Category Archives: Events

Growth and/or Inequality? Preparing for the Future

The Herbert M. Singer International Annual Conference

Growth and/or Inequality?
Preparing for the Future

Thursday, November 14, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, Mishkenot Sha’ananim, Jerusalem

The conference will be conducted in Hebrew and English with simultaneous translation

Click here for speakers bios

Introduction

Prof. Avi Weiss, President, Taub Center (Click for his presentation)

First Session: Keynote Lectures

Prof. David Weil, Brown University: Technology, Economic Growth, and Inequality (Click for his presentation)

Coffee Break

Prof. Janet Gornick, Graduate Center – CUNY: Income and Wealth Inequality in Affluent Countries:  Levels, Trends, and Implications for the Middle Class (Click for her presentation)

Response from
Dr. Daniel Gottlieb, Former Deputy Director General of Research and Planning at the National Insurance Institute

Second Session: The Future Labor Market and Implications for Inequality

Chair: Prof. Yossi Zeira, Hebrew University

Discussion:

Dita Bronicki, Founder of Ormat, Technologies, Winner of the 2018 Israel Prize

Shira Greenberg, Chief Economist, Ministry of Finance

Shavit Madhala, Researcher, Taub Center

Dr. Sigal Shelach, Director General, Joint Israel

 

Lunch (Dairy)

Third Session: Developing the Human Capital of the Future – The Role of the Education System in Facilitating Growth and Reducing Inequality

Chair: Prof. Benny Bental, Chair, Economic Policy Program, Taub Center

Discussion:

Michal Avera-Samuel, CEO, Fidel Association for Education and Social Integration of Ethiopian Jews in Israel

Emanuel Bohbot, Vice President of Research and Development, Social Finance Israel

Rabbi Menachem Bombach, Head of the Netzach Haredi Educational Network

Prof. Zvika Eckstein, Dean, Tiomkin School of Economics; Head, Aaron Institute for Economic Policy, The Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya – IDC (Click for his presentation)

Motty Elisha, Head of Employment, Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services

Nasreen Hadad Haj-Yahya, Director, Arab-Jewish Relations Program, The Israel Democracy Institute; Portland Trust

The relationship between growth and inequality is not always clear. Does economic growth lead to greater income inequality, or are its rewards shared by everyone? Does income inequality undermine economic growth, or is it essential to enhance development?

While the Taub Center carries out research on both growth and inequality in Israel, it is not always clear how these interact, and what the policy implications are. To address this, the Taub Center 2019 Singer Conference will focus on the relationship between economic growth and income inequality, both internationally and in the Israeli context.

The conference will begin with a keynote speech delivered by Prof. David Weil, who will provide an overview of the issues at hand.  A second keynote from Prof. Janet Gornick will give us insight into how to understand and measure inequality in developed countries.

We will then delve into the situation in Israel, looking at two distinct areas where the issues of economic growth and inequality both come into play.  First, we will consider the future labor market. Will it promote greater economic growth for Israel? Is there a risk that it will also lead to greater income inequality, with people of certain occupations and skill levels left behind?

Then, we will turn to the education system, a key mechanism for developing the human capital of the future. How can the education system promote economic growth while at the same time helping to reduce income inequality? Is Israel’s education system prepared to tackle these twin challenges?

We expect that the conference will provide participants with a better understanding of the interplay between these two issues that are so central to the social and economic fabric of the country, while also gaining an understanding of the risks and opportunities that lie ahead.

Space is limited, advanced registration required

The conference will be conducted in Hebrew and English, with simultaneous translation.

The auditorium in Mishkenot Sha’ananim, where all the conference sessions will take place, is a safe room.

The venue is accessible for people with disabilities. If you have special needs (e.g., audio or visual assistance, a seat near the door, a nursing room, etc.), please write your requirements in the registration form and we will contact you to discuss your needs, or call us at 02-567-1818. Kindly submit accommodation requests at least 2 weeks in advance of the conference.

Envisioning the Future of Israel’s Labor Market

The 2018 Herbert M. Singer Annual International Policy Conference brought together policy makers, academics and business professionals to address the most pressing challenges and promising opportunities facing the Israeli labor market in the coming decades.

Taub Center Director General Suzie Patt Benvenisti welcomed conference attendees and extended special thanks to Jay Sandak, President of the Herbert and Nell Singer Foundation, for his family’s ongoing support of the Center’s annual conference.

Mr. Sandak shared his wishes for a productive day and underlined the importance of the Taub Center’s work in advancing the wellbeing of Israelis from all walks of life. The Taub Center was excited to welcome Tom Sandak who accompanied his father, Jay, to this year’s conference.

The conference kicked off with opening remarks by Mordechai Elisha, General Director of the Labor Division in the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services. Mr. Elisha highlighted the professions that are expected to continue to be relevant in the wake of future automation.

He emphasized the role of technology in preparing for the future, summarizing: “Israel will
know how to confront the challenges that are before us, and we will be able to use technology in a way that improves quality of life of all the sectors, areas, and populations in the economy.”

Next, Taub Center President Professor Avi Weiss framed the topics of the day by presenting an overview of Taub Center research on Israel’s labor market. He outlined topics such as labor market differences by gender, sector, and geographic area, employment challenges of Haredi men and Arab Israeli women, income inequality, and the high-tech economy.

Focusing on high tech, Professor Weiss raised concerns about sustainability and potential for growth in this booming sector given Israel’s deficit in the highly skilled workers that the tech industry requires.

Professor Weiss then introduced the Keynote Lecture by Professor Eugene Kandel of Hebrew University, CEO of Start-Up Nation Central and former Head of the National Economic Council in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Professor Kandel discussed Israel’s two “very different and essentially disconnected economies,” emphasizing the need to regulate and invest in the two economies differently: “Nothing that the government does for one economy fits the other,” he said.

Professor Kandel’s remarks were followed by a panel discussion, moderated by Professor Weiss: Productivity, High-Tech, and the Start-Up Nation. The first speaker was Michal Tzuk, former Deputy of Employment at the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services. She discussed the technological and employment challenges that lie ahead for the labor market.

She warned that “the rhythm of technology change is just increasing,” but by ‘reskilling’ and ‘upskilling’— that is, teaching new, relevant skills later in one’s career — workers will be able keep up.

Dalia Narkis, former Chair of Manpower Israel, followed Ms. Tzuk. She noted that the skills needed for labor market success have evolved in recent years. “The skills that are required are critical thinking, the ability to solve problems, the ability to work in a non-traditional work environment, and adaptivity… we need the ability to reinvent ourselves.”She also emphasized the importance of English language skills in succeeding in the modern and future labor market.

Dr. Oren Shoval, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of smart shared ride start-up Via brought the panel to a close by sharing his perspective from the vantage point of an Israeli high tech start-up. Dr. Shoval highlighted how, in many ways, Via reflects the needs of the current and future labor market, offering high-tech, on-demand, rapid services to its customers around the world.

The next panel discussion, The Geographic Matching and Concentration of Firms, Workers, and Places of Residence, was chaired by Professor Eric Gould, outgoing Chair of the Taub Center Labor Policy Program and Professor of Economics at Hebrew University. He presented data on the geographic concentration of several socioeconomic indicators — including population share, income, employment, college graduation rate, and life satisfaction rate.

Professor Gould then introduced the Keynote Speaker, Professor Edward Glaeser of Harvard University, a world-renowned leader in the field of Urban Economics. He presented his research on the variables that lead to economic urban success, emphasizing the importance of proximity and human capital. “Physical proximity makes it possible to transfer ever denser, ever more complicated ideas… Proximity and the exchange of ideas are the lifeblood of creativity.”

Professor Glaeser compared the economic health of the United States and Israel, and explored place-based policy options to promote successful cities. However, he cautioned, “Just because the free market gets it wrong, doesn’t mean the government gets it right.”

The keynote was followed by an address from MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union) on big-picture economics in Israel from his legislative and social activist perspective. He addressed solutions to known challenges and expressed his mission to “try to lead change… not just by legislation in Knesset but by real action in the field.” Following MK Shmuli, Efrat Dagan, the Global Staffing Lead for Google, spoke about the importance of building an infrastructure and ecosystem for innovation and development.

“I believe there is talent everywhere,” said Dagan, as she outlined the key ways to grow an innovation ecosystem, including, for example, bridging cultural divides, investing in talented individuals at a young age and from diverse backgrounds, and creating professional support systems with experienced mentors and stakeholders.

Next, Maya Dolgin, Taub Center Director of Community Relations, introduced the pilot episode of DataPoint, the Center’s new podcast, which zooms in on the people and stories behind the numbers in the Taub Center’s research. The episode tells the story of Aziz Kaddan, Founder of Myndlift, and his experience navigating the “Start-Up Nation” as an Arab Israeli entrepreneur.

The final panel discussion of the day, Workforce Diversity, was chaired by Yulia Eitan, Head of the Employment Administration for Special Populations at the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services. Ms. Eitan presented both current and projected labor market trends among women and minorities in Israel, highlighting wage, employment, and academic gaps between and within the different population sectors.

Next, the audience heard from Rivi Beller, CEO of VeHadarta, an organization that works to advance the participation of older Israelis in the labor market. Ms. Beller argued that due to declining birth rates and the growing elderly population, Israeli employers should take advantage of the abundant human capital that can be found among older Israelis who are equipped to work well beyond the official retirement age

. Ayman Saif, former Head of the Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druze and Circassian Sectors in the Prime Minister’s Office was the next panelist. Mr. Saif presented a look at challenges concerning Israel’s Arab sector, emphasizing his view that a lack of available jobs in close proximity to Arab Israeli communities is among the largest barriers to their labor market participation. Accordingly, he encouraged investment in employment opportunities near Arab population centers.

The final presenter was Moishi Friedman, Co-Founder and CEO of Kamatech, an organization that works to advance the employment of Haredim in high tech. According to Mr. Friedman, today’s Haredi community has strengthened to the point where they can participate in the economy more fully without feeling that their lifestyle is vulnerable to the influences of the modern world.

The Herbert M. Singer Annual International Policy Conference 2018: Envisioning the Future of Israel’s Labor Market was a great success that brought together great economic minds, from Taub Center researchers to Israeli and international experts, with participants from diverse backgrounds to envision a future for Israel’s labor market that serves and benefits all citizens.

Thanks to generous support from the Herbert and Nell Singer Foundation, the Taub Center implemented an expanded dissemination plan to increase the impact of the conference, reaching broad audiences beyond the 200 individuals in attendance.

This included the first-ever livestreaming of the full event, filmed simultaneously by two cameras, and funding for the first episode of the Taub Center podcast, DataPoint, which has been downloaded over 430 times to date. The Taub Center wishes to extend its appreciation to all those who participated in the conference in person or Online and looks forward to further researching this crucial policy area and promoting public discourse around these important subjects.

Taub Center senior staff met with the President of The State of Israel

תמונה בבית הנשיא

Prof. Weiss presented the key findings of the State of the Nation Report 2017 and a Picture of the Nation 2018 and discussed the unique changes in demographic trends among Israel’s various population groups. The President expressed great interest in Taub Center research.

