significantly, and who now turn to a more diverse array of professions than in the past. In addition, there is an increase in the number of Haredi men pursuing higher education than in the past, though the rate remains low.

2. What is the balance of men and women in higher education?

Women are more educated than men in Israel and in most OECD countries. In Israel, the share of women out of those receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees was over 50% as early as 1995, and in 2015 women made up 60% of those receiving a degree. There has also been a significant increase in the share of women completing doctorate programs, which today stands at about half. Women work in occupations that don’t require an academic degree at lower rates than do men, perhaps because there are fewer options for women in non-academic professions, which reinforces the high rates at which women continue on to academic programs.

3. You’ve done a lot of research on the gender wage gap. What impact do differences between male and female students in higher education institutions have on the wage gap?

The field a student chooses to study in higher education has a large impact on future wages. While those who study engineering and can get jobs in the high-tech sector are expected to receive high salaries, other degrees don’t open up opportunities for high-paying jobs. These differences have a critical effect on the gender wage gap. Women choose to study the humanities and social sciences at high rates, while a higher percentage of men learn engineering and computer science. It’s good to choose a field of study based on one’s interests and passions, but it’s also important to understand the impact this choice has on future income. Unfortunately, we aren’t seeing much of an improvement in this situation, and over the past 25 years the share of women studying computer science has even decreased.

4. How do the degrees that students are pursuing line up with the needs of the labor market – present and future?

The degrees that students pursue are not necessarily compatible with what is needed today in the labor market. Currently, there is a large surplus of lawyers in Israel and a shortage of engineers. It’s true that the share of those studying engineering and computers is increasing, but not enough to meet demand. It’s important that in choosing a field of study, one thinks about what is needed and where there are employment opportunities. At the same time, it is important to remember that the subject a student studies isn’t the only thing that matters, and that learning skills, creativity, and entrepreneurship are also very important.

5. We all know that most Israeli students in higher education work while they are pursuing their degrees. What types of jobs are they working in and how does this affect their entrance into the labor market?

Most students in higher education work in jobs that are not relevant to their field of study – primarily in sales jobs and waiting tables. Today, when the percentage of those with an academic degree has soared, having a bachelor’s degree, in and of itself, is not enough get a job and, therefore, relevant experience during their higher education studies could help students acquire skills that would make them stand out from other job candidates.


Living out of boxes – what Sukkot can teach us about Israel’s housing market


Photo credit: RonAlmog via VisualHunt /  CC BY


The holiday of Sukkot reminds us what it is like to live in a temporary home – to live out of (or quite literally, in) boxes.

Unfortunately this is the reality for many young couples in Israel year-round. Since long-term rental is not an available alternative in Israel, couples tend to want to own homes, even at a high cost. Yet housing prices have more than doubled in Israel in the past decade (according to CBS data).

Not surprisingly, a very large percentage of Israelis over the age of 45 live in apartments they own, and this percentage has not changed considerably as a result of increasing housing prices. This is due to the fact that these apartments were mostly purchased before housing prices surged in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis.

Younger Israelis, however, have been affected by the price increase. For 35-44-year-olds the percentage that does not live in apartments they own increased to almost 36% between 2003 and 2014, and for 25-34-year-olds this has gone up over 10 percentage points to over 60%. This leaves many young couples in temporary rentals, having to pack up and move relatively often.

Infographic - living out of boxes

For many young Israelis, the answer to the high price of housing and high cost of living is to live with their parents. These economic forces – alongside social norms of a delay in starting higher education and entering the labor market – have brought about a rise in the share of young adults choosing this option over renting or buying. As of 2015, 57% of unmarried young adults in Israel ages 22-28 still lived with their parents. Some of this rise may be due to Israelis getting married later.

Living with parents can help ease the financial burden on young Israelis, though it may not be the parents’ or the child’s ideal solution. But hey – it’s temporary, right?

share of young adults living with parents

How much does heart disease take a toll on Israelis?

In honor of World Heart Day this week (September 29th), the Israel Heart Society has released new data showing that heart attacks are the second leading cause of death in Israel, following cancer.

The Taub Center recently looked at heart disease and other health conditions, not in terms of mortality alone, but rather to see which conditions take the greatest toll on Israel’s population today in terms of DALYs – Disability-Adjusted Life Years, which take into account years lost to both death and disability.

When calculating the disease burden in Israel in this manner, researchers Liora Bowers and Prof. Dov Chernichovsky  found that heart disease is ranked among the top five leading causes of the disease burden in Israel, trailing behind lower back and neck pain while surpassing diabetes, vision and hearing problems, and depression (in that order).

Despite its high ranking, the disease burden from heart disease is notably lower in Israel than in other countries and the burden of heart disease and stroke have decreased by a remarkable 58% between 1990 and 2015, while the burden of diabetes, vision and hearing problems, and depression have increased. This is part of a known international phenomenon attributed to better detection and treatment of heart disease and stroke, and the development of new medications effective at lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. On the other hand, an increase in body mass index (BMI) and in diabetes rates has had the opposite effect, and mitigated the reduction in heart disease that might have otherwise been seen in Israel.

Disease burden graph ENG

In terms of mortality rates, specifically, Israel has a significantly lower death rate caused by heart disease and stroke than in other European countries, even after accounting for Israel’s relatively younger population. At least part of this discrepancy may be explained by behavioral factors, namely smoking and alcohol and drug use, which are less prevalent among Israelis than among Europeans.

Additionally, Israel has a relatively low mortality rate from diseases that are influenced by physical exercise, including heart disease and certain types of cancer. In another recent study, Prof. Alex Weinreb found a connection between these mortality patterns and mandatory military service. The study found that military service – which is often physically demanding – added more than three years to male life expectancy in Israel. This conclusion is supported by the relatively low mortality rate among Jews in Israel from the aforementioned diseases that are associated with low levels of physical activity. For the most part, Arab Israelis do not serve in the military and, according to data from the Ministry of Health, their rates of diagnosis of heart and vascular diseases are higher than the rates within the Jewish population.

Nonetheless, Israelis should take note that heart disease, stroke and other diseases related to high blood pressure are also strongly affected by diet. Although the Mediterranean diet in Israel – which includes high consumption of vegetables, fruits and legumes – has proven health benefits, Israelis also tend to consume relatively high amounts of sugar, and not enough whole grains. Almost half of Israeli children drink sugar-sweetened beverages every day, rates that are even higher than in the United States. Furthermore, purchasing a healthy food basket is increasingly unaffordable for many Israeli families.


Learn more about heart health and other things you should know about health in Israel – including findings on life expectancy, old age, disease burden, healthcare spending, waiting times for medical procedures, and nutrition – in this short online book.

Cover of Ourboox ENG


“What are the most pressing issues…?” and more questions and answers about education in Israel

נחום1. What are the most pressing issues facing Israel’s education system this coming school year?

The most pressing issues facing the education system in the coming year are the narrowing of scholastic and educational gaps, raising the level of achievement in all areas of study, and improving the educational atmosphere in schools.
In particular, we should focus on increasing mutual tolerance for less widely accepted opinions and reducing the level of verbal and physical violence between students, as well as between students and teachers. Another critical issue is continuing the trend of improvement in recruiting excellent teachers to the education system and in training teachers.

2. As we enter the new year, what do you identify as the major factors contributing to inequalities within the education system?

The most influential factor contributing to inequality in the education system is the inequality prevailing in Israeli society at large, and the dominant ideology that views economic inequality as a positive thing that encourages individuals to work hard, and promises that those who work harder will achieve more. Within the education system, the most influential factors contributing to inequality are the various budgeting methods used at different stages of the education system and the budget allocated for affirmative action, the scope of which is insufficient to meet students’ needs.

3. At this time of year, the subject always comes up about how much parents need to spend privately on their children’s education – whether formally or for “extra” things. What are the trends, as you see them, in private spending on education?

Private spending on education has always existed and will continue to exist in the future. Parents who are financially capable of doing so want to give their children the best education possible so they can succeed in the future. The problem lies in the level of the basic education provided by the State.
The lower the level of this State-provided education, the greater the demand for high parental payments in order to provide services that the parents and school administration, and even the Ministry of Education, think the school should provide but cannot do so within their existing budgets (trips, parties, and more). It’s also worth noting that a large part of the increase in parental payments stems from the parents’ own demands, and it might be possible to reduce these increases if parents were satisfied with less expensive trips and parties.

4. Where does Israel currently stand in relation to other OECD countries on its students’ performance on international exams?

International exams indicate the abilities of Israeli students in the specific subject areas in which they are tested, at a specific age. It is difficult to learn about the education system as a whole from these scores, and even more difficult to infer anything from these achievements about the pace of Israel’s future economic development. Since the 1980’s, Israel has participated in various international research studies, and since 2000 the country has participated in the PISA (high school) exams.
Israeli students’ achievements on these exams have always been low and fall below the average of other participating countries. Equally troubling, if not even more concerning, is the fact that the gap between Israel’s weakest and strongest students is among the highest in all the countries that participate in the exams.

5. What education issues should we be paying attention to in the coming months?

I would highly recommend paying attention to what the Director General (of the Ministry of Education) is saying about freedom of expression in the classroom. In recent years, we have encountered the very disturbing phenomenon that teachers and principals are reluctant to discuss burning social problems in school out of fear of the response from parents and students, and perhaps even from the Ministry of Education.
Despite the fact that the Director General has encouraged teachers to raise sensitive and charged subjects in the classroom, teachers and administrators seem to understand this differently and exercise self-censorship. It is very important that the Ministry of Education make clear its position on the matter.

Arab Israelis and Haredim lag behind in computer literacy in Israel

computer literacy in Israel

What does it mean to be literate in today’s modern day and age? Literacy in the traditional sense – the ability to read and write – is no longer sufficiently descriptive of the basic skills a person needs to be educated and employable. In an increasingly technologically-reliant world, basic computer skills are a fundamental element of today’s “literacy.”

Tomorrow is International Literacy Day, as marked by UNESCO decades ago when the idea of computer literacy would not have been conceivable. Yet, to really evaluate literacy in Israel in 2017, it is important to look at levels of digital proficiency among the country’s various population groups.  These skills are increasingly required in the work place and will likely only grow in importance in the coming years.

The Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC, Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies) measures adults’ proficiency in problem solving in computerized surroundings – that is, their ability to use technology to carry out certain tasks. As can be seen in the graph below, skills are divided into three levels, with Level 3 indicating high digital competency. Respondents with no computer literacy took a paper version of the survey and are marked separately than those falling into one of the three levels (the gray bars).

computer literacy in Israel

What does this graph tell us? The figure shows the results of the survey for workers in OECD countries. The two columns to the left of zero show the lowest performing workers: those taking the paper survey or those ranked Level 1 or below. To the right of zero are columns showing the number of workers at proficiency levels higher than Level 1.

Overall, Israel falls below the OECD average on several measures: about 16% of the population did not take the computerized version of the survey versus about 11% in the OECD, and only 27% were ranked in the highest two levels of proficiency as opposed to about 31% in the OECD.

The results of the survey are even more telling when broken down by sector. Non-Haredi Jews in Israel have high competency levels relative to workers in other countries. However, proficiency levels among Haredim are low, with under 20% of Haredim ranked in the highest two levels of proficiency. Among Arab Israelis, proficiency levels are even lower – falling at the very bottom of the OECD ranking. Particularly notable in the Arab Israeli group, is the very high percentage of those with no computer literacy who took the paper version of the survey, which stands at nearly 26%.

The rankings of the Haredi and Arab Israeli populations, who also struggle with other obstacles related to labor force participation, highlight the importance of providing them with computer literacy skills. Because education in Israel is administered separately by the different sectors, it is important to introduce enhanced digital learning into schools in the Haredi and Arab Israeli sectors in order to work towards narrowing these computer literacy gaps among future generations of Israelis.

* Photo via Visualhunt

You’ve survived August – glad your kids are back in school?

Those who are working parents, particularly to young children, know that August is an extremely difficult month to juggle work and parenting. With no school and limited kaitanot (camps), many parents have grandparents watch their children, work out group babysitting arrangements, or resort to taking vacation days in order to provide childcare.

To explore the difficulties faced by Israelis navigating simultaneous working and parenting – not only during the summer, but throughout the entire year – it’s important to take into account the unique demographic and employment trends in the country.


Israel has a much higher fertility rate than any other country in the OECD: an average of 3.1 children per woman. While the fertility rates in other OECD countries have been declining, Israel’s hasn’t changed much since 1980.

Not only are Israelis having many children, they are also working a lot. There has been a significant growth in labor force participation for all population groups in recent years, but the effect is particularly strong among women (labor force participation among women is growing worldwide). Female employment rates in Israel are at an all-time high and are well above the OECD average. In fact, employment rates among Jewish women in Israel are higher than the rates in nearly all OECD countries. Though the employment rates of Arab Israeli women fall below the employment rates of all the other OECD countries, their rates have also been improving in recent years.

תעסוקת נשים_אנגלית@2x

The increase in female employment rates is particularly prominent among mothers with small children. In 2011, the employment rates of women in their 30’s who are mothers of children aged 0-4 was 69% – an increase of 17 percentage points from the 1995 rates, and only slightly lower than the rate for women of the same age who are not mothers of young children.

Mothers eng

The bottom line is that Israeli society – including its culture, geopolitical situation and governmental policies – has helped encourage both fertility and female participation in the labor market.

At the same time, while Israeli women are working more, men in Israel are not working any less. In fact, employment rates among Israeli men are increasing. In 2014, men in Israel worked an average of 45 hours a week as compared to 41 hours a week on average in the OECD. And, the employment rate among men in their 30’s is higher for fathers with young children than for those without young children.


So both men and women in Israel, particularly those with small children, are working at high rates. What does this mean for parents trying to navigate the balance of work and child-rearing at the same time? The question naturally brings us to the topic of the coverage, availability, and cost of early childcare.


From 2003 to 2012, the average household preschool spending per child (ages 2-5) rose by 43%, a rise unparalleled in the rest of the education system and far exceeding the increase in household income or spending. Subsequently, the “stroller protest,” focusing on high preschool costs, became a central issue of the 2011 social protests. Following the protests, the Compulsory Education Law was extended to cover 3-4 year olds and has resulted in a decline in household spending on preschool, though this decline has been felt mostly by the middle and upper class segments of Israeli society. Still, covering childcare while parents are at work often involves paying for afternoon programs which, even when subsidized, often require additional parental spending. A new subsidized after-school program, announced by the Ministry of Education this past July, may help to ease the financial burden of afternoon programs for parents.

As parents often lament, problems arise when the hours of affordable childcare coverage and those of full-time employment simply do not add up. And there is probably no time in the year when this disparity is more apparent than during month of August, when schools do not operate and only very limited, private kaitanot options may be available to some.

The difficulty of finding childcare that is in sync with two working parents could potentially end up affecting young families in a number of ways including the number of hours parents choose to work. Women tend to work in part-time positions in higher proportions than do men – a fact that has further implications, as recent Taub Center research shows that one of the main factors contributing to the gender wage gap in Israel is the difference in the number of hours worked by men and women. The childcare situation could also affect the distance parents are willing to work from home – as women tend to work closer to home than men, and working locally may limit job options.

Other developed countries have implemented policies to address the needs of young families. Over half of OECD countries require employers to allow employees with young children to work part-time. In most such countries, a worker also has the right to revert from part-time back to full-time upon request. In addition, the general trend in OECD countries is to allow employees more flexibility with regard to working hours via adjusting starting and ending times, creating time “bank accounts” where extra hours are recorded and can be used as needed, or by allowing employees to work remotely.

The current employment, fertility, and education trends in Israel create a need for, and likely a lot of parental interest in, policies that will make a modern work/parent balance possible for Israeli families.


This article was published in the Times of Israel on September 4, 2017.


Graph of the Week

Aug. 31, 2017

Male teachers earn less and female teachers earn more, on average, than their counterparts with an academic degree.

Compared to others who have at least a Bachelor’s degree in Israel’s work force, male teachers still earn much less than their counterparts with academic degrees – 27% less in 2013. Although female teachers have lower average salaries than male teachers, they earned 13% more than their female academic peers in 2013. One of the most influential factors explaining the difference in average wages between the genders is differences in field of study and occupations pursued by men and women.

With regard to teacher salaries specifically, the real wages of teachers in primary school education in Israel rose by 26% from 2005 to 2013, the wages of middle school teachers rose by 19%, and of high school teachers by 10% – a significant improvement in comparison to the development in wages in other OECD countries.average monthly teacher wage 2


More and More, the Universal Healthcare System in Israel is not Enough

“Healthcare” has been a major buzzword this summer. In the U.S. certainly, the debate over healthcare – what care should and should not be covered by public funding – has dominated the news cycle. Paying for healthcare is also a large topic of discussion in Israel. Despite the establishment of universal healthcare in Israel in 1995, private spending on medical services has been increasing faster than public spending in recent years, thus increasing the private share of total healthcare finance. This has contributed to disparities in access to care that can increase inequalities in health between the rich and the poor and between the “center” and “periphery” of the country.

In their study published in the State of the Nation 2016, Taub Center Researchers Prof. Dov Chernichovsky, Haim Bleikh, and Eitan Regev found that private spending on healthcare has increased since the late 1990s. In 2014, private household spending on healthcare was about NIS 906 per month, on average, or about 5.9% of the average household expenditure, as compared with 3.9% in 1997.


Public spending per person rose from NIS 4,819 in 1995 (in 2014 prices) to NIS 6,377 in 2014, with an average annual growth rate of about 1.5%. In contrast, private expenditures rose during the same period from a total of NIS 2,247 (in 2014 prices) to NIS 3,634 – an average annual growth rate of 2.6%. In other words, the growth in private spending was far greater than the growth in public spending.

Private spending on medical services varies with income. When we look at spending at the household level, rather than per individual, the highest-income households (top quintile) spend nearly three times more than the lowest-income households (bottom quintile) on health – NIS 17,352 per year as compared with NIS 5,772 per year, on average. And, those with the lowest incomes spend a larger portion of their income on health services than those with the highest incomes. In 2015, the lowest-income households spent an average of 9.5% of their disposable income on medical care, compared to 4.8% in the highest-income households. Thus, not only do low income households have less access to medical care, they also shoulder a higher burden for this care, at the expense of buying other goods or services.

Expenditure by quintile

This private spending can be broken down into two major categories: insurance premiums and out-of-pocket payments. Over a fairly short period of time, the percentage of Israelis who purchase their health fund’s supplemental (private) insurance grew from 50% to 80%, with only the poorest not allowing themselves this expenditure. Supplemental insurance is provided by the four health funds for care not included in the universal basket and is considered semi-public because they must accept all applicants, cannot rate them based on their health, and premiums vary only by age. Commercial insurance is less common than the health fund supplementary insurance, although more than 40% of the population purchases it. Some of these private expenditures are superfluous; Israelis often pay privately for services already included in public entitlements.

Unsurprisingly, private spending on supplementary care, parallel services (private services for care that is also available through the publicly funded health basket), and commercial health insurance increases as income increases. However, the fact that such a large – and growing – portion of the population with higher incomes purchases supplementary care supports the hypothesis that the public system is insufficient from their perspective, either in the type or quality of care provided.

Private insurance does indeed provide some meaningful benefits to those who purchase it, including significantly shorter waiting times for medical treatments (which are often long in the national health fund system), meaning that wealthier citizens are able not only to choose their doctor, but also to have medical procedures carried out in a far more timely fashion.

However, on a societal level, its prevalence also increases gaps in the area of waiting times. The combination of increasing private expenditure and the fact that private and public healthcare in Israel are supplied by the same providers, incentivizes the providers to prolong waiting times in publicly funded care in order to push patients into private care, which provides extra benefits to the providers.

Another important finding of the study is that private spending on supplementary care that is not included in the universal health basket (mainly dental care) and for parallel services is higher in places where public services are less available – namely, among Arab Israelis and also to some extent among Haredim (ultra-Orthodox).

In general, the National Health Insurance law is structured to give everyone equal access to a basket of basic healthcare services independent of how much each individual spends privately on health. However, the increased role of private spending in Israel’s health system confounds the notion of equal access to some extent, and the weaker population groups end up spending a greater portion of their income on private health expenditures than do those who are better off. This outcome does not seem to fully align with what the law was intended to accomplish.

Why Haredi women outshine men in academic studies

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The growth in the number of Haredi students enrolled in higher education in recent years is quite astonishing. Between 2008 and 2014, the number of Haredi students in academic colleges and universities tripled and today stands at about 11,000 students – one third of whom are men.

Despite this impressive increase, the share of Haredim in higher education is still overall quite small: only 8% of Haredi men and 15% of Haredi women attend academic programs. Arab Israelis are studying at rates that are roughly double those of Haredim, and Non-Haredi Jews study at rates at least four times greater than Haredim.

These trends spill over to the labor market as well, where Haredi men are one of two population segments (in addition to Arab Israeli women) in which employment rates, despite growing in recent years, are significantly below the rates of the other population groups. Average household income and wages are also low in the Haredi sector relative to other population groups, which is perhaps not surprising given the impact of higher education on wages.

It is within this context that more Haredim are enrolling in higher education. But who are these Haredi students? What streams do they belong to within the Haredi world? To what degree are they succeeding and what are the main challenges they face? To answer these questions I conducted an in-depth study that cross-references official data from the Ministry of Education, academic institutions, pre-academic preparatory courses (mechinot), and the National Institute for Testing and Evaluation (which develops and administers the psychometric exams). Thus, for example, the study made it possible for the first time to categorize Haredi students by the four major Haredi streams – Hasidic, Sephardi, Lithuanian, and Chabad – according to the stream of the school they attended as teenagers.

For the purpose of the study, the Haredi population was defined as those who attended a Haredi school – that is, a school under the supervision of the Haredi education system. However, as I will explain below, a small portion of students from Haredi supervised institutions (about 5%) are essentially National Religious (Dati Leumi). This small portion, it turns out, skews the data and leads to an overestimation of the number of Haredim enrolled in higher education.

When examining the Haredi sector as one entity, the data show that about 15% of young Haredi women and about 8% of young Haredi men (ages 25-35) studied or are studying for an academic degree. However, as stated above, there are great differences in higher education trends among the various streams. Participation in academia is highest in the Chabad stream – 29% of the women and 12% of the men are enrolled. In the Hasidic stream (not including Chabad) only 3% of women and 4% of men are studying for an academic degree. Falling in between are the Sephardic stream with 14% of women and 6% of men pursuing higher education and the Lithuanian stream with 15% of women and 7% of men studying at this level. Among the National Religious who attended Haredi supervised schools the numbers are much higher – 63% of women and 38% of men studied or are studying towards an academic degree.

But to what extent are Haredi students succeeding? That is, how many of them are able to successfully complete their studies? Among the women, there is a very reasonable success rate. The combined dropout rate among Haredi women (from both academic degree programs and pre-academic preparatory programs), stands at about 33%, compared with about 25% among women in the general population. Interestingly, women from the Lithuanian stream stand out with significantly lower dropout rates than female students from the other Haredi streams. One possible explanation for this is that the role of primary breadwinner falls on women in the Lithuanian stream to a greater degree than in the other streams. Therefore, these women have a strong incentive to complete their degree in order to support their families. Another possible explanation (offered by Lithuanian female students) attributes these differences to the better quality of core curriculum teaching in Lithuanian girls’ seminars relative to those of other streams.

In comparison to Haredi women, success rates among male Haredi students are low. The combined dropout rate of Haredi men from both academic degrees and pre-academic preparatory courses is about 58% (as compared with a roughly 30% dropout rate among non-Haredi Jews). In other words, only about four out of every ten Haredim who pursue an academic degree end up completing their studies. In fact, when we remove the National Religious students who attended Haredi supervised schools from the equation, the dropout rate of Haredi male students rises to about 67%. This is a very high rate in the larger context of all those pursuing a higher degree, where the combined dropout rate stands at about 30% among non-Haredi Jewish men and at about 41% among Arab Israeli men.