The President said: “Your work at the Taub Center examines all topics that affect the lives of Israeli citizens other than security. I carefully read the Taub Center’s annual reports; you do avodat kodesh (holy work) that benefits all of those who need information on these issues. Kol Hakavod to you.”

Prof. Johnny Gal, the Chair of the Taub Center’s Welfare Policy Program presented data on poverty in Israel and on the partial implementation of the recommendations of the Elalouf Committee’s War on Poverty.

Prof. Weiss said “We are pleased to share Taub Center research in a variety of fields and to serve as a source of knowledge for the President’s Residence.”

In this photo (from left): Harel Tovi, CEO of the Presidential Residence, Avi Weiss, President of the Taub Center, The President of the State of Israel Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin, Suzanne Patt Benvenisti, Director General of the Taub Center, John Gal, Principal Researcher and Welfare Policy Program Chair at the Taub Center

Education, Infrastructure, and Economy of Israel

The Launch Event for the 2018 OECD Economic Survey of Israel, jointly hosted by the Taub Center and the OECD, was held on Sunday evening, March 11, at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. The event, moderated by Taub Center Director of Policy Analysis Liora Bowers, attracted an audience of over 50 participants, ranging from civil servants, academics and journalists to curious citizens. This is the third such joint event of the Taub Center and the OECD, reflecting a growing relationship between the two over the past five years.

The evening opened with remarks by Peter Jarrett, Head of Country Studies Division 1 at the OECD, as he presented the latest bi-annual country survey on Israel. Mr. Jarrett began by praising Israel’s macroeconomic and fiscal performance over the last decade, saying it is one of the best outcomes in the OECD, but quickly added that the high GDP growth may be partially explained by the population growth.

He further noted that unemployment is falling sharply and steadily, and that only six countries in the OECD are currently performing better in this regard. Mr. Jarrett concluded the generally positive introduction by highlighting Israel’s falling debt levels and low macro financial vulnerability, noting that the Bank of Israel is rightly maintaining low interest rates, but should be prepared to gradually increase when inflation becomes entrenched in its target range.

Peter Jarrett, Head of Country Studies Division 1 at the OECD

Peter Jarrett, Head of Country Studies Division 1 at the OECD

Yet, not everything was rosy in the OECD survey findings. Mr. Jarrett pointed to Israel’s sky-rocketing house-prices over the last decade, as well as large disparities between Israel’s different population groups, noting the OECD’s perspective that low spending reduces the government’s capacity to address social inequality.

“Above all, reforms and more public investment in education would improve the skills of Haredim and Arab Israelis, allowing them to find well-paid jobs,” he said, referring to the substantial gaps in labor-market outcomes and wages between disadvantaged population groups and the rest of society, predominantly due to differences in skill levels. According to Mr. Jarrett, education spending  per student is low in Israel compared to the OECD, even while the need is likely higher. He further stressed the need for strengthening work-based vocational training and increasing efforts to provide training for the unemployed.

The audience

The audience

Other major challenges facing Israel, according to the OECD findings, include the large infrastructure deficit, especially in public transportation, and the difficulties in doing business. Regarding infrastructure, the OECD recommendations range from ensuring that municipalities have adequate resources to finance local infrastructure services, to promoting automated road tolls. In order to improve the business environment in Israel, Mr. Jarrett stressed the need for streamlining bureaucracy.

The survey found that Israeli businesses have to make the highest number of tax payments in the OECD, and that time required to comply with tax regulation is also very high, and that this especially affects small and medium sized companies.

The evening then continued with remarks by Taub Center’s Executive Director, Prof. Avi Weiss. Drawing upon findings published in the State of the Nation Report, 2017, Prof. Weiss spoke about the two-sector economy of Israel. He noted that in Israel’s high-tech sector wages are 2.46 times higher than in the non high-tech business sector – a difference that is much higher than the OECD average.

Normally, “labor mobility shouldn’t allow this to happen, but in Israel labor mobility is quite low,” he explained. The strong shekel has hurt exports, which causes businesses to turn inwards. This in turn leads to less competition and low investments in advanced equipment.

 Taub Center's Executive Director, Prof. Avi Weiss

Taub Center’s Executive Director, Prof. Avi Weiss

Prof. Weiss went on to comment on the OECD report, in particular the recommendation to increase spending while not adding to the debt, asking, “the OECD report talks about increasing public investment in education and infrastructure. How can we raise public funding in these areas in a fiscally responsible way?” He noted that there is little room for spending increases at the current tax rate, especially when such a large share of the budget goes to security.

Prof. Weiss further stated that the OECD report doesn’t necessarily reflect the many positive developments we’ve seen in education, among Arab Israeli women in particular. Also among the ultra-Orthodox there have been improvements in recent years, such as the increased enrollment at academic institutions.

After Prof. Weiss’ remarks, a panel of experts on education and infrastructure was convened to comment on the OECD findings.

Prof. Reuben Gronau of Hebrew University, weighed in on infrastructure. He expressed his appreciation for the OECD Survey – calling it the most comprehensive report on Israel’s infrastructure he has ever seen – given how little published material there is to draw upon in this field.

Prof. Reuben Gronau of Hebrew University

Prof. Reuben Gronau of Hebrew University

Prof. Gronau then mentioned his own paper from 1998, on the public utilities sector in Israel, which he called “the reform that never was,” and noted that in some industries, such as the electricity industry, very few or no reforms have taken place in the past 20 years.     The “elephant in the room,” according to Prof. Gronau, is the political economy, noting the large role of Workers’ Unions in setting wages.

Nachum Blass, Principal Researcher at the Taub Center, expressed his admiration for the comprehensive work done by the OECD in this survey, and added a number of reservations.

He shared his perspective that there is too much reliance on international education comparisons, such as PISA and PIIAC. In Mr. Blass’ words, “the long-standing economic, cultural and social achievements of the Israeli society reflect a remarkable contrast to its equally longstanding low ranking in the international exams.”

Nachum Blass, Principal Researcher at the Taub Center

Nachum Blass, Principal Researcher at the Taub Center

He also commented on one of the OECD recommendation to make funding of Haredi schools conditional on teaching core studies, such as mathematics and English, noting the cultural and political challenges of imposing such incentives. He further stressed the need to provide assistance to those who decide to leave the Haredi lifestyle, pointing out a lack of such programs.

Taub Center Researcher, Hadas Fuchs, who authored recent reports on education and labor market trends among Arab Israelis, spoke of the need to look at gender when discussing both Arab Israelis and the Ultra-Orthodox.

“Haredi women acquire education with similar scores as non-Haredi women,” she noted, while adding that she found it difficult to be optimistic with regards to Haredi men since they don’t study the core subjects, and there are high dropout rates among those who do pursue academic degrees. Among Arab Israelis, there are also large differences between the achievements of men and women.

Taub Center Researcher Hadas Fuchs

Taub Center Researcher Hadas Fuchs

She noted that “women achieve much more academically, but study education at higher rates than men” where salaries are generally low. She suggested that we should look at ways to encourage women to study fields that lead to higher-paying jobs. However, the real focus should be on Arab Israeli men to understand what barriers they are facing.

The Taub Center is grateful for its ongoing relationship with the OECD and looks forward to continue working towards the shared goal of promoting research and meaningful dialogue on crucial policy areas with potential to improve the wellbeing of Israeli society.

 

 

Educational Inequality in Israel: from Cradle to University

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Watch the conference, including all sessions and keynote lectures, on our Youtube channel

The Center’s Herbert M. Singer Annual Policy Conference of 2017 brought together great minds from Israel and the United States to address core, at times provocative, questions related to educational inequality throughout the life of a student, and to examine cutting-edge developments in the field that may help reduce the gaps.

The conference opened with a warm welcome and remarks from Taub Center Executive Director Prof. Avi Weiss, Taub Center Council Member Anat Gafni, and Jay H. Sandak, President of the Herbert and Nell Singer Foundation and a close friend of the Taub Center – who was joined at the conference this year by his son, Stephen Sandak.

The first session, Education and Inequality, was chaired by Prof. Yuli Tamir, President of Shenkar College and Former Minister of Education, and featured Prof. Noah Lewin-Epstein of Tel Aviv University ( Her presentation in Hebrew can be found here) and Taub Center Principal Researcher Nachum Blass (For his presentation click here). The speakers each offered their perspectives on how to address inequality in the education system and presented important trends that helped frame the topics of the day. Parental background was noted as an important predictor of educational success, and policy options, such as differential budgets that prioritize students from weak socioeconomic backgrounds, were put on the table.

The conference transitioned to its first keynote lecture, delivered by Prof. Dalton Conley of Princeton University. Conley presented his research on of the relationship between genetics, educational success, and social mobility, but noted that genetics is not everything. He concluded his presentation by noting that as technology makes individuals’ genetic information more readily available (particularly to wealthier strata in society), it is incumbent upon policy makers to take an active role in the debates already at hand and consider the policy implications on the role that  that genomics can play in society.

The second session focused on vocational education and was chaired by Member of Knesset Yossi Yona (Zionist Union). MK Yona was joined on stage by Prof. Yossi Shavit, Chair of the Center’s Education Policy Program (His presentation, in Hebrew, can be found here), Elad de-Malach from Bank of Israel (His presentation, in Hebrew, can be found here) and Shirin Natour Hafi, Principal of the Arab School ORT Vocational High School in Lod. Ms. Natour Hafi discussed her priorities as principal, noting that the common remedy of longer school hours is not enough to motivate students to succeed; pupils need their physical space to reflect the seriousness and professionalism of their expected educational performance.

As the conference moved into the third session, President of Hadassah Academic College Prof. Bertold Fridlender chaired a panel on higher education. The panellists, Prof. Sigal Alon from Tel Aviv University and Dr. Yariv Feniger of Ben Gurion University, looked at social stratification in university and the efficacy of affirmative action in reducing performance gaps.

The second keynote lecture of the day by Nobel Laureate Prof. James Heckman (and member of the Taub Center International Advisory Council) opened with an introduction by Prof. Avi Weiss and former Member of Knesset Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg. In his talk entitled The Connection Between Poverty, Stress and Development in Early Childhood, Prof. Heckman showed that the achievement gaps that we see at age 18 already exist in preschool, and a key question is when and how to intervene. “If we start at age 20, the most efficient method [of ensuring success] is probably to invest in the most motivated and competent individuals, but if we invest today in the base capabilities of disadvantaged young children, the return on investment will be huge,” he argued. For his full presentation click here

The final session, chaired by Prof. Yossi Shavit, featured an analysis of policy implications by Carmel Blank of Tel Aviv University, Taub Center Principal Researcher Nachum Blass, Daniella Ben-Attar of the Bernard Van Leer Foundation (Here presentation can be found here) , and Meir Kraus, Former Director of the Jerusalem Education Administration. The policy interventions discussed by the panellists and audience members ranged from parental training at the municipal level to a national overhaul of current budgeting standards.

The Center’s 2017 international conference was a huge success, bringing together the leaders of their fields to address this core social policy issue before a record-breaking audience of over 200 engaged participants. We thank all of the speakers and attendees of the conference and look forward to continued dialogue surrounding this important policy area.

 

What’s Brewing in Israeli Society?

Save the Date - Taub Center Jerusalem Bar Event June 11

Join us for a beer and to hear from renowned leaders in the fields of Israeli social entrepreneurship, policy, and economy

The event will take place in English and is free of charge. Please register here:

Speakers:

Yanki Margalit (Social Entepreneur and High-Tech Investor) – “The Last Machine: Toward a World Without Work. As the era of robots and artificial intelligence become more advanced, the need for work and human thinking is declining. What will the world look like when working becomes obsolete?”

Col. (Res.) Miri Eisin (Former PM Advisor and Spokesperson; Taub Center Board Member) – “Israeli Society Through the Anglo Eye. What assumptions do Anglo Israelis make in their understanding of what Israeli society is, and what it should be?”

Gilad Brand (Taub Center Researcher) – “The Cost of the Cost of Living: Are prices in line with what we earn?”

*האירוע יתקיים באנגלית – הכניסה חינם*

Yisrael Beiteinu Workshop

On January 22, the Taub Center was pleased to host Members of Knesset from the Yisrael Beiteinu party for a workshop on Israel’s key social and economic issues. The meeting included a snapshot of Israel’s socioeconomic trends, as well as in-depth presentations by Taub Center researchers on Israel’s education system and women’s labor market participation.

Brand new Taub Center research was presented from the Center’s annual flagship publication, The State of the Nation Report 2016. The workshop began with an overview of Israel’s key socio-economic issues in a number of fields, presented by Executive Director Prof. Avi Weiss.

Principal Researcher and Education Policy Program Chair Prof. Yossi Shavit discussed some of the challenges facing Israel’s education system, highlighting the role of policymakers in improving the system and reducing achievement gaps. Principal Researcher Nachum Blass then built on Prof. Shavit’s presentation, delving into demographic trends of students and addressing a number specific questions raised by the party.

To conclude, researcher Hadas Fuchs presented new findings on the gender wage gap in Israel and labor market participation trends by gender, focusing on different factors that affect women’s wages and employment.

Thank you to Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman, Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver, MK Robert Ilatov, MK Oded Forer, MK Yulia Malinsovsky, and to Yisrael Beiteinu’s staff and advisors for joining us. We look forward to continuing these pivotal conversations about the key social and economic issues affecting the lives of Israelis.

Innovations in Poverty Policy

The Taub Center’s annual Herbert M. Singer international policy conference in 2016 was on the topic of poverty policy in Israel and abroad, new developments in the field, and an examination of Israel’s current and future approaches to combatting poverty.

The conference, attended by over 150 participants, consisted of lectures and panels on the following topics: poverty and poverty policy in Israel today, a social capital approach to poverty, child development accounts in an international context, experiments in universal basic income, and evaluating progress since the Elalouf Committee for Combatting Poverty released its recommendations two years ago.

The day-long conference kicked off with opening remarks from Col. (Res.) Miri Eisin, an esteemed member of the Taub Center Board of Directors, Mr. Jay Sandak, President of the Herbert and Nell Singer Foundation, which generously sponsors the conference, and Prof. Avi Weiss, Executive Director of the Taub Center.

Prof. John Gal, Principal Researcher and Welfare Policy Program Chair at the Taub Center, provided context for the state of poverty in Israel today. He explained that there are over 1.7 million poor individuals in the country (over 400,000 poor households), and that nearly 40% of Israelis cannot cover all of their monthly household expenses. “Another thing that should worry us” he said, “is that, when we compare ourselves to other welfare states, Israel’s poverty is greater than all other OECD countries except for Mexico.” He continued on to say that this situation must be addressed by the government because “there’s no doubt that one of the responsibilities of a modern welfare state is to deal with poverty.” Gal set the stage for the conference, stating that it would focus on new ways to combat poverty and innovative approaches to creating poverty policy.

Click here to view Prof. Gal’s full presentation.

Keynote speaker, Prof. Avner De-Shalit of the Hebrew University, addressed the audience after Prof. Gal. He stated that, to better tackle poverty, we need to be able to understand and measure it. Prof. De-Shalit proposed an approach to understanding poverty through the framework of assessing real freedoms and opportunities available to people who are poor. Prof. De-Shalit gave the example of a single mother who can only get a job that requires her to commute over an hour each way. While this single mother is employed and can physically get to her work, this is not a genuine opportunity because the distance and long hours force her to choose between working and being a mother. “Poverty and disadvantage,” De-Shalit said, “is when one’s functionings [or, ability to take action] are at risk in an involuntary manner, and disproportionally to other people’s functionings.” He emphasized the importance of consulting with people who are themselves in poverty to learn what real opportunities are most important to them.  He also added that one approach to tackling poverty is to enhance interpersonal relationships, such as friendship and social networks, which have a positive effect on factors such as employment and health.

Click here to view Prof. De-Shalit’s full presentation.

The panel that followed focused on the implementation of child development accounts around the world. The panel included three speakers from the Center for Social Development (CSD) at Washington University, who have been intimately involved in the issues of child development accounts for decades, and partnered with the Taub Center on the Center’s policy brief on the topic published in the Summer of 2016. Prof. Michael Sherraden, the George Warren Brown Distinguished University Professor and founding director of CSD, spoke about moving toward “asset-building” policies to combat poverty. Sherraden argues that these types of policies are better at combatting poverty than immediate cash transfers, as they help individuals build resources over time while having the added non-monetary benefits of encouraging saving behaviors and creating a sense of ownership among recipients.  They are even more effective, he argues, when they are distributed universally and begin as early as the birth of a child. “We often think about how to get poor people through the next month, but we need to think about investing in the future of people in poverty,” he said. Ms. Li Zou, International Director of CSD, gave an overview of child savings accounts policies that have already been implemented around the world in places like Singapore, the UK, South Korea, Hong Kong, and China. “Child development accounts are emerging worldwide,” she explained, “and have the policy potential to benefit a large population. There is also a growing body of international research on the subject.”

Click here to view Prof. Sherraden’s full presentation.

Click here to view Ms. Zou’s full presentation.

Prof. Michal Grinstein-Weiss, founding director of the Envolve Center for Health Behavior Change and associate director of CSD, presented next, on Israel’s new policy that opens a child savings account for all children under the age of 18, beginning in January 2017. Prof. Grinstein-Weiss has been involved in the development of child savings accounts in Israel for a decade and has advised the Israeli government on the matter. “The most exciting thing about implementing child development accounts in Israel is that we already have the existing infrastructure here,” she said. “The idea is to build on the already existing child allowances and education systems.” Prof. Grinstein-Weiss claimed that the new policy was able to pass in Israel now because of public perception of growing inequality in Israel, demands from ultra-Orthodox parties for an increase in child allowances, and the Finance Ministry’s interest in creating more financial literacy among Israeli citizens.

Click here to view Prof. Grinstein-Weiss’s full presentation.

The next panel discussed experiments in universal basic income. Prof. Olli Kangas from the Kela Social Insurance Institution in Finland discussed his involvement in an experiment to test this policy in his home country. As he explained, the experiment sparked many discussions in Finland about the effects of instituting such a policy, including how this type of model in Finland would fit into the context of EU legislation and whether it would incentivize more immigrants to come to Finland to receive the basic income. The study, which will provide an income of about 560€ per month to 2,000 participants in Finland, will begin in the next few months. Prof. Kangas shared some of the challenges of the study saying, “basic income is a nightmare to implement in the infrastructure of Finland and other Nordic Countries. Introducing a seemingly simple concept into a very complex social policy system is not that easy.”

Click here to view Prof. Kangas’s full presentation.

Prof. Daniel Gottlieb of the National Insurance Institute of Israel commented that, in his opinion, “the smart thing to do in response to the trend of computerization in the labor market is to be ready with a universal basic income.” In response to the challenge that universal basic income could reduce the incentive for people going out into the labor force, Prof. Gottlieb argued: “There has only been a minor decline in employment due to the implementation of basic income in places where it has been tried.” Dr. Lia Etinger of the Shaharit Institute focused her comments on the social shifts and change in lifestyle that would necessarily accompany the adoption of a universal basic income. “In order to implement basic income, we need to first build a culture that fits with a basic income model,” she said. Instead of our current model of employment where people often find little meaning and are disconnected from the work that they do, “we have to develop a different idea of what it means to contribute to society.”

The final session of the conference dealt with evaluating progress in the two years since the recommendations from the Elalouf Committee on the War Against Poverty were released. Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, Director General of Israel’s National Insurance Institute, acknowledged that only 58% of the recommendations that emerged from the committee were implemented, but that indicates greater success than many other committees. He noted that “there is way more to do. But there has also been a lot of progress already since the Committee put out its recommendations.” In fact, he continued, “today is a holiday for Bituach Leumi because today 1.3 million letters were sent out to parents notifying them about the new child savings accounts program in Israel.” Prof. Michal Krumer Nevo of Ben-Gurion University talked about the difficulties in addressing poverty when a full-time social worker’s caseload is 125 families at a time, which means meeting with each family only once every couple of months. She argued that the average caseload needs to be reduced, in keeping with the Elalouf Committee’s suggestions, to 50-60 families at a time. Prof. Krumer Nevo further said that “good practice and good policy in this area need to be based on professionals in the field believing in people who are in poverty.”

Mr. Kher Albaz spoke about poverty in the Negev, particularly among the Bedouin community. In the South, about 50% of those picked up by the police are Bedouin, even though they make up a much smaller percentage of the population. “If you really want to have an impact on combatting poverty in these areas,” Albaz said, “you need the involvement of the government, the local municipalities, the business sector, the non-profit sector, and the involvement of the communities themselves. They know best where and how the community is hurting.” Ms. Ruti Yehoshua from the Forum for Fighting Poverty, who also sat on a sub-committee of the Elalouf Committee, spoke about her own experiences growing up in poverty and continuing to struggle with poverty as an adult. “We must understand that poverty has consequences in the long term and even on the following generation,” she said. “To tackle these problems, there must be collaboration with people who really experience poverty first-hand.”

Click here to view Ms. Yehoshua’s full presentation.

MK Elie Elalouf (Kulanu), who headed the Elalouf Committee between 2012 and 2014 and is currently the chairman of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, responded to the speakers on the panel, saying that poverty will never disappear and that we will always need to combat it. However, we must continue to try to improve the situation. For example, MK Elalouf stated: “our goal is that, by 2018, there will not be an elderly person who is living under the poverty line. I’m not talking about way in the future. I’m talking about budgets that we are discussing right now.” He continued on to discuss a more general approach for combatting poverty: “fighting poverty is cross-sectional, cross ministerial, and encompasses many parts of our life,” he said. “Benefits are not enough. Benefits alone cannot pull someone out of poverty. Only a conjoined, cross-sectional approach can do that.” MK Elalouf also commented on the Taub Center’s work as part of his remarks: “Here, I need to praise the Taub Center. Never stop doing what you are doing. You have no idea how my perspective has changed since I read your report.”

The Taub Center’s 2016 international conference was a great success, bringing Taub Center researchers, international experts, and participants from a wide array of backgrounds together to discuss an extremely important area of Israeli policy. We thank all of those who joined us to participate in this conference.