Why then are the male Haredi students failing? The answer encompasses several factors. To begin with, the study led to an interesting insight: in all sectors – secular, religious, Haredi, and Arab Israeli – women have higher rates of success in academia than do men. In fact, this trend already begins in school, where girls (from all sectors) outperform the boys. This phenomenon, however, only explains part of the gap. There is more to the story, as the success gap between male and female Haredi students is larger than in any other sector.

One of the factors contributing to this gap is the relatively late age at which male Haredi students begin their studies (25 on average), an age at which most are already parents, and have significant financial responsibilities. Female Haredi students begin their academic studies at the age of 22 on average, when their families are still slightly smaller.

This fact as well cannot alone explain the huge gap in success rates between male and female Haredi students. A major contributor to the gap is the fact that most Haredi women learn core curriculum subjects – such as math and English – during high school, whereas the vast majority of male Haredi students do not learn these subjects as teenagers. Looking at the small group of National Religious students who attended Haredi schools strengthens this argument. The dropout rate among these students, who studied in schools that are officially listed under Haredi supervision but teach core curriculum subjects, is significantly lower than the dropout rates of other Haredi streams. In addition, the study shows that among non-Haredi Jews and Arab Israelis, dropout rates are very high for students without a high school education.

Still, the term “core curriculum” is too broad a concept which doesn’t provide specific enough insights regarding Haredi students’ educational weaknesses. To examine particular areas of difficulty, I compared the psychometric exam scores of Haredi students (for those who took the exam) to those of other Jewish students. This comparison reveals that in certain areas Haredi students’ performance does not fall behind the performance of non-Haredi students. On the verbal and logic sections of the exam, the average scores for Haredi and secular students are similar. For math, on the other hand, the average score for Haredi students is about seven points lower than for the secular population. However, the largest gap is in English, where the average grade for Haredi students is 20 points lower than the average for secular students.

Another factor contributing to high dropout rates is the conduct of some of the academic colleges, and particularly the private colleges – where the dropout rate for Haredi students is much higher than in public colleges. Public colleges offer Haredi students practical fields of study that enable them to integrate into high-paying industries with high demand for workers. About 52% of Haredi students in public colleges study engineering and architecture; 16% study math and computer science; 13% – business administration; and 11% – social sciences.

Private colleges however, offer fewer options, and the vast majority of their Haredi students study law and business administration (50% and 43%, respectively). These are two fields in which the labor market is already saturated. For private colleges, focusing on law and business administration is more profitable because these fields don’t have space limitations (in contrast to the sciences, for example, where capacity is limited by space in labs). Thus there is a greater incentive for private colleges to initially accept a large number of students without a serious screening process (and consequently to have higher dropout rates) because these students aren’t taking the place of other potential students. On the other hand, public colleges have a greater incentive to screen applicants and prevent dropouts, because there are a limited number of spots each year and, the higher the percentage of graduates, the higher the college’s profits.

Surveys among Haredi students show that one of the common reasons for dropping out of academic studies is disappointment in their chosen field of study – which sometimes proves to be problematic, in retrospect, in terms of generating income. For example, many Haredi students studying law discover at a later stage that the market is flooded with lawyers, the bar exams were made significantly more difficult, and finding a good internship is a serious challenge.

The performance gap between Haredi students studying at public and private colleges also demonstrates the importance of preparation prior to pursuing a degree and ongoing support during academic studies. In public colleges, admission requirements are more stringent and support (such as publicly funded tutoring hours) is more comprehensive.

In that respect, it is important to note that the vast majority of Haredi students work while pursuing their degree – similar to their peers in the general population. However, it seems that the combined challenge of filling in knowledge gaps during their studies while working and raising children makes it very difficult for Haredi students to complete their degree. Scholarships and other organized financial support for Haredi students with children could improve their rates of success.

To sum up, the fact that most Haredi students begin their academic studies at a later age, and without having studied core curriculum subjects in high school, severely impairs their ability to complete an academic degree. Without receiving proper secondary education (especially in English), their dropout rates are likely to remain high. However, supplementary courses and adequate preparation in pre-academic programs (mechinot), a more supportive framework during their degree studies (as provided by public colleges), economic support for students with children, and a wider choice of fields of study that better fit the needs of the labor market – could all significantly improve the success rates of Haredim in higher education.

This op-ed was published in the Times of Israel on July 25, 2017.


Eitan Regev - Taub Center


Eitan Regev is an economist and senior researcher at the Taub Center and…Read More

Haredi society comes full circle

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People sometimes have the tendency to simplify things they do not fully understand, yet reality is usually more complex and evolves with time and changing circumstances. During my years as a researcher, I’ve discovered that Haredi society is the most dynamic society in Israel and that recent decades have witnessed (and are still witnessing) dramatic changes within this segment of Israeli society.

Few people know that in the late 1970s employment rates among Haredi men were very similar to those among men in the general population, standing at about 84%. In contrast, the employment rates of Haredi women at that time stood at only about 40%.

The major turning point took place when Begin came to power in 1977 and the ultra-Orthodox parties joined the coalition for the first time. As part of the coalition agreements, the “Torato Omanuto” law (literally meaning “Torah study is his art”) was greatly expanded. This law exempted yeshiva students from military service – and granted them generous stipends – on the condition that they would not work and dedicate their time solely to Torah studies. Thus, it was in many ways the actions of the State that incentivized Haredi men to leave the labor force and form the “society of learners” as we know it today. At this same time, a gradual process of radicalization was set in motion within Haredi society – which was manifested in several ways

Employment rates among Haredi men dropped from 84% in the late 1970s to about 40% by 2000. The share of Haredi men attending great yeshivas jumped from 56% (among the older generation) to more than 90% (among the younger generation) and the average duration of study in the great yeshivas increased significantly to about 20 years. Birth rates among Haredim rose as well: from 6.5 children per family in 1980 to 7.5 children in 2000.

Due to the increase in fertility rates, we might have expected a decrease in the employment rate of Haredi women, but their participation rate actually rose to compensate for the decline in employment among Haredi men. Continue reading

“The War Against Poverty” – Where do things stand?

In 2014, the Committee to Fight Poverty in Israel (the Elalouf Committee) presented a detailed list of recommendations to cut poverty in Israel in half within a decade through policy in the areas of welfare, social security, employment, housing, health, and education.

In a study published in the State of the Nation 2016Taub Center researchers Prof. John Gal and Shavit Madhala-Brik examined the implementation of this plan and found that while about half of the recommendations of the committee have been implemented, the major aims are still far from being fully realized.

Israel has the highest poverty rate in the OECD when looking at disposable income (i.e., income that is available for spending after taxes and transfer payments) and social gaps have grown substantially over the past few decades.

The Committee, headed by MK Eli Elalouf, was an initiative of the Minister of Social Affairs and Social Services, MK Meir Cohen, in 2013, to recommend ways of dealing with poverty and to strengthen equal opportunity in Israel. The goals of the committee were ambitious: to reduce poverty in Israel by about half, bringing the Israeli rate in line with the OECD average poverty rate of about 11%.

So far, the recommendations of the Committee have been implemented to varying degrees as detailed below, with a number of recommendations not implemented at all. Spending on implementation is slated to increase in 2017, primarily in the area of welfare and social security.

Welfare and Social Security: A number of recommendations have been implemented in this area, including adding 150 family social work positions and increasing the budget for distressed families. The government also increased income support for the elderly by amounts ranging from NIS 130 for individuals to NIS 540 for couples in 2016 (the budget has grown in 2017 and should continue to grow in 2018).

In January of 2017, the government began the roll-out of another committee recommendation: opening a long-term savings account (Child Development Account) for every Israeli child under the age of 18. The government puts a monthly sum of NIS 50 into each account, which can be matched by the child’s family.

An important recommendation that has not yet been implemented is increasing income support for those below the poverty line to the level suggested by the committee.

Employment: Since the committee issued its recommendations, legislation has expanded eligibility for work grants (negative income tax) for single-parent families, those with disabilities, and the self-employed.

Vocational training courses have been expanded as have employment programs for populations that have difficulties participating in the labor market and for people with disabilities. There was also an increase in publicly subsidized day care centers for children of working parents.

Housing: Rent subsidies increased by NIS 600-900 a month for those eligible to receive them. However, though the committee recommended that the eligibility requirements be extended so that more households could qualify for rent subsidies, this has not yet come to fruition. The government has increased the supply of public housing, but not enough to meet the demand, leaving many families still waiting for public housing.

The proposed “Equal Neighborhood” program to revitalize underprivileged neighborhoods through infrastructure, investment, and other community programming has thus far not been implemented.

Health: Public subsidies for dental care are in the process of being implemented for seniors over the age of 75 who also receive income support, as well as for children up until the age of 14 (in the coming years this will be expanded to cover children until the age of 18).

Health services for students, which had been privatized, were returned to the authority of the Ministry of Health for some districts of the country, following dissatisfaction with the service of private providers. However, the nurse/student ratio has not been improved.

Additional recommendations that are currently under consideration are establishing health promotion and prevention centers for the elderly and a reduction in the co-payment for medicines and medical services.

Education: In the realm of education, about NIS 100 million per year were added to the budget in order to add study hours in schools serving socioeconomically weak populations. On the other hand, the recommendation to invest in preschool education was not implemented.

Spending on implementing the recommendations has increased in 2017

The price tag of the Elalouf Committee’s recommendations stood at NIS 7.4 billion per year. Due to elections in 2015, the government put few of the recommendations into effect and added only NIS 434 million to the relevant budget areas in that year. In 2016, NIS 1.9 billion was added to the budget — about 26% of the additional sum recommended.

By the end of 2017, the additional expenditure is expected to reach NIS 4 billion – or about 54% of the recommended amount. The majority of the increase is being devoted to welfare and social security.

More specifically, the money is being used for the Child Development Account program, for work grants (negative income tax) and for an additional increase in the old age income supplements. These steps are an improvement in the implementation of the committee recommendations, though they still seem insufficient to attain its declared goal.

Elalouf committy

One of the main challenges to implementation stems from the fact that the government has not as of yet established a centralized authority for combatting poverty to more efficiently manage processes that are currently spread out among multiple government bodies.

Furthermore, due to budget constraints, the additional government expenditure in 2017 is still only about half of the expenditure addition recommended by the Elalouf Committee, which was NIS 7.4 billion annually.

As a result, the government did not implement some of the central recommendations of the committee, such as increasing income support for those living below the poverty line, and it allocated very limited resources to programs like work grants, vocational training, and the purchase of additional homes for public housing.

Litzman to increase hospital beds – in keeping with Taub Center findings

Following protests in the North earlier this week against health care gaps between the center and the periphery of the country, Health Minister MK Yakov Litzman released a plan for reducing these disparities.

The Health Ministry plan for the periphery includes: opening more emergency medical centers, incentivizing doctors to work in these regions, bringing MRI machines to a number of hospitals in the North, training more Bedouin nurses in the South, creating incentives for the health funds to invest in the periphery, and increasing the allocation of hospital beds.

Hospital beds in periphery and center

A recent Taub Center study shows that the disparity in access to hospital beds between regions in Israel is significant. In Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, the supply of beds is between 2.2 and 2.5 beds per 1,000 people, while in the Southern district, the supply is only 1.3 beds per 1,000 people. Similarly, the supply of doctors in 2013 per 1,000 people in the North was only two-thirds as high as in other parts of the country, while the supply of other healthcare professionals (such as pharmacists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, etc.) in the North and South was half that of other regions.

The limited supply of hospital beds aligns with other disparities in healthcare in the periphery, including longer waiting times for elective surgeries. As shown in the graph below, the supply of beds in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, is the highest in the country, and patient waiting times are 15%-30% shorter than the national average. In contrast, in the Southern district, where the supply of beds is lowest, patient waiting times are about 44% longer than the average.

The bottom line: the regions with fewer hospital beds also have longer waiting times.

Waiting times and hospital beds by district

The new plan, which was announced on Tuesday, includes adding more than 300 beds to hospitals in the periphery.

Do smaller classes mean better educational achievements?