WIZE: Challenges of Tomorrow

Over 100 young Israelis joined the Taub Center and WIZE, an organization that promotes a more knowledgeable Israeli public, for an evening discussing the opportunities and obstacles in Israel’s future. Throughout the course of the event, Taub Center Researcher Shavit Madhala-Brik spoke about occupations at risk of be replaced by technology, journalist and social activist Tomer Avital discussed the need for transparency in Israel’s government and institutions, and entrepreneur Oren Shoval presented his startup Via’s solution to traffic problems.

As part of her presentation, Madhala-Brik explained that certain industries in Israel are at higher risk of being computerized than others, particularly some of those employing Israel’s more vulnerable populations. “Usually when people hear these findings,” she added, “the first thing they say is ‘wow, 40% of workers are going to be unemployed.’ But generally, history teaches us that new technological developments actually create a lot of new jobs.”

Following Madhala-Brik, Avital shared examples of mishandled situations and a lack of transparency in Israel’s institutions. Avital explained that the people in these institutions sometimes have a vested interest in the outcome, which can lead to corruption. For example, Avital discussed imports into Israel. “Every good you want to bring into Israel needs approval from the Standards Institute,” he said. “And who sits on the Standards Institute? Local manufacturers. What’s the goal of the local manufacturers? To maximize their own profits.”

Shoval rounded off the evening with a discussion about creative solutions to traffic problems in Israel and elsewhere. “Can public transportation be effective, available, and affordable?” he asked. “Today it is not. It’s cheap and subsidized by tax dollars, but it’s not easy to navigate.” Shoval’s startup combines carpooling and public transportation to tackle traffic problems.

As part of an ongoing partnership between the Taub Center and the Holon Institute of Technology (HIT), infographics created by HIT students that depicted Taub Center findings were on display throughout the event. After hearing from the three fascinating speakers, the Taub Center and HIT presented awards to the students who designed outstanding depictions of Taub Center research.

 

Social Capital and Health Workshop

On November 1st, the Taub Center was pleased to host the 6th bi-annual Workshop of the Global Network on Social Capital and Health. The event, held at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, convened top scholars in the field from around the world to present their research and receive feedback from their peers and colleagues in the discipline. The theme of this year’s conference was “Social Capital, Ethnicity and Health.”

The conference began on an optimistic note with the opening remarks from Professor Yonatan Halevy, the Director-General of the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Israel. Halevy was proud to report that when it comes to hospital care in Jerusalem, you will see members of all four social groups (Jewish secular, traditional, ultra-orthodox, and Arab) represented and receiving equal care.

Professor Lorenzo Rocco from the University of Padova in Italy continued by offering a definition of social capital, and discussing the difficulties of defining and measuring it in research. Rocco showed that while high social capital is associated with health and other social benefits, the nature of the correlation is unclear and not yet proven to be causal.

In the first of the scholarly papers presented, “Social Capital and Child Injury,” Maya Siman-Tov from the University of Haifa in Israel discussed the disparities between secular families, Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) families living in religious communities, and ultra-Orthodox families living among mostly secular families. She found that although families living in ultra-Orthodox communities maintained higher social capital, their children got injured at a much higher rate than those who lived in secular settings. Simon-Tov stated that, “the environment may be more important than the actual community in which the family lives.” The discussant, Dr. Michal Hemmo-Lotem, a pediatrician and vice president for innovation at the Sheba Medical Center Fund, also suggested turning towards passive, as opposed to active, measures of injury prevention to help families with many children take care of each other in effective and safe ways.

Expanding on individual social capital, Dr. Vered Kaufman-Shriqui focused on social capital at the communal level, and hypothesized that individuals with higher social capital will have lower BMIs. The results found no major relationship between social capital and BMI for men; however, social cohesion, support and community was found to be very important for women and helped protect against high BMI. The discussant, Professor Ronit Endevelt from the University of Haifa, astutely noted the additional implications of this influence, stating that, “social capital, even when strong in the community, is not always for the best,” and providing examples of harmful communal expectations forced upon women.

Next, Professor Eric Nauenberg of the University of Toronto in Canada presented his research and projections of demographic data on the baby boomer generation as it passes through the health care system. He proposed that, as this large generation ages, it will be important to emphasize community-level social capital in order to delay a decline in health for as long as possible. The discussant, Professor and Taub Center Principal Researcher Alex Weinreb, agreed, emphasizing that, “if the family isn’t there on the individual level, it will fall on the larger community to fill that hole.”

Professor Lorenzo Rocco followed, discussing the effect of childcare on the mental health of grandparents. Rocco attempted to measure and evaluate whether the benefits grandparents receive from providing childcare for their grandchildren, such as creation and transfer of social capital, outweigh the disadvantages, such as increased rates of depression especially among men. During the question and answer period, the topic of varying cultural expectations of grandparents in different countries was raised.

The connection between housing instability and a child’s access to healthcare was explored through the research of Professor Hope Corman from Rider University in the United States. She found that children in families with unstable housing were more likely to lack health insurance. While the study was conducted before the Affordable Healthcare Act was enacted in the US, she lamented that, “[the affordable care act] is complicated for everyone, but probably especially complicated for those who are less educated, who are also those who are most likely to have an insurance gap.” The discussant, Professor Orly Manor from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, emphasized the importance of the study’s focus on pre-school aged children, and how “those years are so important to all of us for health and prevention throughout our entire life.”

The final presentation was given by Naham Shapiro on the topic of defining and measuring social capital in a cross-cultural setting. Shapiro conducted his research in Jerusalem, a city with rich diversity of populations, which elucidates varied forms of social capital. He concluded that, “there is very little consensus on what ‘social capital’ is,” and on many survey questions, “if you try and look cross-culturally, you just can’t because it means different things.” In the discussion that followed, Professor Orna Baron-Epel, from the University of Haifa, agreed and elaborated on issues related to self-reported health data. She stressed that further research will need to “identify objective measures and social aspects of collective identities.”

Workshop: Ministry of Social Equality

Senior staff from Israel’s Ministry of Social Equality, including Director General Avi Cohen, attended a workshop at the Taub Center to learn more about the Center’s research on social welfare policy and findings on the inequalities in Israeli society. The workshop included presentations from Taub Center Executive Director Prof. Avi Weiss, Principal Researcher John Gal, and Researcher Haim Bleikh.

Prof. Weiss spoke about the activities and goals of the Taub Center and provided an overview of the Center’s most recent research findings. Haim Bleikh discussed poverty and inequality among Israel’s elderly and how this population compares with elderly populations in other countries. John Gal wrapped up the day with a conversation about social security in Israel and the relationship between social security and poverty.

The event concluded with a lively and enthusiastic discussion that touched on a number of the topics presented.

Parliamentary Assistants Briefing

About 25 parliamentary assistants from across the political spectrum assembled in the Knesset for a Taub Center briefing on Israel’s socioeconomic condition. After refreshments and mingling, the group heard presentations from Executive Director Prof. Avi Weiss, Senior Researcher Eitan Regev, and Researcher Hadas Fuchs. Prof. Weiss kicked off the event by discussing occupations at risk; namely, the types of jobs that are likely to become automated in the coming years, and the types of jobs that are unlikely to be replaced by computers due to the skills that the occupations require. He proceeded to discuss trends in Israel’s education system, including gender and demographic shifts in higher education, as well as gender and demographic shifts in the labor market. Prof. Weiss concluded his presentation with a discussion of the high cost of living in Israel, focusing specifically on the reasons behind Israel’s notably high food and housing prices as well as measures that could drive these prices down.

Following Prof. Weiss, Senior Researcher Eitan Regev briefed the parliamentary assistants on the research he and Gilad Brand conducted on productivity in Israel. Regev discussed the growing productivity gaps between Israel and other OECD countries and examined multiple factors and industries that are stunting the growth of Israel’s productivity. Researcher Hadas Fuchs presented on Israel’s current parental leave policies, how they compare to those of other OECD countries, and the proposals she and Liora Bowers put forth in a recent Taub Center policy brief on the subject. Fuchs also spoke about trends in education, employment, and housing among young adults in Israel.

The Taub Center is committed to providing reliable, non-partisan policy research to decision-makers in Israel. We hope that parliamentary assistants from across the political spectrum will continue to utilize our research findings in doing their important work in the Knesset. Thank you to all those who joined us!

Young Adults in Israel

About 70 young Israelis gathered at the bar HaMaoz in Tel Aviv to hear Executive Director of the Taub Center, Avi Weiss, speak at an event entitled “How much does a beer cost? The socioeconomic condition of young adults in Israel.” The event, held in collaboration with WIZE, a movement to change youth culture and nightlife in Israel, opened with a general presentation on the Israeli economy and then walked through the stages in the life of every Israeli, from kindergarten through retirement. The audience was particularly interested in findings that related to the cost of living in Israel and the increase in housing and food prices in recent years, as well as in Taub Center graphs indicating that more young people are still living with their parents than in the past.

Board Retreat in Jerusalem

For the first time in many years, the Taub Center Board of Directors held its annual meeting in Jerusalem. The Center was thrilled to host so many of its esteemed board members, especially those who traveled to Israel specifically for the occasion from the United States and Australia, including Board Chair, Michael Saxon (Baltimore, USA) and Vice Chairs Helen Abeles (Melbourne, Australia) and Jim Angell (Denver, USA). The Board members met with staff, policy program Chairs and fellows, policy makers and others to discuss the social and economic issues that are at the heart of the public debate in Israel today. Members of the Taub Center General Assembly and other friends of the Center were also invited to participate in various aspects of the retreat.

Over the course of the retreat, numerous Taub Center researchers presented their recently published research and/or offered special previews of forthcoming projects. This was a great opportunity for the Board members to hear about Taub Center findings first-hand from those conducting the research, and led to lively discussions on a number of topics.

One highlight of the program was a presentation from MK Elie Elalouf (Kulanu), who discussed the issue of poverty in Israel. MK Elalouf presented alongside Taub Center Principal Researchers John Gal (Welfare Policy Program Chair) and Dov Chernichovsky (Health Policy Program Chair). “The job of the Minister of Finance is to ensure that within three years there will be no elderly Israelis in poverty,” said MK Elalouf, who serves as Chair of the Knesset Labor, Welfare, and Health Committee. “We are running to close the gap with the OECD but, in doing so, we are leaving behind the weakest populations.” According to MK Elalouf, handling the problem of poverty is not just a matter of money, but is also related to housing, education and society’s attitude toward poverty. MK Elalouf praised the Taub Center and said that the Center is valued for its independence: “[the Center] researches what it chooses to research, so there are no influences on the results.”

Another panel featured Michal Halperin, the Director-General of the Israel Antitrust Authority; Prof. Eytan Sheshinski, emeritus lecturer in economics at the Hebrew University; and Taub Center Executive Director Prof. Avi Weiss. The three discussed competition, particularly within Israel’s food industry. “The most immediate way to change the centralization in the food industry is to enable and encourage imports,” Halperin said. She noted that a small number of companies control the market, to which Taub Center Executive Director Prof. Avi Weiss added that those “companies not only dominate the production, but are also major importers of different types of products – which further hurts competition.”

Additionally, Board members participated in a site visit to Kivun, an employment center founded by JDC-TEVET, to learn about the employment services and support it provides for members of the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) population group in Israel. Following a tour of the facilities, the Board members heard from four Haredi panelists who shared their experiences with JDC-TEVET, their entrance into the labor market, and their initiatives to help others in their community do the same.

The Board retreat was a wonderful opportunity for the Taub Center’s Board of Directors and the Center’s staff to engage in discussion, share experiences, and exchange ideas. Taub Center staff look forward to hosting their highly valued board members in Jerusalem in the Spring of 2017 for its second annual board retreat, and to their ongoing participation in the work of the organization throughout the calendar year.

Knesset Employment Symposium

Taub Center researchers were central participants in the day-long Knesset Employment Symposium organized by MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid). The symposium aimed to explore how employment in Israel is changing and how the government can best prepare the next generation of Israelis to enter the labor market.

MK Lavie opened the day with the message: “Israel has fallen asleep. We’ve fallen asleep on the job. We are continuing to raise our children with the same understandings and with the same education system that we grew up with. And the world is changing. We are not giving our children and grandchildren the tools, opportunities, and skills they need to succeed.”

Research from the Taub Center shedding light on the state of employment in Israel was presented in six Knesset committees throughout the course of the day, as well as in the closing panel.

In the Economic Affairs Committee, Executive Director Avi Weiss spoke about the Small Business Law that passed in the Knesset the previous day. As shown through the joint Taub Center and OECD conference that took place on February 1st, a major reason for high cost of living in Israel is a lack of competition. Prof. Weiss said that well-crafted legislation and policies for small businesses could potentially help bring much-needed competition into the system that would have an impact on the market as a whole.

Both Prof. Weiss and Senior Researcher Eitan Regev spoke in the State Control Committee. Prof. Weiss presented Researcher Shavit Madhala-Brik’s recent study showing that about 40% of hours worked in Israel are in occupations at risk of being replaced by computers over the next two decades. Eitan Regev discussed an oversaturation of lawyers and accountants entering the work force as well as the challenges of integrating members of the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) population into the labor market.

Taub Center Principal Researcher Nachum Blass presented before the Education, Culture, and Sports Committee on best practices for addressing changes in the labor market through Israel’s education system. The system, says Blass, needs to both ground students in basic skills that are broadly applicable and provide relevant professional training that will prepare students for their future occupations.

In the Status of Women and Gender Equality Committee, Researcher Hadas Fuchs presented on women’s position in the Israeli labor market, including the wage gap between men and women, the relationship between education and employment, and an analysis of the reasons women choose to work part time as compared with men.

The Science and Technology Committee discussed how robots, computers, and technology in general will change the landscape of the future labor market. Both the MKs present (MK Uri Maklev (UTJ), MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), MK Manuel Trajtenberg (Zionist Union), and MK Haim Yalin (Yesh Atid)) and Prof. Weiss discussed the demographic implications of computerization in Israeli industries. The non-Jewish population is at higher and more immediate risk of their jobs being replaced by computers. This is because about 52% of the non-Jewish population is employed in construction and industry, fields in which technology is replacing employees at a fast pace.

Claude Berrebi, Director of Research at the Taub Center, spoke before the Subcommittee on the Status of the Elderly (under the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee), discussing the state of employment and poverty in Israel’s elderly populations. He highlighted that elderly Israelis across different population groups are employed at a higher rate than in the past, meaning that people are retiring later.

The Employment Day concluded with a panel of experts, moderated by MK Aliza Lavie. The panel included Prof. David Passig, a futurist who specializes in forecasting technological and social trends; Adina Bar-Shalom, recipient of the Israel Prize, Founder of the Haredi College in Jerusalem; MK Yael German (Yesh Atid), former Minister of Health; Prof. Avi Simhon, head of the National Economic Council; Michal Tzuk, Director of Employment Regulation & Senior Deputy Director General, Ministry of Economy; and the Taub Center’s Prof. Avi Weiss. Prof. Weiss stressed the importance of adequately preparing Israelis, and particularly those from vulnerable populations, for the jobs of the future. “I could take a Haredi man today and teach him bookkeeping,” he said. “Why would I teach him bookkeeping? Because it’s a thing that is relatively easy to learn and will get him into the labor market relatively quickly. But, in five years, nobody will need him! So, either we need to give him something else to learn at the same time, or we need to try to provide him with a broader education.”

Prof. Weiss also reminded the panel that not all jobs are at risk. Jobs that require a personal touch and creativity are at much lower risk of computerization. For example, jobs in health services such as doctors, psychologists, and caretakers, will continue to be needed. “The things that will disappear,” Prof. Weiss cautioned, “where we need to be careful, are the jobs that require repetitive tasks. These are the jobs that are easy to replace with computers.”

The State of Competition in Israel

The symposium on “The State of Competition in Israel,” jointly hosted by the Taub Center and the OECD, was held on Monday, February 1st and attracted an audience of over 50 participants including senior economists, academics, and journalists. The conference, moderated by Taub Center Director of Policy Liora Bowers, began with remarks by Prof. Avi Weiss, Executive Director of the Center, who presented key findings from the State of the Nation Report 2015. According to Prof. Weiss, with regards to the economy in Israel, “While it’s not necessarily easy to raise prices, once prices are high it’s much easier to sustain them at that level. If you are not faced with competition, you are not required to lower prices.”

 
Prof. Weiss was followed by Claude Giorno, head of the Israel Desk at the OECD. Giorno discussed the OECD’s Fourth Economic Survey of Israel, which was published the previous day, and highlighted that various flaws in the Israeli market are hurting the economy’s productivity. He suggested that competition should be promoted in the food, banking, and electricity industries, and, more generally, that the whole market should be opened to competition from abroad. Another recommendation put forth by Giorno is to make regulations more business-friendly and to improve the effectiveness of government intervention. Giorno also pointed out that the cost of living in Israel is 20% higher than in Spain and 30% higher than Korea, two countries with similar income levels to Israel.

 
Following Giorno, Taub Center Researchers Eitan Regev and Gilad Brand presented findings from their recent research relating to competition and the cost of living in Israel. According to Brand, there has been an abnormal increase in food prices since 2006, which was accompanied by a rise in profit margins in the industry. Regev highlighted that the staple food groups that Israelis most rely on, such as meat and dairy products, are imported at the lowest levels and concluded with the question: “is this the result of the largest companies having the strongest lobbying efforts?”

 
As part of a high-level panel on “Competition in Israel,” Prof. Weiss posed the question of why prices have not fallen in Israel as they have in other countries. According to Prof. Weiss, the reasons for this phenomenon are: the relative isolation of Israel, which doesn’t trade with its neighbors; the regulations that led to the growth of monopolies in key industries; and the tendency of strong unions to prevent competition in the market. Panelist Prof. David Gilo, the Former Director General of the Israeli Antitrust Authority, said that the government’s efforts to increase competition have received criticism. “This means that if the government decides to combat the cost of living and promote competition, it must be determined to carry out this plan. A significant challenge we’ve faced in recent years is the high cost of food prices. The law that passed a year ago (which imposes restrictions on large food retailers and requires greater price transparency) needs to be implemented carefully so that it works and, furthermore, we need to fight the high concentration among retailers.”

 
Prof. Eytan Sheshinski from the Department of Economics at Hebrew University and an Economic Policy Fellow at the Taub Center addressed the topic of pensions, saying that “instead of always making small changes in this area, it is better to create comprehensive, systematic change.” He noted that he supports the recent steps taken by the Commissioner of Capital Markets, which include reducing management fees on pension savings, but that Israel should consider following in the footsteps of countries that have done even more. “I know that this is a traumatic process that won’t happen in one day, but it’s better than trying to fix it each time until the problem appears again somewhere else.”

 
Dafna Aviram-Nitzan, Former Director of the Economic Research Department of the Manufacturers Association of Israel, focused on the domestic market, emphasizing that increasing imports alone is not enough. “To flourish, the domestic market needs greater internal competition and incentives that will cause an improvement in productivity.” According to her, high food prices are due to relatively high value added tax (VAT), the costs of kosher certification on food, and the overall business environment in Israel.

 
Dana Heller, Head of Competition and Deputy Chief Economist at the Israel Antitrust Authority, spoke about the necessary balance between regulations and efficiency. “There is a tendency to correct flaws in regulation through additional regulation, but this is not the correct procedure. First identify the points that prevent entry –that is the first step in finding good solutions. Some think that a lack of regulation is a good thing, but the secret is to find the right balance.”

Meeting with Polish Embassy

On December 1, senior staff at the Taub Center met with Polish Ambassador Jacek Chodorowicz. Ambassador Chodorowicz and representatives from the Polish Embassy in Israel thanked the Taub Center for its reputation as a respected, non-partisan research institute. Mutual research interests were discussed at the meeting, particularly relating to the situation of Holocaust survivors living in Israel today and immigrant populations. The meeting set the tone for future discussion and collaboration between the two institutions.
Ambassador Chodorowicz was accompanied by Deputy Chief of Mission Piotr Kozłowski, Economic Counselor Przemysław Bobak, and Second Secretary Michał Cholewa.

Health & Healthcare–Who’s Responsible?

Individual Responsibility: “The patient must be responsible for his actions, and it is moral to demand personal responsibility”

Professor Yonatan Halevy praised the National Health Insurance Act of 1995, claiming that “the Israeli patient enjoys a long lifespan, and the data shows improvements over time. The treatment of diseases, such as diabetes and certain types of cancer, has also improved.” Regarding changes to the nature of a patient’s visit, he said “Patients now have much higher expectations due to the development of new diagnostic methods and the digital era. It won’t be long until patients are able to self-diagnose via smartphones and also compare themselves to other patients in similar situations.” Halevy noted that technological advances carry with them the good along with the bad: “We have before us innovative medications, digital accuracy, and digital tools. HMOs have also become quite advanced in the field of electronic records. However, when it comes to physician-patient relationships, we’ve seen negative developments. Doctors concentrate more on typing on their computers than on their patient.

Professor Chaim Bitterman raised two contradictory approaches to patient responsibility. The first holds that all citizens must take personal responsibility for their own wellbeing and take actions such as avoiding smoking, engaging in physical activity, and maintaining a healthy diet. On the other hand, there is the approach which suggests that citizens have almost no responsibility for their health. In Bitterman’s words, “Even with the best intentions coming from leaders in the health system, a substantial part of health is influenced by personal or environmental factors. The impact of the health system and of behavioral factors is at most 40% – the remainder is determined by one’s unique personal environment.” Bitterman also discussed the nature of Israel’s health consumer in 2015: “Healthcare consumers’ expectations of support and treatment are quite different today from what they once were. Knowledge is not only the property of the provider, but also of the patient. Patients participate in healthcare seminars and associations, and they set up tools for sharing information. Providers, then, must refresh and update their training methods to respond to the public’s thirst for information.”

The ensuing panel discussion dealt with the question of whether demands should be made on the citizen to take responsibility for his medical situation even when it involves weaker population groups. Dr. Orit Jacobson, Deputy Director General of Clalit Health Services, referred to the elderly population and said: “I was looking for a program to lower costs for treatment of the elderly but I could not find a community model. In the end, I asked the elderly how they would like to be treated. Through a parliament of the elderly in Tel Aviv, we built an intervention plan and we saw a lowering of hospitalizations and a rise in quality indicators – that is, the model worked. The Clalit Health Services later adopted the model countrywide.”