The end of the school year, and preparation for the start of the next, provide a timely opportunity to evaluate large education policy trends. In fact, it was at this same time of year a couple years ago that parents and students in Israel took to the streets in what was deemed the “sardines protest” to demonstrate against overcrowded classrooms in Israel’s education system.

As part of the protest, parents from all over the country sent cans of sardines to the office of Minister of Education MK Naftali Bennett, to illustrate how students were packed into Israeli classrooms the way sardines are packed into a can.

The campaign drew legitimacy from international data on class size and student achievements. Of the 34 countries that participated in the relevant OECD study, Israel placed fifth in terms of large class size, with an average of 27 students per primary school class and 32 students per middle school class. At the same time, a look at Israeli student achievements on the OECD’s international PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) exams, which test 15-year-olds in mathematics, reading and science, shows Israeli students to be in the lower half of the attainment ranking for all subjects tested.

It’s not a new phenomenon, nor one specific to Israel, that both parents and many teachers see smaller classes as a way to improve the achievements of students. Yet researchers Reut Shafrir, Yossi Shavit and Carmel Blank recently found that, when isolating class size from other factors that could influence student achievements – such as parental education levels and prior academic achievements – there is no notable relationship between class size and achievements in eighth grade.

The main challenge in trying to understand how class size affects student performance is that class placement is often not randomly determined, but rather reflects systemic educational considerations that themselves could potentially affect student achievements. For example, relatively low-achieving students are often placed in smaller classes from the start, in the hope that this will help improve their performance.

The study, which was published by the Taub Center, analyzes data on scores of students who took the Israeli Meitzav exams in language arts (Hebrew) in 2006 and 2009 as well as background data on these same students. In the initial analysis, the researchers found that there is actually a positive relationship between class size and achievements in Israel; the scores of students in large classes are seemingly higher than those of students in smaller classes.

However, when separating out parental education levels and prior achievements, the researchers found that the relationship between class size and achievements is not statistically significant in either direction. In this model, the greatest impact on a student’s Hebrew Meitzav exam score in Grade 8 is the score of the same student on the Grade 5 Hebrew Meitzav exam – that is to say, prior achievements. Higher levels of parental education were also found to be correlated with greater student achievements.

English box

Earlier studies in other countries indicate that ethnic minorities and those belonging to lower socioeconomic strata are likely to benefit more from smaller classes than others. The researchers evaluate the hypothesis that the impact of class size on achievements varies between students of different socioeconomic backgrounds and between stronger and weaker students in Israel. Yet the hypotheses did not hold up: no difference in the relationship between class size and achievements was found among the groups.

There are two important caveats to the researchers’ findings on class size. First, the result refers to eighth-grade test scores only, and does not guarantee that the same is true for, say, first graders. Second, while grades might not depend on class size, the classroom experience could certainly be affected, a factor that may be no less important than academic outcomes.

Similarly, small classes could facilitate the use of teaching methods that may help students achieve – for example, individualized or small-group instruction – but it is unclear whether teachers working in small classes do, in fact, take advantage of the possibilities that such classes present. If teachers use forms of instruction similar to those commonly employed in large classes, they may effectively neutralize the small-class advantage.

We Came and We Stayed!

Two members of our Taub Center team – Tova Cohen and Tamar Friedman – originally came to the Center from the U.S. as year-long interns through the Israel Institute. Since then, both have continued to work at the Taub Center in new positions and both have chosen to make Israel their home.



Becoming an Israeli citizen has been an uncertain dream of mine since I was a teenager. In 2015, I ultimately chose to make Aliyah and build a life in Israel, and my work at the Taub Center was central to that journey.

After graduating from the University of Colorado and spending a year interning with the Center’s marketing department, I solidified my understanding that policymakers are best equipped to do their jobs when their decisions are based on evidence, not assumptions.

Through my work in the marketing department, I also came to find my knack for project management, all of which led me to the decision to stay on at the Taub Center as a Project and Government Relations Manager – and ultimately to make Aliyah.

Living in the vibrant city of Tel Aviv, my work at the Taub Center has poised me to debate knowledgeably about social policy issues with my peers and spend my days doing my part to work toward a stronger Israeli society – what more can an olah chadasha (new immigrant) ask for?


I came to the Taub Center in the fall of 2015 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania the prior spring. I was looking for a way to better understand and have an impact on policy in Israel, so the Center was a natural fit.

After a year of working in the area of English marketing and communications, I chose to stay on at the Taub Center and have begun a new position to develop short content based on the Center’s research that is accessible to a wider audience.  This type of content helps to pave the way for the public to learn about socioeconomic trends in Israel and how such trends affect their lives.

Although when I first arrived I came to “check out” living in Israel, along the journey of the past year and a half I decided to stay and build my life here. This past month, my husband and I made it official and formally made Aliyah (to much celebration from my co-workers)!

In Honor of Yom Yerushalayim: The State of Jerusalem’s Labor Market

On the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, the city has much to celebrate: a population of almost a million people, transportation projects that improve access to and from the city, the growth of new industrial zones, and the development of high-caliber jobs that recruit skilled workers to the city.  

When you walk down the streets of Jerusalem today, it’s amazing to see how much the city has developed over the past 50 years. As an economist, I was naturally interested in checking how the city has advanced its job opportunities and labor force, since these are key indicators of its economic stability and potential for future economic growth.

What I found was heartening. For those who work in Jerusalem (whether they also live there or live elsewhere), the city is developing and fostering higher-level job opportunities and an increasingly skilled workforce.

As of 2015, those who worked in Jerusalem had higher overall education levels than in the rest of the country. Between 2012 and 2015, this trend has become more pronounced. There was an increase in Jerusalem workers whose highest level of education is a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in 2015 than there were in 2012, and a decrease in workers whose highest level of education was a matriculation certificate or below.

While this is also true for workers in the rest of Israel, the change in Jerusalem was more dramatic in both directions – more than double the change in the rest of the country for most levels of education.

So Jerusalem is attracting more highly educated workers, but for what types of jobs?

Just as in the rest of the world, Israel’s job market is likely to change significantly over the coming decades as technological developments allow computerization to replace manpower in many industries. As is shown in the research of Shavit Madhala-Brik from the Taub Center, nearly 40% of the work hours in the Israeli market are at high risk of being replaced by computers or machines in the coming two decades.

This isn’t necessarily a bad trend, as computerization will likely lead to more efficiency in existing industries and to the development of new industries we cannot begin to imagine. However, it is important to be aware of which jobs are more or less likely to be affected and to adequately prepare for the future labor market.

In Jerusalem, as well as in the rest of Israel, occupations such as tailors, construction workers, bookkeepers, and clerks fall into the high risk category, as well as a number of other occupations that are characterized by repetitive or technical work. However, professions requiring creativity, social intelligence, and proficiency in negotiation fall into the category of low-risk occupations.

The job market in Jerusalem has been moving towards jobs at low-risk of computerization and high-skilled workers and away from high-risk jobs and low-skilled workers. Israel overall has experienced the same shift, but the trend is even more pronounced in Jerusalem. This is a positive indicator of the direction of Jerusalem’s labor market in the future.

More low-risk jobs and highly educated workers in Jerusalem may very well be due to the city’s ability to attract big high-tech companies like Intel and Mobileye in recent years, as well as the presence of one of the leading universities in the country, research institutes, and other academic institutions. Jerusalem has some of the best hospitals in the country and is a hub for internationally recognized organizations. In addition, the city is home to the highest level of the country’s government institutions, whose workers tend to be highly educated.

Despite all of this progress, there’s more research to be done to complete the picture. The Taub Center is beginning to explore how education and employment trends differ between those who work in Jerusalem and those who live in Jerusalem. According to the preliminary findings, there is still much to be done to help the residents of Jerusalem directly benefit from the changing and improving work environment in the city.

We cannot predict what employment in Jerusalem will look like in another 50 years, but today the city should celebrate how far it has come and the positive steps it is taking to set itself up for the future.

This op-ed was published in the Jewish Journal on May 24, 2017.

Preparing for the future: long-term care in Israel

The number of elderly Israelis (aged 75 and older) is expected to double from about 610,000 today to about 1.24 million by 2035. As a result, Israel’s disability levels – which are by nature higher among the elderly – are expected to grow even faster than the growth of the general population over the same period of time.

This substantial demographic change will increase the demand for long-term care – an issue that has already proven challenging in Israel.

elderly population expected to double

Long-term care helps people of all ages who require functional, mental, or social assistance for day-to-day activities. In practice, unsurprisingly, most of the need for long-term care is concentrated in the elderly population.

New Taub Center findings show that Israel’s long-term care system is inequitable and inefficient compared to developed OECD countries with similar social welfare systems (such as France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom). Israel’s spending on long-term care relative to GDP is as high as those countries that have introduced universal long-term care insurance – yet Israel has no such universal insurance.

Israel also has a larger percentage of recipients whose long-term care is provided by the community rather than by institutions: about 19% of long-term care is provided by the community in Israel as compared with only 9% for OECD countries. While this is desirable in principle, one possible explanation for this phenomenon is that there are relatively limited options and access to institutional care in Israel.

What does all of this mean? In the near future more Israelis will need long-term care and yet our current system is not prepared for this and has many disadvantages. The total amount of money spent on long-term care in Israel – including community care, institutional care, and premiums on long-term care insurance – is estimated at NIS 15.3 billion in 2014.

Yet the government only covers a little over half, or NIS 8.3 billion, of this spending. Total private financing, by comparison, is estimated at 7.3 billion NIS (2014).

Private funding of long-term care in Israel is three times higher than the OECD average (45% as compared with 16%). Most of this private care is home-based. The money that households spend on long-term care is divided among a number of different areas: about 39% of household spending on long-term care goes to payment for caregivers (often foreign workers), about 37% goes to assisted living facilities, and about 22% goes toward insurance premiums.

Public funding, regulation and oversight for long-term care is divided among the National Insurance Institute, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Social Services, and the kupot holim (health funds). This fragmentation contributes to inefficiencies in the public system.

share of private long-term care triple of oecd

Thus, the burden of long-term care falls heavily on the elderly and their families. This burden is financial, physical and emotional, in part because of the difficulty of navigating the relevant bureaucracy. Moreover, in many instances family members have to scale back or quit work in order to care for their aging parents.

Most pressed are middle class households who, on the one hand, cannot afford to hire caregivers or afford privately funded assisted living facilities, and on the other hand are not poor enough to qualify for state supported institutional care.

Taub Center data show that nearly all countries with social welfare systems similar to that of Israel provide long-term care through publicly-oriented solutions, such as combining compulsory insurance payments with public funding, rather than relying so heavily on private spending, in order to provide universal long-term care options to their citizens.

In light of these findings, Researchers Prof. Dov Chernichovsky, Dr. Avigdor Kaplan, Mr. Eitan Regev, and Prof. Yochanan Shtessman offer possible options for long-term care reform in Israel, including:

• Establish a universal basic basket of long-term care services that is separate from the medical care basket.

• Fund the long-term care basket through existing public sources in addition to mandatory contributions collected from all Israeli
residents. Raising the retirement age presents another opportunity to ease the level of funding required by the government.

• Allow residents to buy private discretionary long-term care insurance to supplement their public entitlement under universal coverage.

• Establish a single, dedicated government authority that has complete responsibility for all long-term care management, rather than the current segmented system.

offer possible options for long-term care reform in Israel

These policy options would reduce the burden on families, increase public responsibility, and make the system more equal and efficient. Prioritizing reforms to the system now can ensure that Israel is better prepared to care for its growing elderly population.

How does Israel take care of its Holocaust survivors?


There are currently more than 200,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel who are eligible to receive government benefits such as tax breaks and assistance in purchasing medicines and various other expenses. As of 2015, 20-30% of Holocaust survivors in Israel were living below the poverty line.

The Holocaust Survivors’ Rights Authority was established in the mid-1950s to oversee these benefits, but over the past decade public outcry has resulted in greater efforts to ease the economic and social difficulties of this population.

A dramatic rise in spending on pensions and benefits for the Holocaust survivor population began in 2008. The increase was sparked by amendments to the law that allowed disabled Holocaust survivors who had not filed claims in the past to do so, and expanded eligibility to include those who were affected by the deportations in countries under German influence during World War II. Because of these changes, spending on Holocaust survivors rose from 0.5% of total government spending in 2000 to 0.7% in 2008. In the past two years, the budget has continued to grow and spending today comes to about 0.9% of total government expenditure and about 5% of all social security spending.

Government spending on holocaust survivors

What’s new in the policy for 2017-2018?

Towards the end of 2016 compensation for Holocaust survivors was retroactively raised (for October 2015 through the end of 2016) by NIS 34 million and the addition was further increased to NIS 48 million beginning this year.

As part of the 2017-2018 budget, the annual grant for Holocaust survivors was increased from 3,600 NIS a year to 3,960 NIS a year. In addition, benefits for Holocaust survivors were extended to those from Morocco, Algeria, and Iraq who experienced anti-Semitism and suffered from other restrictions during World War II. These survivors are entitled to an annual grant of about 600 NIS and exemption from payment for prescription drugs included in the public health basket.


What are the greatest challenges for implementing the policy?

Despite the expansion of eligibility and amendments to the law, there are many Holocaust survivors who are entitled to allowances and benefits, yet do not receive them in practice. This is because the burden is on them to initiate the process and prove that they are indeed entitled to the benefits, which involves complex bureaucratic processes. As a result, not all survivors receive the benefits due to them by law.


Manna for all: Who can afford to eat healthy in Israel?

A basic, healthy food basket assures adequate nutrition that is essential for proper body, mind and social functioning. It is seen as a basic right in modern societies, not unlike the right to education and healthcare. In Israel, there has not yet been a meaningful attempt to define this basic healthy food basket and to examine its affordability in terms of household income, even though about 130,000 households in Israel suffer from nutritional insecurity and an even greater number suffer nutritional deficiencies.

The research by Dr. Janetta Azarieva, Ben Orion, Rebecca Goldsmith, Avidor Ginsberg, Ran Milman, and Prof. Dov Chernichovsky is a first attempt to define this basket and to analyze its significance for families of varying socioeconomic statuses.

A healthy food basket is divided into several food groups. The Ministry of Health has determined the basket according to the Mediterranean food pyramid as well as according to local eating patterns in Israel. This basket gives preference to natural, unprocessed foods that are organic – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts – in combination with relatively small amounts of animal-based foods: eggs, milk products, fish, chicken, and meat. The relative share of the food groups within the basket and the recommended daily serving sizes are based on the calculations of the US Department of Agriculture and the Israeli Ministry of Health definitions.

There are a number of advantages to the balanced diet that the basket represents. First, it is healthy, prevents heart disease and can promote longevity. Second, it is based primarily on vegetable products and so is less harmful to the environment and to animals.   Raw foods are also less expensive, in general, than processed animal-based foods products. Another advantage is that it encourages social-familial eating and home-cooked food.

In order to calculate the costs of the overall basket, various product prices were examined. Since the recommended daily serving in each food group can be made up of various components – for example, the grains food group includes bread, pasta, etc. – the median-priced food item was chosen in each group. In addition, in order to lower the cost of the basket while not falling below the minimal requirement for full nutritional value, several principles were followed. Food items that were inexpensive, accessible, and that reflected the balance between nutritional value and local consumption patterns were selected. In addition, the quantity of the food item selected reflected the minimal amount necessary to attain the required nutritional value. So, for example, expensive cuts of meat were eliminated from the basket and replaced with eggs and legumes as a source of protein.

After calculating the cost of a serving, this figure was multiplied by the number of servings recommended for each age group. The calculation for an adult was based on the average number of servings for men and women in the 25-50-year-old age group. For children, the calculation was based on the average number of required servings for each age group through age 18. The monthly cost of a basic healthy food basket for an average adult in 2015 totaled about NIS 844 per month, and for the average child, the cost was NIS 737. The share of animal-based protein and legumes represents about 40% of the cost of the adults’ basket; grains represent about 22% of the cost; and vegetables, fruit and milk products each account for about 11% of the total basket cost. The share of foods rich in fats represents about 4% of the cost of the basket. This distribution is similar to that of the recommended basket for children.

After the calculations of the cost of the basket and its components, the study looked at its cost to households. Naturally, the cost of the basket to a household increases in relation to the number of members in the household. In addition, the average monthly expenditure necessary to purchase the basket declines as household income increases, since there is a negative correlation between household size and income level in Israel.

When the population is divided into income deciles and the share of required expenditure from income is examined, there are large gaps between the two lowest and two highest income groups both in the percent of expenditure out of income as well as in the actual expenditure on food. In practice, the average share of expenditure that is required to purchase a healthy food basket for a household in the two lowest income deciles is 9 times higher than in the two highest income deciles. In the highest income decile, the average expenditure required to finance a basic healthy food basket is the lowest, since the average number of household members is the lowest: 2.46. The average family in the top income quintile has to spend about 7% of their income (about NIS 2,143) to pay for a healthy food basket for all family members, while their actual expenditure is 10%. In contrast, data on the six lowest income deciles show that they actually do not have enough money to pay for a healthy food basket. In the lowest income decile, for example, the average number of household members is highest at 4.37, and thus, the monthly expenditure that is needed to buy the healthy food basket is the highest at NIS 3,450. A family in the lowest two income deciles needs to spend about 65% of its monthly disposable income (NIS 4,965) to buy a healthy food basket while in actuality, the family spends about 42% of its income on food.

healthy food basket

It is hard to know if in the four lowest deciles (and in particular, in the two lowest deciles) the lower expenditure in practice than what would be required is the result of a preference for less expensive food (and possibly, less healthy) and a different set of priorities or whether it results from financial constraints. Nevertheless, it seems that relative to the higher income deciles, where the decision whether or not to purchase a healthy food basket is most likely an issue of awareness and preference, in the lowest and poorest income deciles, the purchase of a healthy basket is not a viable option in light of household income constraints and other vital household expenditures.
monthly household expenditure on food in Israel

The Gender Wage Gap Starts in Childhood

A few weeks ago, my 3 year-old daughter told me that when she grows up, she wants to be a mom.  When I asked her what a mom does, she said, “She goes to work, flies on airplanes, and plays with her kids.”  She then said that her brother, my 5.5 year-old son, could be a dad when he grows up, and pick up the kids from school and go to work.  I had just come back from a business trip, so perhaps she was exaggerating how much moms fly on planes, but all in all, I was quite happy with what I heard.  My daughter described the equality in parenting that my husband and I have been striving for and struggling to achieve since we became parents almost six years ago.

There is a lot of talk about the gender gap in wages, and equality in parenting is likely an important step toward achieving greater equality in wages.  A recent Taub Center study by Hadas Fuchs found that of the 39% wage gap between women and men, 57% of the gap can be attributed to differences in work hours between men and women.  This relates both to the fact that women are twice as likely as men to work part-time, and that even those women who work full-time work far fewer hours than men.  In 2015, men employed in full-time jobs in Israel were working an average of 47 hours a week, compared to women’s 43.  We are probably working too much – among the dads, especially, I think we will probably find many men who would rather partake in their children’s lives than work around the clock, even though this is what is very commonly expected of them.  Mothers of young children are working at much higher rates than ever before, something that may be borne of necessity as much as it may be borne of choice. But as it currently stands, it is clear that mothers are the prime employees of the second shift, the default parent who has to be ready to pick up the kids from school most days and miss meetings at the last minute to pick up a sick kid.  I think many of us do this with great pleasure, but there is a price we pay.

In Israel, of all those receiving degrees in higher education in 2015, women comprised the clear majority of those receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees (60% and 61% respectively), and women represented about half of those receiving PhDs. The issue then isn’t how much women study – but what it is that we study.  Among working-age women, about 14% of the wage gap can be attributed to the specific occupation chosen by women, and looking at 29-31 year-old women in 2008, for whom the Taub Center had even more detailed data, over a third of the gap can be attributed just to the occupation chosen.

One could say that women are making the choice to opt out of the careers that are more lucrative and that also require more hours because of considerations associated with work/life and work/family balance, but we have to recognize that these decisions are actually being made much earlier than the point at which women begin making career sacrifices for the sake of their children.  Among those studying for bachelor’s degrees, around 80% of those studying paramedical professions (i.e., nursing, physical therapy, etc.) or education are women, while only 29% of those studying math, statistics or computer science and 27% of those studying engineering and architecture are women. If we dial back to high school, the story is similar.  Just over 30% of students completing a bagrut in computer science are girls, while the rates of girls in theater, literature and applied arts hover around 80%.  Whether the reasons are associated with preferences or socialization, the numbers are staggering.  It is hard to believe that the choice of major area of study is purely based on coincidence  – instead, it’s clear that girls are much less likely to choose those majors that will prepare them for an occupation in which they have a chance of earning as much as their male counterparts.

There are certainly questions we can ask about why professions that are more “feminine” are paid at lower rates than those that are more typically “masculine.” But making major changes in the way the economy rewards different professions is likely a greater uphill battle than trying to encourage our girls to be engaged in math and sciences as much as boys.  There is a body of research that highlights the finding that girls actually consistently do better than boys in school, across countries and age groups. And yet, there is a widespread perception, often among girls themselves, that girls are just not good at math and science.  I can speak from my own experience.  While I had a feeling I was good at math as a young child, I gradually began to shy away from math in middle school, convinced that other kids were much better than me and preferring to remain quiet rather than speaking up and offering the wrong answer.  By the time I was in college, a women’s college at that, I gave up on a dream of being a doctor because I was convinced I was just not good at math and science.  Fast-forward to graduate school, when I gave myself a second chance to excel in mathematics, and suddenly realized that I actually was good at math.  It was a surprising, yet late, revelation. Though I am very happy with where my life has taken me, how unfortunate to have spent years thinking I was not fit to pursue a particular dream.

While it is not the cure-all for equal pay, if we want to make strides forward in achieving equality in wages, we have to start early, encouraging our girls to be confident in their ability to learn and to be as engaged in math and sciences as they are in the humanities.  Everyone is free to make the choice of which career to pursue, but let’s not limit those choices so early on.  As we approach International Women’s Day, let’s commit to giving our sons and daughters alike the support they need to pursue their dreams.

Suzanne Patt Benvenisti is the Managing Director of the Taub Center. Te text was first published on “The Times of Israel”


Division of Labor: Wage Gaps between Women and Men in Israel

Wage gaps between women and men in Israel have narrowed over the years, but are still large. A new Taub Center study reveals that the most substantial factor behind the disparity is the fact that, on average, women work fewer hours than men, but another key factor is that women are more likely to be employed in lower-wage occupations and industries.

The wage gap between women and men in Israel’s labor market ranges from 32% to 42% (depending on the calculation method used). This difference has been studied extensively, and opinions differ as to its source; some attribute it to discrimination against women, while others maintain that the gap is rooted in essential differences between the genders and in their differing occupational preferences. A study by Taub Center Researcher Hadas Fuchs that was recently published in the Taub Center’s State of the Nation Report 2016, sought to assess the status of women in the labor market, focusing on the causes of the male-female wage gap. Fuchs assessed the gap in light of employees’ personal and demographic characteristics, including number of working hours, education level, and the occupations and industries in which the employees worked. The assessment included data from 2010-2011.

Fuchs’ calculations indicate that the most important factor behind the gender wage gap is the number of work hours, with 57% of the gap being due to women’s smaller position scope (i.e., less than full-time employment) (see Figure 1). In 2015, 34% of working women aged 25-54 were employed part-time, versus 17% of men; even among those with full-time jobs, women worked fewer hours.

Article Graph 1 final

The second most important cause, which is responsible for 14% of the wage gap, is the difference between the occupations and industries in which men and women work. Men work in occupations where the average wage tends to be higher (as shall be seen below). By contrast, the number of years of schooling variable reduces the gap by 5%, as on average, women are better-educated than men – and a higher education level raises the average wage.