Prof. Nachman Ash raised a delicate issue: “Can we give bonuses to responsible patients and punish the others?” In his words, “We don’t like to punish victims, but sometimes there is no choice. We have already tried putting a tax on cigarettes and it is clear that this doesn’t work. Twenty percent of the population smokes, half of the citizens suffer from being overweight, and the most absurd thing is that some 50 percent of the healthcare system’s workers don’t even get the flu vaccine. The patient needs to be responsible for his actions, and it is moral to demand personal responsibility. We don’t need to be extreme and withhold treatment or humiliate the patient, but the patient needs to feel personal responsibility – particularly the weaker populations.”

Liora Bowers, Director of Policy at the Taub Center, added an international perspective to the question of personal responsibility: “As the trend in healthcare is towards growing individual responsibility, there are lessons that can be drawn from the United States, where Obama’s health reform was based on individual’s taking responsibility for their own health.”  Bowers discussed the importance of balancing the desire to place responsibility on the individual while at the same time considering the larger policy objectives.  She used the example that the government of California chose not to go forward with a popular proposal to charge smokers higher health insurance premiums than non-smokers. “Many of California’s smokers are from low socioeconomic populations, which would be further marginalized and left out of the healthcare system if they were charged higher prices for insurance; this would be counterproductive to the government’s goals to improve health and reduce disparities.”

The Responsibility of Service Providers: “The patient no longer trusts the doctor or the system”

At the beginning of the second session, Prof. Larry Brown spoke about the changes in the social contract over the past 20 years between the service provider and the patient and on the new challenges that we face: “When we stand before a patient in the system, we need to take into consideration several things beyond his health status: income, status, personal stress, and more.” Brown noted that service providers need to know that they cannot change their patients’ socioeconomic status, “but they need to understand the home and environment the patient returns to after the visit, in order to give them a comprehensive consultation.”

Prof. David Chinitz from the Hebrew University noted the historic evolution of responsibilities of the provider, from the Hippocratic Oath of “Do no harm” to the explosion of expectations today.  “Physicians today are expected to do their best to patients, to health plans, to patient populations, to global health and more.  The responsibilities are huge.”

Attorney Leah Vefner, Secretary General of the Israel Medical Association, added: “Should we just be saving money? Let’s invest it where it is most needed.” She related to the relationship between factions in the health system, and noted that “policy makers do not trust the doctors and say that they need to be supervised. This isn’t something new, but what is new is that the patient no longer trusts the doctor – or the system as a whole.”

Prof. Ran Balicer, Director of Clalit Research Institute, offered a solution to the situation: “We should only offer treatments that give results. The worst thing is overtreatment – it not only wastes money but it harms the patient. Not everything that matters can be measured, but some very important things can (and should) be measured. It is possible to use the information that the patient gives more wisely.” Balicer determined that “the system must change because it is built on ex post facto treatment. In Israel the situation is better, but there is a need to change from our current working propositions.”

Dr. Bishara Bisharat, Director, English Hospital of Nazareth and Chair of the Society for Health Promotion in the Arab Community in the Israel Medical Association, related to the role of the hospital: “The hospital should lead and influence the area like creating walking paths and serving healthy food in public places.”

The State’s Responsibility: “Just like we raise the defense budget in times of war, we should also raise the health basket as a result of increasing needs”

The third session raised a number of issues among participants. Prof. Mark Stabile suggested a new perspective to looking at the way the government should design healthcare services provided to its public. “The types of illnesses that people suffer from haven’t changes much in the past 20-30 years.” Stabile added and said “Despite its defects, ‘Obamacare’ recognizes that the healthcare system of services has changed significantly. The system relates to the fact that the population’s wishes have changed. We know that the population is aging and suffering from new diseases, and what has changed rapidly is the way of treating these problems. At the center of healthcare services should be creating solutions for the good of the public and not the needs or desires of the service providers or the government.”

Following this, MK Meir Cohen, past Minister of Welfare, related to the healthcare system in the periphery. In his words, “The true difficulty is to strengthen the periphery in order to create true equality with the cities of the central region. It is not reasonable that hospitals in the periphery rely on philanthropy; this is the role of the state.” Cohen determined that “there is money in the ministry; it is simply a question of priorities.”

Moshe Bar Siman Tov said that the ministry is using a strategy that includes strengthening the foundations and the status of doctors in Israel, budgeting the system, strengthening public medicine, encouraging healthy life styles, transparency, and dealing with future challenges. In this context, Bar Siman Tov noted that “changes are very rapid, especially demographic. Israel is one of the youngest countries in the world, and is also aging quickly, and that requires preparation in terms of hospital beds, long-term hospitalization and geriatric beds.” In his words, “we want to put the patient at the center and strengthen the socio-cultural connection.”

Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef tried to sharpen the definition of the healthcare that Israeli’s are entitled to: “It’s important that the state defines what healthcare services citizens should get, and that everyone – rich and poor – receives those benefits.  Because if you only give the poor certain benefits, than no one is there to defend the poor when someone tries to take those away.” With regard to personal responsibility Mor-Yosef added: “I am against punishment. I believe in creating incentives in terms of regulation and prices. If you want people to eat healthy, then it can’t be that healthy food costs the most. By the way, this is also the state’s responsibility.”

Prof. Dov Chernichovsky, senior researcher and Chair of the Taub Center Health Policy Program, raised some controversial ideas in his presentation, suggesting that the argument in favor of universal healthcare provided by the state is eroding with the increasing shift towards chronic diseases which depend on lifestyle.  He predicted that states will move away from providing a guaranteed basket of full health services, to a basket that meets only the minimum needs and is focused on catastrophic coverage.  In general, Chernichovsky explained that “inevitably, we will see a decrease in involvement and funding of healthcare by the state over time.  Nonetheless, the state must continue to protect the interests of certain groups – such as the young and those in the periphery, ensure oversight of medical technology prices, and be more involved in old-age and nursing care.”

Iris Ginsburg, an economist and member of the Health Basket Committee, summarized the discussion, and said: “Without some forethought about a new direction, the coverage of the state in the area of health is likely to change to resemble that of the area of welfare. The National Health Insurance Law provides a decent basket of services, and it apparently does not justify the private expenditure on health that amounts to 40% of the funding. When the individual continues to increase his expenditure in parallel with technological developments, this will create inequality in life expectancies and a split between two groups of the population.”

HITaub Evening Art Exhibition

About 80 guests joined the Taub Center and the Holon Institute of Technology (HIT) at Kuli Alma, a bar in Tel Aviv, for a celebratory evening to admire the artwork created by HIT students of the Department of Visual Communications. As part of an ongoing partnership between the Taub Center and HIT (nicknamed “HITaub”), a cohort of talented design students created infographics and interactive video clips inspired by the Taub Center research findings with which they most connected. Amidst some drinks and friendly mingling, guests clicked through the interactive, online graphics, enjoyed the printed infographics displayed in the gallery, and watched presentations by Taub Center researchers and HIT students alike. The evening closed with an award ceremony in which the Taub Center presented scholarships to students with outstanding projects.

The Management of Israeli Hospitals

Participants in this special meeting, which was held at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, included professionals and policy makers in the field of health: Dr. Yitzhak Berlowitz, Director, Wolfson Medical Center; Prof. Jonathan Halevy, Director, Shaare Zedek Medical Center; Dr. Eitan Hai-Am, former Director-General, Ministry of Health and former Director, Assuta Medical Center; Prof. Eran Halperin, Director, Rabin Medical Center and Chair, the Union of Hospitals; Prof. Moshe Revach, Administrative Chair, Maccabi Healthcare; and,  Yael German, MK and former Minister of Health. The discussion was chaired by Dr. Iris Ginzburg, Tel Aviv University.

 

The meeting opened with a presentation by the Taub Center’s Prof. Dov Chernichovsky and Hadas Fuchs on the historical background of the hospitals and the inpatient system in Israel, and shared some recent data:

  • The number of inpatient beds in Israel is low relative to the US, and stands at half of the average of OECD countries.
  • The number of inpatient beds in Israel’s geographic periphery is substantially lower than in the country’s center and large cities.

The discussion progressed to a review of potential alternatives for the organization and administration of inpatient services in Israel, such as incorporation of the service, the creation of an inpatient authority, and incorporation under an authority or an administrative body of the Ministry of Health. Each of the discussants spoke about patients of the system who they encounter in the course of their work.

 

MK Yael German, former Minister of Health, noted governance failures: “There is no regulation in government hospitals, not even at the salary level. The reach of the Ministry of Health is so extensive, that there is no managerial capacity available to oversee the government hospitals.” Prof. Moshe Revach also referred to the inability of the Ministry of Health to offer effective administration: “The Ministry of Health is also seriously handicapped in the area of corporate governance. As a hospital director, you can potentially see the Director-General only once a year. There is no directorate, there is no audit committee and no internal auditing. When the Ministry of Health is busy with 11 hospitals as well as geriatric facilities and also public health, it cannot administer appropriately, and it relies on good people in the system.” Experts also spoke about the lack of updates in the healthcare system, as Dr. Eran Halperin detailed: “No new hospitals have been established, we are working with the same number of job positions since 1977. There are no MRIs and no CTs.”

The panelists discussed the findings from various committees on the topic of the hospitalization system, as well as the Ministry of Health’s division of responsibilities including the necessary long-term conditions in terms of financing, organization and management for carrying out the various options raised. Dr. Yitzhak Berlowitz: “The Ministry of Health is like a handicapped body that cannot fulfill its legal role. The reform in the area of mental health is an example of the split personality of the Ministry: it needs to decide whether it is a regulating and planning unit that thinks about the health needs of the country, or whether it is responsible for running hospitals.”

 

Dr. Eran Halperin also described problems that affect the whole system and the hospitalization area in particular: “It is understandable that there are directors who will prefer not to do expensive surgeries in order to stay within their budget, or will delay certain procedures due to the expense. The subject of hospitalization has not been on the agenda the past few years because of the desire to treat people within the community. In the health fund hospitals, it is possible to cut medical procedures with the wave of a wand. Health regulation is guided by the whims of economists.”

 

The discussants raised the importance of finding a solution that will stabilize the system over time as well as the need to consider technological and demographic developments when examining inpatient options. Prof. Jonathan Halevy remarked: “Development of community services is the direction, whoever doesn’t need to come to the hospital – shouldn’t come. Continuity of care is important and this is what the health funds should focus on. There needs to be an investment in hospitals and in their directorates.” Dr. Eitan Hai-Am added: “The funding of the system is far from what it needs to be. There is always a deficit. The solutions must be from the perspective of a patient from Dimona without any insurance or abilities – I would make all of the supplementary insurance public.”

 

Prof. Moshe Revach summarized the general feeling in his statement: “I hope that the Ministry of Health will be brave enough to make health policy responsive to demographic and technological developments as well as the needs of the public.”