Overall, more than two-thirds of the wage gaps arise from the variables that Fuchs assessed, among them one’s years of experience, position scope, family status, and education.  The portion of the gap that is not explained by these variables could  reflect discrimination, but it might also be due to attributes that could not be measured in this study, such as personal abilities, the exact job held by a given employee, or more precise detail regarding occupation. So that the “personal ability” component (which is presumably a major determinant of wage) could be taken into account, Fuchs used a special Central Bureau of Statistics database, which, in addition to the data shown above, also included matriculation and psychometric exam scores. These exams reflect, to a certain degree, the requirements of the labor market, and scores on these exams can thus serve as a good indicator of an employee’s “quality” in terms of remuneration for their work. This database contains information for those who were ages 29-31 in 2008.

One of the most interesting findings obtained through this estimation is that the occupation/industry component has a greater impact on wage gaps [in the 29-31 age group] than in all age groups taken together – a fact that underscores the importance of occupational choice in determining women’s future wages. Among those with academic degrees, this component had the greatest impact on the wage gap, explaining over half of the disparity (as seen in Figure 2).

Differences in matriculation and psychometric exam scores increase the wage gap; their joint contribution to the explained gap was 13%. Fuchs explains this by noting that, although women have a higher matriculation average than do men, five units of mathematics study and the quantitative portion of the psychometric exam have relatively great influence on wage, and women tend to have lower achievements in these spheres. In this calculation, the unexplained wage gap was only 6%.

Article Graph 2 final (update)

In light of the major role of mathematics attainment in determining wage, the study examined the gender gaps in this sphere at various stages along the lifecycle. The data indicate that women’s lower achievements in math are discernible from a young age; among Jewish Israelis, girls’ achievements on the Grade 5 GEMS exams in mathematics are lower than those of boys (though girls outperform boys in English), while on the PISA tests their achievements are lower in math and higher in reading. In secondary school fewer girls study math at the 5-unit matriculation level, and their average score is lower.

At the academic level, in all degree programs, women account for at least half (and often more than half) of students, but they tend to study therapy and education-related fields.  In contrast, men comprise the majority in the mathematical and scientific disciplines, which are associated with higher average salaries. In 2014, for example, only 27% of students in mathematics, statistics and computer science were women.

Gender polarization continues into the labor market, where a high percentage of women are still employed in education and a very low percentage in high-tech occupations. Even among computer science graduates, a relatively high percentage of women do not go on to work in this field. The reason for this may be that women enter occupations, such as education, that provide them with flexible working hours and part-time employment options, and avoid occupations that are regarded as demanding in terms of the number of work hours, such as technology, science and finance (as shown by Figure 3).


Given these findings, it appears that in order to reduce wage gaps, it is important to raise awareness of the impact that choice of academic field has on wage. Additionally, the contribution of mathematical ability to wage, and women’s lower attainments in math-related fields from an early age, highlight the need to persevere with programs that encourage women to study scientific subjects at a high level.

The question of why women do not enter STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields, which are considered prestigious and known to offer high salaries, should also be examined in greater depth. Fuchs notes that the reason for this may be that women are still thought to be their children’s primary caregivers, and to bear most of the responsibility for housework. If this is indeed the reason, then one should consider the possibility of offering work-schedule flexibility and shorter work days to both men and women, which would enable suitable women who so desire to enter these fields, fulfill their potential and reduce overall gender wage inequality.

An unusual year: looking back at 2016

In 2016, Israel experienced interesting and surprising macroeconomic trends. The economy witnessed a higher GDP growth rate than in the previous two years, as well as growth in labor force participation and wages. The question is whether the economic growth of 2016 indicates a return to Israel’s average economic growth rate prior to the global economic slowdown (beginning in late 2011) or whether 2016 is an exception and the economy will return to sluggish growth in the coming years. Brand and Weiss find evidence indicating that 2016 was merely an outlier and that a return to slow growth may be on the horizon.

In the years following the financial crisis, and particularly since 2012, Israel experienced a considerable slowdown in economic growth. Between 2012 and 2015, GDP per capita growth decreased from an historic average of almost 2% a year to an annual growth rate of about 1%-1.2% a year. Israel’s economy improved in 2016 and growth of GDP per capita for the full year, which has not yet been published, is expected to stand at 1.5%.[1] This is a slightly lower rate than in the past, but higher than the two prior years. However, the Bank of Israel predicts that GDP per capita will return to a growth rate of about 1% in the coming years.

Labor productivity graph

There were positive developments related to wages in 2016, as well. Real wages rose by 2.3% in the first three quarters of the year, after a 3.1% increase in 2015. These wage increases are exceptional in comparison to the very low increases in real wages in previous years and are inconsistent with stagnant productivity growth during this period.

When economic growth is broken down into various factors, it seems that the biggest contributor to growth per capita in recent years was the expansion of the labor market, which resulted from a steep rise in labor market participation rates. However, this trend is unlikely to continue in the future for two main reasons: firstly, the share of working-age Israelis is expected to decrease as baby boomers reach retirement and, secondly, further increases in employment are most likely to come from the Haredi and Arab Israeli sectors, where human capital is relatively low or not well-matched to the needs of the modern labor market – thus contributing little to overall economic growth. Therefore, Israel’s economic growth that emerges as a direct result of an expanded labor force is approaching its upper limit and is likely to wane in the coming years.

It is important to note that the increase in labor force participation and decrease in the unemployment rate in recent years is an unusual phenomenon given the sluggish growth in Israel’s per capita GDP, and is due to changes in the composition of demand in Israel’s economy: a shift from exporting industries with high productivity levels to labor-intensive industries, characterized by low productivity.

At the same time that Israel is experiencing a sharp rise in employment rates, there has been a decrease in investment in capital (such as infrastructure, machinery and equipment) and a slowdown in the growth of human capital. Although the data show an increase in investments during 2016 this is largely due to one company (Intel) and does not reflect the rest of the economy. Given low interest rates and a relatively stable economy, it is surprising that investment has slowed in most sectors of Israel’s economy. The danger in these trends lies in the effect they will have on Israel’s potential long-term growth.

The big question that arises from these trends is: why is there not more investment in Israel’s economy? The challenges of investing further in physical capital and human capital may lie in bureaucratic barriers as well as in geopolitical factors.

A possible way to drive growth is to improve the business climate in Israel. Each year the World Bank publishes the “Doing Business” report, which ranks countries by the level of difficulty of conducting business there. This index ranks Israel in 52nd place, below nearly all of the other OECD countries. This low rating reflects the need to streamline bureaucracy – especially in the realms of real estate, foreign trade, domain registration, and property tax payments. In these areas, Israel is ranked very low worldwide and requires a dramatic change to support faster economic growth.

Difficulty of doing business index

Looking forward, demographic shifts in Israel require greater investment in physical capital and human capital, particularly within those population groups that are growing rapidly in size. Increasing competition among local businesses, streamlining bureaucracy, and removing barriers to imports will all help stimulate economic growth in Israel in the long term.

The positive economic growth in 2016 and the good condition of Israel’s labor market make this an ideal time for policy makers to address the demographic and structural challenges facing the economy. The sooner policy makers implement policies based on long-term economic considerations, the easier it will be to promote balanced growth of Israel’s economy.

[1] According to the Bank of Israel, Israel’s GDP is expected to increase by 3.5%, and GDP per capita by 1.5%. The Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) predicts the GDP will increase by 3.8%, and by 1.8% per capita.

The potential in the 99%: the American Jewish community and Israel’s society and economy

A recent Pew Research Center study compared the American and Israeli Jewish communities, and the report opened with a finding that immediately caught my attention. When asked to describe, in their own words, the biggest long-term problem facing Israel, the answers were vastly different. Israelis were split between security threats/violence/terrorism and economic problems (38% to 39%) with social, religious, or political problems coming in a clear third place with 14%. American Jews, on the other hand, answered as follows – 66% gave an answer related to Israel’s security threats, violence, or terrorism, 18% on social, religious, or political problems. So how many believe that economic problems are the biggest long-term threat facing Israel? 1%.

That’s a huge gap. 39% of Israelis see economic challenges as their country’s long-term well-being, while only 1% of American Jews agree. This gap can either be explained by American Jews not caring, or not knowing, about Israel’s economic challenges. I believe strongly that it’s a knowledge gap, and one that the Taub Center is working to close.

It seems that my life so far has been defined by this gap. As an Israeli child growing up in the American Jewish day school, youth group, and camp systems, and then later as an adult working in these various settings, I sensed a gulf between the “real” Israel and the one presented in educational settings. Sometimes it felt like we were speaking about two different countries. With youth ranging in ages from 5 to 18, I worked to paint a realistic picture of life in Israel, beyond the “kibbutz in the sky.” In my years at the Taub Center, I have put the skills I developed as an educator to a slightly different use in my strategic partnerships role – this time educating the leaders of the American Jewish community on the burning, most urgent social and economic issues facing our homeland.

One of the goals of the Taub Center is essentially to change the Pew statistic mentioned above. We look at that 1% and see potential. We are committed to sharing our research with the leaders of the international Jewish community just as we do with Israel’s highest ranking policy makers from across the political spectrum through private briefings and opportunities to have conversations with the top researchers in the field. This year Taub Center researchers have presented in numerous forums to the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Funders Network, and the JDC, among many others.

The diaspora Jewish community is one of the Israeli government’s strongest partners, filling in gaps to address problems that it will take years for the government to solve systemically. With the serious investment made in Israel’s future, all parties – federations, foundations, and other institutions alike – should be basing their philanthropic decisions in the same data-driven research as those who govern this country. We know from experience that a well-educated Jewish community is a stronger long-term partner for Israel.

We invite you to visit us for a briefing on your next trip to Israel, or contact us to find out when we will next be in your local area. The Taub Center’s flagship publication, the State of the Nation Report 2016, is set for release in just two weeks, so now is the time to set up your 2017 briefings on our latest material.

Lastly, as our book release coincides with Chanukah this year, we invite you to join us for our first ever online campaign by supporting the Taub Center during this holiday season. We strongly believe that decisions should be rooted in evidence-based research, and that our materials should remain free and accessible to anyone who seeks to learn more about Israel’s society and economy. Thank you in advance for your generosity.


Maya Dolgin is the Taub Center’s strategic partnerships officer. She can be reached at

The Top Ten Things You Should Know About Israel


1. Your job might be replaced by a computer in two decades
About 40% of employment in Israel is in high-risk professions, considered in great danger of becoming computerized over the next two decades.

2. Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel report better health than other groups in Israel
Approximately 74% of Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox Jews) in Israel describe their health as very good, compared to just 50% of individuals from other groups.

3. The younger generation of Ethiopian Israelis are more educated
Only 36% of Ethiopian Israelis who moved to Israel above age 12 have a high school education, whereas the rate of high school graduates among those Ethiopians raised in Israel is about 90% – a similar rate to that of the non-Ethiopian Jewish population in Israel.

4. Young Israeli women are more educated than men
Almost half of young Jewish women in Israel have a university education, compared with only 42% of men; about 21% of young Arab Israeli women have a university education, compared to 18% of Arab Israeli men. 

5. The distribution of the budget for mental healthcare services in Israel has shifted over time
Between 1999 and 2013, the government budget for inpatient psychiatric care went down from 80% to 59% of the total mental healthcare budget, while the budget for rehabilitation services rose sharply, from 2% to 25% of the overall budget.

6. Studying math at a higher level might help you later in life
Even when controlling for other factors, students who completed 5 units of math (the highest possible) in their bagrut (matriculation) exams tended to earn higher hourly wages and have higher monthly income than those who took lower levels. 

7. Early childcare in Israel has more resources than before
Daycare for infants and toddlers was the subject of lengthy discussion in the Trajtenberg Committee that was established following the 2011 social protests. The budget for the infant and toddler daycare division within the Ministry of Economy increased by 57% between 2010 and 2014. In 2014, the expenditure in this area came to more than one billion NIS.

 8. Arab Israeli pharmacists integrate well into the Israeli workforce
Work relations and daily interactions between Jewish and Arab Israeli pharmacists are described as positive and even lead to social connections and the lessening of prejudices.