Shenkar Student Award Ceremony

As part of a cooperation with the Department of Visual Communication and under the guidance of Itamar Daube, the students created short animation clips addressing issues such as the high cost of living, traffic, bureaucracy, the wage gaps between men and women, and more. Marianna Raskin, Lior Shkedi and Polly Mileshko received the awards from the head of the Department of Visual Communication Dekel Bobrov and from Gal Ben Dor, Taub Center Director of Marketing and Communications.

Jerusalem: “What’s Happening?”

Jerusalem event cover

This unique evening was jointly sponsored by WIZE, the movement to change the culture and night life among young people in Israel.

The event took place at Mike’s Place and included short talks from journalists and leading social activists alongside Taub Center researchers. Talks touched on a variety of aspects of Israeli life, from the changing Israeli labor market to the influence of low productivity on the daily lives of everyone in Israel.

There was also a screening of the short animated films designed by students in the Visual Communications Department at Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art, under the guidance of Itamar Daube and the distribution of infographic postcards designed by the Visual Communications Department at the Holon Institute of Technology under the guidance of Sigal Perelman and Bob Orel – all of which were based on Taub Center studies.

Eitan Regev: “Challenges of the Israeli Economy”

Eitan Regev, Taub Center researcher, presented the obstacles that impede growth in the Israeli market place, among them employment inequalities, an education system that ranks near the bottom when compared to the rest of the developed world on international measures, and a low level of labor productivity in comparison to other Western countries. In his words, narrowing educational gaps, a new way of systemic thinking on the part of the education system, and dealing with problems of bureaucracy and impediments to importing goods would all lower the cost of living and contribute to growth.

Dalia Narkis: “The World Works Differently”

Dalia Narkis, chair of Manpower Israel and the head of the Mediterranean region in the company, spoke about the changing work place, emphasizing that nowadays people change work places with greater frequency than in the past – often within a year and a half. She noted that research has shown taking a second degree immediately after a first degree is not as effective with regard to work promotions as taking the second degree after accruing a few years of experience. Narkis said that the technological era and the internet has created a wide variety of positions that were not even available a few years ago and that in the future, places of work will not be able to meet all of the demand for positions, leaving room for entrepreneurship and the self-employed.

Sagit Azary-Viesel: “Government Priorities in the National Budget”

Sagit Azary-Viesel, Taub Center researcher, pointed to several problems with the state budget, among them the fact that “social” budgets in Israel are lower relative to other countries. Likewise, government ministries tend not to fully use the budgets available to them. The solution, she says, is increased budget transparency and careful follow-up on budgets.

Gal Alon: “So Where Are We in This Story?”

Gal Alon, founder and CEO of Insights, called on everyone present to work toward change in the areas in which they are active, to find the values that are important to them and to find the framework within which to fulfill them. In his words, we all share responsibility, and that means becoming more involved and being partners in decision making in organizations and institutions where we work and where we are active.

Gad Lior: “The Government’s Economic Policy”

Gad Lior, senior economics journalist for Yediot Aharonot and emcee for the evening, summarized the event and presented the complexity in  creating economic policy: Should the wealthy and successful businesses be taxed higher – something that will bring in more money to the state coffers but which might force some of them to leave the country? He weighed the variety of perspectives presented throughout the evening, closing the evening with what he thinks of as the burning questions in the political process.

Tel Aviv: What’s Happening?

TLV wize cover

This unique evening was jointly sponsored by WIZE, the movement to change the culture and night life among young people in Israel.

The event took place at the Ismi Salma bar, and included short talks from journalists and leading social activists alongside Taub Center researchers. Talks touched on a variety of aspects of Israeli life, from obstacles in the healthcare system to the many reasons that Israelis spend much more money than they earn.

There was also a screening of the short animated films designed by students in the Visual Communications Department at Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art, under the guidance of Itamar Daube and the distribution of infographic postcards designed by the Visual Communications Department at the Holon College of Technology under the guidance of Sigal Perelman and Bob Orel – all of which were based on Taub Center studies.

A tasting of the evening’s offerings:

Prof. Ayal Kimhi: “The Socioeconomic Threat to the Start-Up Nation”

Ayal Kimhi, Deputy Director of the Taub Center, presented the unacceptable gaps that are turning Israel into a world leader in innovations and entrepreneurship on the one hand, and on the other hand, a country ranked amongst the lowest in the Western world in terms of education and health. According to him, only a long-term investment in education will help Israel to close the gaps and remain a leader in high-tech.

Shaul Amsterdamski: “What Are You Paying For and Who Has an Interest – A Tale of the Healthcare System in Israel”

Shaul Amsterdamski, a journalist for Calcalist, spoke about the supplementary health insurance that almost every Israeli pays for by contributing to the health funds. Amsterdamski noted that  despite the sizeable amount of money contributed, those insured still have to pay out nearly $3 billion for surgeries and a variety of other treatments. In his words, there are many interested parties who want to be sure that the consumers continue to pay for surgeries and treatments from their pockets, even though public funds from taxes should cover these situations.

Eitan Regev: “Cost of Living: How Do Israelis Make Ends Meet?”

Eitan Regev, Taub Center researcher, presented different factors that influence the cost of living. Among them, he pointed to price differences, which have increased between Israel and other Western countries, complex bureaucracy, and the absence of infrastructure, all of which seriously harm growth and advancement possibilities for the country.

Narkis Alon: “So What Do We Do With This?”

Narkis Alon, social entrepreneur and founder of the ZEZE social project and the Elevation Academy, requested that the audience not vote out of habit or social pressures but that people read up and look into what the parties say and what is closest to their beliefs. She called for real engagement, for creating visions and long-term thinking regarding the effects of voting now on what will happen in the next 20-30 years.

Hila Korach: “How Can We Make Politicians Stick to Their Promises?”

Hila Korach, a journalist for Ma’ariv and host of Channel 2’s morning show “The World This Morning,” encouraged the audience to use data that is independent (like that of the Taub Center) and sites that present information on Knesset member activity, and warned of being drawn to slogans and campaign promises. In this way, Korach said, it is possible to form an overall perspective on what is really happening in the country.

Strategic Planning in Policymaking

The Taub Center hosted a unique symposium with leading academics and policymakers to discuss challenges in strategic planning and long-term thinking in public policy, as well as existing and new approaches to address these challenges.  A presentation of research findings was followed by a perspective provided by current and former Israeli policymakers.

Main findings and quotes from the Taub Center 2014 Conference on “Strategic Planning and Long-Term Thinking in Policymaking”

  • Prof. Dan Ben-David presented findings from his research, including new and particularly concerning data showing that since international testing began, Israel’s ranking in terms of pupil achievement in core studies has steadily deteriorated. Over the past 15 years, Israeli pupils consistently ranked at the bottom of the list of countries (Table 1). In addition, since 1999, Israel has had the highest achievement gaps in the Western world between pupils of different groups, and as Ben-David notes, “it is no surprise that Israel’s large educational gaps later manifest themselves in some of the highest inequality rates in the West.”
  • Prof. Momi Dahan critiqued the way that decisions are reached: “Israelis invest more effort in the process of buying a kettle than we do in designing policy. The future we desire is relatively obvious, but we’re not doing what we need to do in order to make it happen.”
  • Prof. Omer Moav criticized policymakers who, in his opinion, make decisions that are economically irrational.  Such policymakers include Minister of Finance Yair Lapid, MK Shelly Yachimovich, MK Tamar Zandberg and MK Stav Shafir: “Stav Shafir says that in order to ease the housing problem, we must regulate rent prices – but the impact of such a policy would be to reduce rent prices to below the equilibrium level. The fact is that everywhere that rent control has been implemented, it has led to a shortage of housing, poor construction and neglect of properties.”
  • Prof. Steven Popper spoke based on his experience of working with the Israeli government: “The institutions of government created in an earlier era, when Israel was founded, are not necessarily well-suited to challenges the country faces today.”
  • Minister Silvan Shalom: “If we pay less for electricity, water and gas – that will truly fight against the high cost of living.  Effective planning can help lower the price of goods.”
  • MK Avishay Braverman, Chair of the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee, criticized the government: “Israel is a corrupt society. Each minister works only for himself and each minister wants to be Prime Minister in a flash.  Long-term planning is of no interest to them, and instead, they compete to see who will be the first to have the best gimmick.” He said that “elected officials operate according to what looks appealing in the media, and not for the public good.”
  • MK Orly Levi-Abekasis, Chair of the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child, argued that the government failed to identify long-term failures in the housing market, even though the data was clearly visible.  She said, “We cannot consider policy for the long-term if we do not first look at today’s reality in comparison to the past.”
  • Mr. Ron Huldai, Mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, said: “In Israel, things happen when there is a crisis. Widening the Ayalon Highway, cleaning up the Yarkon, the municipal sewage system – all are plans that began due to crisis.” He criticized the central government, arguing that the ministers are not selected based on their success in the role, and thus have no incentive to improve outcomes.
  • Yesterday, (Monday) November 10, 2014, the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel held its annual conference at Mishkenot Sha’ananim as part of the Herbert M. Singer Conference Series. Addressing a crowd of senior Israeli policymakers and the general public, the speakers presented varying perspectives on the importance of strategic planning and long-term thinking in policymaking, as well as discussing the need to base such planning on facts and not on opinions.

The Israeli Context: Findings and Key Issues
The conference opened with presentations by three of the most senior economists in Israel – Prof. Omer Moav, Prof. Momi Dahan, and Prof. Dan Ben-David. This unique session did not focus on their world views, which differ greatly from one another.  Instead, the three economists presented a unified call to the country’s leadership to establish strategic, long-term plans that will determine the future of Israel, to outline the stages that are necessary to achieve these goals, and to propose how they intend to move Israel in this direction.  In addition, they called for actions to be based on facts, rather than on intuition or widespread public opinion that is often mistaken.

Prof. Dan Ben-David, Taub Center Executive Director, presented findings on long-term social and economic trajectories in the areas of economic growth, inequality, employment, education, and transportation infrastructure.  In the words of Prof. Ben-David, “the government must understand the extent of the continuing trends of the last 40 years and internalize that these are unsustainable. There is an urgent need for serious, professional solutions for these issues.”  Prof. Ben-David presented some of the worrying findings that emerge from his research, for example, that the rates of disposable income inequality in Israel are amongst the highest in the world.  A new finding by Ben-David that is especially concerning is that since international testing began, Israel’s ranking in terms of pupil achievement in core studies has steadily deteriorated.  Over the past 15 years, Israeli pupils consistently ranked at the bottom of the list of countries (Table 1).  In addition, since 1999, Israel has had the highest achievement gaps in the Western world between pupils of different groups, and as Ben-David notes, “it is no surprise that Israel’s large educational gaps later manifest themselves in some of the highest inequality rates in the West.”

Prof. Momi Dahan focused on the work of the government.  In his words, “Israelis invest more effort in the process of buying a kettle than we do in designing policy.  The future we desire is relatively obvious, but we’re not doing what we need to do to make it happen.”  Dahan went through a series of steps for creating policy, ranging from planning for the future to following up on the policy with research and evaluation.  He noted that policymakers today do not receive policy alternatives, which has a critical influence on the functioning of Israel’s democracy.  He gave the example of the “Zero Value Added Tax” (VAT) plan for housing, noting that it was proposed without any groundwork, such that even the costs and benefits are unknown.  In closing, Prof. Dahan said that policy should be made in a manner similar to consumer behavior: policy makers should examine several alternatives via assessing costs and needs.