9. The standard of living for Israeli households increased between 2003 and 2011
While real wages have stagnated since the beginning of the millennium, the number of wage earners in Israeli households has gone up, which has led to an overall increase in standard of living as measured by GDP per capita.

10. Young adults are taking longer to transition into independent living
In 2011, 58% of singles aged 22-28 lived with their parents, compared with 52% six years earlier. 


“La’briut” – To Health!

What does it mean to actually have good health? A recent study by Prof. Dov Chernichovsky, Taub Center Health Policy Program Chair, and myself released in the annual Taub Center “State of the Nation Report, 2014” brings a new perspective to the discussion of health and healthcare in Israel.

A common measure of a population’s health is its life expectancy, and at 82 years, Israel is among the top performers in the OECD in this regard.

However, “good health” is a much more holistic concept than the simple notion of life or death.  A father may contemplate whether his knees can support a game of basketball with his daughter.  An elderly person may worry about her ability to bathe herself or remember to turn off the stove.  A mother may be concerned about the constant look of sadness in her teenage son’s eyes, or her painful headaches.  While musculoskeletal pain, mild dementia, depression or migraines may not directly cause death, such conditions have a significant impact on the health and well-being of individuals.

For much of the history of healthcare policymaking and modern medicine, however, the emphasis has been on addressing causes of death.  Beginning in the 1990s, however, significant efforts have been devoted to re-conceptualizing health – measuring not just the number of years lived, but the years lived in good health, broadly defined.  Such a perspective gives value to everyday functioning and well-being, and expands the scope of the healthcare system to address disease burden more holistically. An accepted metric for capturing the concept of disease burden is the Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) measure, which accounts for both death and disability/poor health.

The Taub Center study is the first to discuss the DALYs measure of disease burden in Israel (as calculated in a comprehensive global effort by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington), and put the findings in context of their policy implications. Indeed, the study highlights the important role that conditions that do not cause death nonetheless play in the health of Israelis.  While heart disease, stroke and cancers together cause 42% of deaths in the country, these conditions are responsible for only 18% of the disease burden in Israel.  In comparison, while orthopedic problems and depression are not responsible for virtually any deaths in Israel, they together account for a whopping 19% of the poor health in the country.

The hypothesis prior to undertaking our research was that Israel’s healthcare system would prioritize treating conditions that may lead to death over those that may contribute substantially to DALYs.  Nonetheless, the study revealed that Israel’s healthcare system – in terms of funding – is actually more aligned with addressing disease burden in the broad sense (both death and disability/poor health combined) than just death alone.  This distinction is quite pronounced among the older age groups, which account for a large share of deaths in the country but a much more nominal share of overall disease burden.  For example, 34% of deaths – but only 7% of disease burden – occurred among Israelis over 85 years of age in 2010.  In parallel, 5% of healthcare funds were allocated to this age group.  In other words, the Israeli healthcare system actually does a relatively good job of allocating funding across age groups in alignment with the burden of disease found among the age groups.

However, examining the allocations of the Health Basket Committee – which distributes about NIS 300 million annually towards new treatments for inclusion in the health basket – reveals different priorities.  The Committee allocates over half the funding to new treatments for cancer, heart disease and stroke, which as noted above, are responsible for less than a fifth of the disease burden in Israel.  In contrast, the Committee dedicates only 1% of new funding to treatments for orthopedic disorders, which contribute to 14% of overall poor health in Israel.  The problem is that the Committee’s mandate is restricted to the funding of new technologies and medicines. The Committee is thus limited in its ability to allocate funding towards existing treatment methods (such as expanding access to physical and psychological therapy or innovative prevention programs) or to expand eligibility to new populations (such as subsidized dental care for those over 11 years old).

Re-conceptualizing health by considering overall disease burden – rather than only mortality – helps shed light on many conditions that hurt the daily well-being of Israelis. Such a perspective also highlights the importance of elements outside of the traditional medical system with regards to physical and mental health; factors such as the surrounding environment, community and social services, and exercise and diet.  Israeli healthcare system policymakers and administrators should adopt a disease burden mindset to help truly promote “la’briut” among the population.

Published as an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post here

The Land of Milk and Money

With the High Holidays upon us, we are yet again confronted with the sad stories of daily hardships and financial struggles of many Israeli families. Within Israeli society, there is an ongoing debate about whether or not there are Israelis who truly cannot afford to buy enough food. The big question is – what is enough?

According to the National Insurance Institute (NII), 320,000 Israeli households (about one million people) suffer from nutritional insecurity. That does not necessarily mean that one million Israelis go to bed hungry every night, but it does mean that they are unable to afford a balanced and nutritious diet on a daily basis. Yet the NII’s estimates should be taken with a grain of salt, as they are based on a survey and thus only reflect the subjective, self-reported condition of participants. In other words – it is possible that some survey participants do not actually suffer from nutritional insecurity even though they believe that they do (and the opposite case is also possible). One way or another, it is clear that a serious discourse on this issue must be based on more objective facts.

But how can one answer these complex questions in an objective manner? There are of course many nutritional experts who rely on conventional (and unconventional) knowledge and experience: but who should ultimately decide which food items are essential and in what quantities? Taub Center’s latest research concluded that revealed preference is the preferred way of deciding. Put simply, this means that the essential types of food and their desired quantities were not determined arbitrarily, but rather by observing the consumption patterns of different Israeli households

Taub Center researchers assumed that there are three types of households: 1) Those who cannot afford to buy all the food they need; 2) Those who can afford to buy the food they need, but cannot afford luxury foods; 3) Those who can afford luxury foods.

The idea is quite simple: for groups 1 and 3 (the poor and the relatively well-off households), an increase in income should result in an increase in food expenditures. The poor would use some of that extra income to buy more essential food items, and the relatively well-off would use some of it to buy more luxury food items. The only group that would not use the extra income to purchase more food is the second group – those households who get by, but cannot afford luxury food items. For this group, the extra income would be directed into other essential expenditures, such as mortgage payments and better education for their children.

Following this logic one can conclude that there is a relatively wide income range in which food expenditures do not rise significantly when income rises – the income range of those households who just manage (group 2). It also follows that the (stable) level of food expenditures within this range is the normative (essential) level. In other words, families in this income range buy exactly the amount of food they need.

Milk and Money figure 1

But is that really how it works in practice? The data suggests that it does. In fact, when the population is divided into income deciles, the three groups can be easily identified (see figure). The normative expenditure range is thus identified as that of households in income deciles 3-5. Households in income deciles 1 and 2 are forced to forgo some essential food items, while households in income deciles 6-10 are able to add some luxury foods to their diet.

This means that about 20% of Israelis (roughly the same population that is officially defined as poor) forgo essential food consumption. But which types of food are they forgoing, and how much? In order to answer that question, we repeated the procedure mentioned above for each food category. We found that poor Israelis primarily forgo dairy products and fruits and vegetables, but are less likely to forgo meat and chicken, bread and pastries, and oil/fats. It appears that from the perspective of the poor, when exchanging shekels for calories, bread and chicken provide better value for their money than dairy products or fruit. Clearly, these coerced choices lead to an unhealthy and unbalanced diet.

Some might argue that this is a sad, but inevitable reality, given the limited income of such families. But does it really have to be this way? Is it normal that dairy products and fruit are now perceived by many Israelis as luxury foods? Are they really that expensive to produce? The obvious answer is no. Israeli agriculture is at the cutting edge of innovation and efficiency, and production costs are relatively low. The blame does not lie with the Israeli farmers, but rather with the retail supermarket chains, who sell these products at a very high mark-up.

It is no coincidence that the two recent major protests related to food prices were directed at dairy products (the cottage cheese boycott), and fruits and vegetables (the pepper protest). In the latter, it is the farmers themselves who protested against the high prices for which their produce was being sold by the retailers – and decided to cut out the middlemen and sell directly to consumers.

Clearly, the Israeli food industry is not competitive enough, and Israeli consumers are still to a great extent a captive audience. Despite the appointment of several government committees in recent years, designed to address this problem – not much has improved. While the high food prices affect us all, they have the most damaging effect on the very poor, and lead to an incomplete and unhealthy diet. The State should therefore employ a more “hands-on” approach to increase competition and lower prices, and should also consider broadening the list of essential food items that are under price supervision.

The state should also take responsibility for eradicating food insecurity by providing food-targeted help to the poor (e.g. food stamps, food baskets). According to estimates, this can be accomplished with only 0.5-1 billion shekels (while Israel’s GDP is 1,000 billion shekels). Can we really not spare one thousandth of our national income in order to ensure that no Israeli family is forced to forgo essential food items?

Eliminating food insecurity in Israel is not an impossible task. In fact it is very feasible. A combined course of action, which includes financial support to the poor and effective measures to reduce market distortions that lead to inflated food prices – would not only enable all Israelis to buy enough food, it would also allow for healthier and more balanced diets.

Deceptive Statistics on Haredim

Several media sources recently reported a significant rise in the share of young Haredi individuals who are acquiring an academic education. These reports were based on encouraging figures concerning enrollment in recently established Haredi colleges as well as in Haredi campuses (in existing colleges and universities). However a cautious interpretation of these figures is necessary. In fact, upon closer examination, one discovers that the rise in the share of Haredim who are studying towards a degree – which is a development just of the last few years after decades of the opposite trend – can mostly be attributed to Haredi women. In that respect, one should recall that the bigger problem of underemployment and insufficient education is among Haredi men (not women). One should also recall that while the share of those studying towards a degree is important, the figure that matters more is the share of those who actually graduate – which for Haredi men is significantly lower.

A more systemic look into formal education trends among Haredi men in the last decade is provided in the Taub Center’s State of the Nation Report 2013, and Picture of the Nation 2014. Using comprehensive national census data, and a new and more accurate method of identifying the Haredi population, these reports reveal the glum reality that Haredi boys today have less formal education than even their fathers’ generation. In contrast to the trend among all other population groups, the share of academic degree holders amongyounger Haredim (ages 25-44) is significantly lower than the share among older Haredim (ages 45-64).

This phenomenon can be attributed to the gradual process of radicalization undergone within Haredi society in recent decades – manifested by a shift from the labor market to the world of Torah.  In the last decade alone, the share of individuals with a primary school education or less, among Haredi men of the primary working ages (35-54), rose from 31 to 47 percent. In parallel, the share of those completing only secondary school dropped from 26 to 12 percent – a consistent and significant decline in the extent of secondary studies. Put simply, Haredi parents gradually stopped sending their boys to high schools, and opted to send them to small Yeshivas instead.

Subsequently, the share of Haredi men studying in yeshivas rose sharply, together with the length of study in these institutions. While only 56 percent of the older Haredi men (ages 75 or above) attended great yeshivas, among younger Haredi men (aged 25-34) more than 90 percent attended.

For Haredi men, the increase in Yeshiva attendance and length of study came at the expense of labor market participation, and their employment rates have plummeted. While just 35 years ago, about 85% of Haredi men of primary work age (35-54), were employed, less than half are employed today. This development induced a reversal of roles within the Haredi household, as women have assumed the role of breadwinner. Consequently, Haredi women’s employment rates rose significantly. They simply had to generate extra income in order to compensate for the lower incomes of their husbands.

Haredi short and sweet figure 1

The problem was (and to a large extent still is), the type of employment that was available to them. Bounded by social constraints and limited to professions and work environments that were branded as acceptable and dignified by Haredi society, the vast majority of Haredi women chose (or were directed to choose) the field of education. As a result, the entire increase in Haredi women’s employment rates in the last three decades can be attributed to the field of education. In fact, as the Taub Center reports demonstrate, the share of Haredi women who are employed in other fields has even declined slightly. Nonetheless, as clearly reflected in the data, Haredi women today have become (in most cases) the economic heads of their households – a dramatic transition which exemplifies just how dynamic Haredi society is (in contrast to the stereotypes).

But what type of changes, if any, is Haredi society undergoing nowadays? Are we in fact beginning to witness the return of Haredi men to formal education and consequently to the labor market? Some would argue so. But we should be careful of overoptimistic predictions, which might be overlooking the core problems that remain unsolved and pose a significant obstacle to the reintegration of Haredi men into the workforce.

Haredi short and sweet figure 2

Indeed today, as financial pressures mount and internal and external resources dwindle, an increasing number of young Haredim are attempting to bridge the educational gap and acquire higher education in order to have a better chance of joining the workforce. But their ability to make up for the years of incomplete schooling when in their 30s and married with children is significantly diminished compared to the ability to learn when in high school. It would therefore be naïve and dangerous to assume that the establishment of more Haredi campuses and higher education programs is sufficient (despite being a very positive development). If the State does not take active steps to insure that Haredi boys receive proper high school education, the situation is likely to get worse before (and if) it gets better.

Secondary Education: The Primary Challenge for Integrating Haredim into the Workforce

The challenge of integrating haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) into the Israeli workforce has been a source of much public debate in recent years, and has often been linked to the issue of military service. Yet despite being a hot topic on which most Israelis have strong opinions, the causes for the current situation remain unfamiliar to many. In order to truly understand why haredi employment rates are low, and to develop appropriate solutions, we must look back and examine the changes haredi society has undergone in recent decades.

The Taub Center’s newly released “State of the Nation Report 2013” describes a process of creeping radicalization which was manifested in a gradual and consistent transition from the labor market to the world of Torah study. Just 35 years ago, about 85 percent of haredi men of primary work age (35-54) were employed, as opposed to less than half today. Yeshiva attendance rates among haredim who are currently aged 75 or above were significantly lower than those of today’s young haredim aged 25-34 (56% and 90% respectively), and the average length of stay in yeshivot among the older generation was significantly shorter.

However, the most surprising (and alarming) trend revealed in the Taub report was the sharp decline in the length and scope of formal studies. In the past decade alone, the share of individuals with a primary school education or less among haredi men of the primary working ages (35-54) rose from 31% to 47%. In parallel, the share of those completing secondary school dropped from 26% to 12% – a consistent and significant decline in the extent of secondary studies.

This phenomenon was unique to the haredi sector and completely contrary to the trend of rising education levels in other developed countries and among non-haredi Israelis.

The decline in formal studies is at first glance puzzling given the rise in the returns on education in recent decades. While 30 years ago employment possibilities did not depend heavily on one’s education and wage returns on education were lower, today’s labor market is significantly more education- oriented. As the Taub report demonstrates, this holds true for haredim and non-haredim alike. Among haredi men aged 25-64, the employment rate of those with an academic degree stands at 71%, as opposed to only 34% among those without an academic degree. Among haredim who are employed full-time, the average monthly pay of degree holders is about 80% higher than the pay of those without a degree (NIS 13,600 and NIS 7,600 respectively).

Furthermore, when both haredi spouses have an academic degree, their household income is 2.6 times higher than that of a haredi household with no academic degree holders.

So why are they acquiring less formal education? The answer is complex. The sources of this phenomenon date back to policy changes that were introduced in the late ‘70s. A significant increase in stipends to yeshiva students, coupled with broader exemption from military service granted to those who would remain in yeshivot and forgo joining the workforce – led to the sharp rise in yeshiva attendance rates and average length of study.

This in turn led to a significant delay in haredi men’s entry into the workforce and induced the gradual decline in their employment rates. Thus, in contrast to other sectors today, haredi men’s employment rates reach their peak only as the men reach their fifties, and even then, the rates are rather low (only about 50%). These patterns are in sharp contrast to those of Christian and Muslim Arab Israelis, who reach much higher levels of employment (80%-90%) already in their twenties, and non-haredi Jews, who reach a similar peak in their thirties.

Such a delayed entry into the workforce greatly diminishes the incentive to acquire an academic degree. A haredi man exiting yeshiva at the age of 40 faces much lower returns on investment in higher education given the shorter period of employment, and would therefore choose to forgo such an investment. Furthermore, since higher education had become less worthwhile, secondary studies would seem obsolete as well, and many haredi parents would instead choose to send their sons to small yeshivot, starting in ninth grade.

This in turn led to a sharp decline in formal education rates, culminating in the present situation in which only 5% of young haredi men (ages 20-24), have a matriculation certificate (bagrut).

Today, as their numbers grow and their (external and internal) financial resources dwindle, an increasing number of young haredim are attempting to join the workforce. Yet, the lack of proper tools and training makes this task very difficult.

Their ability to acquire those basic skills when already in their 30s and married with children is significantly diminished compared to the ability to do so in high school.

So what can we do about it? We can start by fixing the distorted policies that brought about this situation in the first place. In particular, the state must sever the linkage between military service exemptions and yeshiva studies. As long as specific benefits and exemptions are given to haredi yeshiva students, there exists an incentive for other young Israelis to declare themselves haredim and enroll in yeshivot. As long as the Israel Defense Forces’ definition of who is haredi depends on belonging to and studying at a yeshiva, the distortion that delays haredi men’s entry into the workforce is perpetuated.

The state should therefore consider introducing several differential service schemes, open to all Israelis (haredim and non-haredim alike), varying in length of service and monthly remuneration in correspondence with the intensity of the job (risk and effort), and its necessity to the IDF. Such a solution would substantially diminish the current distortion within the haredi labor market and at the same time would present young haredim (and non-haredim) with the option of choosing a shorter (and less financially rewarding) service scheme.

This in turn would also lead to a better allocation of public funds, by diminishing existing inefficiencies stemming from unnecessarily prolonged service periods of soldiers who serve in positions for which the IDF has little need.

More importantly, the state should reexamine its position with respect to mandating core curriculum studies for all Israeli children, and adopting a more active policy that would ensure that they all receive the tools required for integration in the modern labor market. Such measures are particularly urgent with respect to post-primary formal education, which for haredi boys (grades 9-12) is virtually nonexistent nowadays.

For young haredim who are past the age of high school, the state should promote more professional training and guidance programs, as well as supplementary education programs to help narrow the gaps in formal education.

Finally, the state should reverse the skewed incentive mechanism that exacerbated these trends, by rewarding labor force participation rather than non-participation. This can be achieved by increasing the scope and magnitude of negative income tax benefits to low-income employed individuals and by reducing support to those who are able but unwilling to work.

The latter, however, should be implemented with great caution, as many haredim today are willing but unable to find employment due to poor formal education and insufficient tools and training. The state cannot ignore their distress, and must recognize its responsibility in helping them acquire those tools and attain financial independence.


January 2018

The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, one of Israel’s leading policy research institutes, is hiring a Researcher to conduct quantitative research on Israel’s major social and economic policy questions related to the fields of education, health, labor, welfare and macroeconomic policy.  We are considering candidates at various academic levels, including those pursuing or who have earned a Master’s Degree or a Ph.D.


  • M.A. or Ph.D. in economics, political science, sociology, or related discipline. Students pursuing their Master’s or PhD degree may also apply.
  • Proven experience conducting research and statistical analyses
  • Familiarity with STATA, Excel and/or other statistical software
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills in Hebrew; strong English skills
  • Exceptional attention to detail
  • Ability to work quickly and efficiently to meet deadlines
  • Ability to work independently on research and as part of a team
  • Ability to quickly learn and apply new skills

Please send resume and cover letter to:

The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel is an independent, non-partisan socioeconomic research institute based in Jerusalem. The Center provides decision-makers and the public with research and findings on some of the most critical issues facing Israel in the areas of education, health, welfare, labor and macroeconomic policy.

The Taub Center is an equal opportunity employer.

Research Assistant

January 2018

The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, one of Israel’s leading policy research institutes, is looking for a research assistant to assist in conducting quantitative research on Israel’s major social and economic policy questions related to the fields of education, health, labor, welfare and macroeconomic policy.  The assistant will work with researchers at the Taub Center, and be mentored by leading scholars in these fields.

Applicants must be studying for or have a B.A. in economics or a related discipline, and have experience conducting economic research and statistical analyses.


  • B.A. or student of economics or related discipline
  • Familiarity conducting research and statistical analyses (familiarity with STATA, Excel and/or other statistical software preferred)
  • Exceptional attention to detail
  • Ability to work quickly and efficiently to meet deadlines
  • Strong written communication skills, in Hebrew and English
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Ability to quickly learn and apply new skills

Please send resume and cover letter to:

The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel is an independent, non-partisan socioeconomic research institute based in Jerusalem. The Center provides decision-makers and the public with research and findings on some of the most critical issues facing Israel in the areas of education, health, welfare, labor and macroeconomic policy.

The Taub Center is an equal opportunity employer.


Research Administrator

January 2018


The Research Administrator is responsible for overseeing all logistical and project management aspects of the Taub Center research program. He/she serves to plan, delegate and implement each step of the production of the Taub Center research from start to finish. This includes developing schedules and project plans, ensuring that the research team is guided by and on track with meeting deadlines, coordinating regular meetings of the research team, tracking in-house and external researchers’ progress, and providing regular updates to all relevant parties including management, editing, and marketing staff on the status of each project. This position could be part time.

Key Responsibilities

  • Developing schedules for and monitoring progress on the completion of each research study, based on input from researchers and other relevant departments
  • Coordinating between research, publications and marketing departments to ensure smooth process of research publication and timely releases of studies
  • Creating written plans with clear objectives
  • Brining to the management’s attention any delays or substantial challenges that may disrupt timelines and helping to troubleshoot solutions
  • Delegating relevant tasks to Taub Center staff members
  • Creating regular status updates on each research study
  • Coordinating presentations and handling logistics for regular research meetings


  • Minimum of bachelor’s degree in relevant field
  • At least one year of project management experience
  • Exceptional levels of organization and attention to detail
  • Proven ability to build relationships with and effectively manage and motivate colleagues
  • Able to work effectively both independently and in teams
  • Effective communication in both English and Hebrew

To apply, please send your resume to

The Taub Center is an equal opportunity employer.

Director of Research

January 2018

Job Description: Director of Research

The Director of Research serves as the head of the Taub Center’s research department, reporting directly to the Executive Director. This part-time position allows for academic or other professional commitments beyond the Taub Center and is based primarily in the Taub Center’s Jerusalem office in Rehaviya. The Center’s mission is as follows:

“The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel is an independent, nonpartisan, socioeconomic research institute based in Jerusalem. The Center conducts high-quality, impartial research on socioeconomic conditions in Israel, and develops innovative, equitable and practical options for macro public policies that advance the wellbeing of Israelis. The Center strives to influence public policy through direct communications with policy makers, and by enriching the public debate that accompanies the decision-making process.”

Areas of Responsibility

The Director of Research is responsible for implementing the Center’s interdisciplinary social policy research program. A core element of the position involves providing mentorship to the Center’s researchers, particularly a cohort of in-house primarily MA-level researchers; identifying core Israeli social policy research questions; ensuring the publication of high-quality and trustworthy research at the highest of academic standards; planning and managing a research publications calendar; serving as a liaison between the Center’s researchers and the Executive Director; and working with the marketing team to determine the dissemination priorities of each research publication.

The Director of Research ultimately draws upon his/her expertise to oversee the successful completion of research projects undertaken by the Taub Center, provide guidance to and manage the team conducting the research, and take steps necessary to advance research findings in line with the Center’s mission.

The Director of Research also serves as a prominent public representative of the Taub Center, presenting the Center’s research findings to a variety of groups, meeting with key stakeholders (e.g., policymakers, journalists, etc.) to advance the impact of the research, and cultivating relationships with external research partners and stakeholders.

Qualifications and Requirements:

  • Recognized academic expertise related to one or more of the Center’s policy program areas (macroeconomics, healthcare, welfare, education and labor market)
  • Established record of academic level publication
  • Advanced degree in a relevant field such as economics, sociology or public policy (Ph.D. preferred)
  • Proven ability and experience in training, developing, and mentoring other researchers, helping them resolve challenges as they arise and cultivating their ability to engage in independent research
  • Expertise in econometric analyses, including fluency in statistical analysis programs such as STATA
  • Excellent spoken, written and presentation skills in Hebrew and English, including the ability to convey complex concepts to non-technical readers and listeners
  • Organizational skills, including the ability to establish plans and implement them effectively, and manage numerous projects underway.

Qualified candidates are requested to submit their candidacy to:

      The Taub Center is an equal opportunity employer.