Prof. Omer Moav also spoke about the importance of understanding the facts when making decisions.  “We all want a country with greater welfare and fewer gaps between groups,” he said, “but in the public discourse, there is confusion between means and ends, and there is no one checking that the means are moving us towards the ends.”  For example, he said, raising the minimum wage is, on the surface, a step that advances welfare.  In practice, however, it could lead to a rise in unemployment and in the cost of living.  Prof. Moav distinguished between those who “create value” and those who “live off the value of others.”  Among the latter, he pointed to farmers who have a monopoly on certain crops and who avoid potential competition by blocking imports. He also singled out worker’s committees as well as public sector tenure, which prevents advancement for the benefit of the public. Prof. Moav also criticized the voices calling for government regulation of rental prices: “Stav Shafir says that in order to ease the housing problem, we must regulate rent prices – but the impact of such a policy would be to reduce rent prices to below the equilibrium level. The fact is that everywhere that rent control has been implemented, it has led to a shortage of housing, poor construction and neglect of properties.”  In his words, “if we were to adopt the approach of protecting jobs, even at the expense of societal welfare, there would be no rise in the standard of living.  The rise in the standard of living is made possible through progress – and blocking progress is what harms welfare.”

Guest Speaker
Keynote speaker Prof. Steven Popper of the RAND Corporation provided an international perspective, including examples from other countries on the importance of long-term planning and the need to rely on facts in strategic decision-making. He opened with the question “How can we make the Israeli government think in a simple and focused way?”

Prof. Popper spoke about goal-setting as a first and critical step in strategy formation, and noted that establishing measurement and evaluation criteria for strategy is important.  He also discussed the importance of a planning process that is not dependent only on internal government knowledge, but which is also aided by external advisors and is flexible and adaptive.

Regarding Israel, Prof. Popper urged local policymakers to adopt an international approach to strategic planning, which can help them make decisions quickly on the basis of long-term goals, analysis and assessment. In his words, “The institutions of government created in an earlier era, when Israel was founded, are not necessarily well-suited to the challenges the country faces today.”  He also noted that adaptation and efficiency do not come from improvising in the short term.

Popper identified several challenges to strategic planning in Israel today, among them: a tendency to be reactive and not proactive; difficulties in coordination across government ministries; insufficient use of research; inadequate outcomes measurement and evaluation of policy; and policy formation for an extremely heterogeneous society. Despite the many challenges, Prof. Popper reminded the audience of recent positive developments due to the government’s efforts of October 2012, among which are the establishment of a strategic planning department in the Prime Minister’s office and attempts to increase demand for strategic planning within government bodies. “In the past, Israel saw itself as a unique phenomenon, but today the government and policymakers are hungry for international comparison and to understand Israel’s performance in the global context,” he concluded.

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Planning in Practice

The participants in the policymakers’ session discussed the topic of strategic planning and long-term thinking in policy formation, relying on the findings that were presented at the conference as well as on their rich understanding of the field.

MK Silvan Shalom, Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water, Minister of Development of the Negev and Galil, and Minister of Regional Cooperation, said: “Sometimes we make decisions that appear to be short-term, but often they are actually long-term decisions, because the projects themselves are for the long term.” He used the example of water, where Israel has a long-term plan and, thanks to desalinization efforts, the country does not suffer from a water shortage today despite the low rain fall of the past few years.  Minister Shalom linked long-term planning to the issue of energy – the building of power plants, desalinization plants, and the like – and the ability of the government to provide services for its citizens.  He said that “if we pay less for electricity, water and gas – that will truly fight against the high cost of living.  Effective planning can help lower the price of goods.”

MK Prof. Avishay Braverman, Chair of the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee, was critical of the way information is provided to the public: “People say – look, low unemployment, reasonable debt to GDP ratio, growth is good.  But the question is who benefits from this growth?  For years, they have lied to us by highlighting the average wage.  Only now have they remembered to examine the median wage, which shows that the situation is not so bright.”  He declared emphatically that “Israel is a corrupt society,” and he criticized elected officials who operate according to what looks appealing in the media, and not for the public good.  He claimed, for example, that “gas in Israel is a monopoly – the price is much higher than in other countries.”  Relating to long-term planning, Braverman said that “every minister works only for himself, every minister wants to be the Prime Minister in a flash.”  To address this situation, he suggested “less legislation and more norms. Knesset members pass legislation and they become famous, but they fail to consider the long term. We need people who aren’t just thinking about the next office they will run for.”

MK Orly Levi-Abekasis, Chair of the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child, sniped at her government colleague, Minister Silvan Shalom: “According to Minister Shalom, we can shut down the Taub Center because the situation is wonderful.  In the world that I live in, the reality is much different.”  In her talk, she addressed the importance of comparative data in policy planning, and said that “when I try to deal with a particular subject, such as public housing, and I want data, I request it from the Knesset research department.  But it turns out that there are tremendous gaps between the data from the Knesset research department and data from the Ministry of Finance or the State Comptroller’s office.”  She added that “the people in the Ministry of Finance don’t do their homework – it is absurd and bizarre.”  Regarding the issue of housing, Levi-Abekasis said, “We cannot consider policy for the long term if we do not first look at today’s reality in comparison to the past.  In a 2006 Taub Center study, there was discussion of failures in the mortgage market and recommended options for addressing them, so don’t tell me that we could not have predicted what happened.”

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat described the vision for the city of Jerusalem that was outlined during his administration.  Barkat explained how he utilized strategic planning to strengthen the city in three core areas in which it has a relative advantage: culture and tourism, life sciences research, and development of remote service centers.  In Barkat’s words, “even before we get to budget discussions, there are plans.  Every division must present plans that have the power to impact, that can be measured and that are attainable.  On a quarterly basis, we convene and examine what succeeded and what didn’t – we then create an interim summary and make adjustments as needed.”

Mayor Ron Huldai, Mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, stated that “in Israel, things happen when there is a crisis. Widening the Ayalon Highway, cleaning up the Yarkon, the municipal sewage system – all are plans that began due to crisis.”  He criticized the central government, arguing that the ministers are not selected based on their success in the role, and thus have no need to try to improve outcomes.  A key point in Huldai’s talk was the importance of decentralization of government. In his words, “all of the authority is in the hands of the State, while all the ability to implement is in the hands of the local authorities.  Therefore, it is very important to transfer authority over to the local government.”

Prof. Nathan Sussman, Director of Research at the Bank of Israel and a professor at Hebrew University, noted the importance of the banks’ credibility in the public eye in order to ensure their long-term stability.  He said that at the Bank of Israel “we follow and monitor the government budget from the perspective of five to six years into the future.” He also spoke of the important trends that are sure to have a significant impact in the coming decade: the aging of the population, sources of capital that will spur the economy over the next decade, changes in the savings patterns of the Israeli public and more. To download Prof. Sussman’s presentation (in Hebrew), click here.

Food Insecurity

Taub Center researcher Eitan Regev and Chairman of the Taub Center’s Health Policy Program, Prof. Dov Chernichovsky, presented at the Knesset committee on Labor, Welfare and Health. The meeting focused on hunger and food insecurity in Israel. Regev presented Taub Center research findings on the price of nutritious foods and the foods that low income families forego, addressing the core of the issue of hunger in Israel. Prof. Chernichovsky offered an academic approach to reducing hunger in Israel.

What’s Happening?

This event, which took place on a Thursday evening at the bar Ismi Salma in Tel Aviv, featured TED Talk-style lectures from some of Israel’s leading journalists, social activists, and intellectuals, including a few of the Taub Center’s researchers. The event also featured the winning entries of our inaugural visual arts contest, for which students from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and Shenkar College of Engineering and Design (in partnership with the Rothschild Ambassadors organization) transformed Taub Center research findings into creative infographics and animated video clips. The winning infographics can be seen in the background of many of the pictures displayed. Here is a little bit of what the audience heard:

Dan Ben-David: Israel and the Threat from Within
The evening began with a presentation from the Taub Center Executive Director, Dan Ben-David. Prof. Ben-David presented on the long-term trends that have and will continue to affect Israel’s social and economic stability. He concluded that while Israel’s population is relatively young and healthy, the long-run trajectories on issues such as poverty, labor productivity, and education pose a serious threat to Israel’s social and economic well-being.

Yaron London: Will the State of Israel Survive Until the End of the Century?
Yaron London, Israeli journalist and TV host, provided some additional context underlying the issues presented during Dan Ben-David’s lecture. He discussed some of the social and economic reasons why various Jewish communities immigrated to Israel. In parallel, London also addressed why some young Israelis are choosing to leave the country only two generations later.

Sagit Azary-Viesel:  Taub Center Findings on Education and the Labor Market
Sagit Azary-Viesel, Taub Center researcher, spoke about the relationship between education level and employment status. In Israel, adults who hold academic degrees are twice as likely to be employed as those who do not. In the United States, by contrast, there is only a 3% difference in employment between those who do and do not hold academic degrees. Azary-Viesel concluded that if education is such a significant indicator of employment, we must ensure that all children are receiving a good education in Israel.

Nilly Avinun: Gaps in Public Education in Israel
Nilly Avinun, former deputy director of “Hakol Hinuch” an organization that promotes education reform in Israel, built on Sagit Azary-Viesel’s presentation. She discussed the many reasons why it is imperative that every child be given the resources he or she needs to be able to succeed in school. She focused on the gaps in Israel’s public education system, comparing children in the wealthier and poorer areas of the country, and connecting their success as adults back to the opportunities they were given as children.

Eitan Regev: Taub Center Findings on the Israeli Healthcare System
Eitan Regev, Taub Center researcher, discussed the decline of healthcare personnel and infrastructure in Israel. According to research conducted by the Taub Center, there are fewer nursing and medical school graduates per-capita in Israel than in the OECD’s 23 most developed countries. He also showed that Israel has a significantly lower ratio of hospital beds available per 1000 persons than other developed nations in the OECD, including the United States. “In a few years, we will have to be grateful if we find hospital beds in the hallways.”

Adi Altschuler:  So What Do we Do With This?
Adi Altschuler, the founder and president of “Krembo Wings,” a youth movement for children with disabilities, approached the end of the evening with a personal and inspiring touch. She showed the audience that, despite all the concerning information they received throughout the night, each person can still make a difference by taking personal responsibility for the community in which he or she lives. She gave examples from her own life, in which she has started organizations that range from working with children with special needs to sharing the stories of Holocaust survivors with Israeli youth.

Dan Ariely: Our Misconceptions about Inequality and Social Justice
The final speaker, world-renowned behavioral economist Prof. Dan Ariely from Duke University, ended the evening with an entertaining but also troubling lecture. He presented one of his studies, which surveyed thousands of Americans asking them about wealth distribution in the United States: what did they think the distribution looked like in actuality and what the ideal distribution should be? Ariely shocked the audience by demonstrating the large gap between how Americans perceive inequality and the alarming reality of just how unequal the country is. He noted that the disconnect between perception and reality are not so different in Israel, and he left the audience with a bit of hope, suggesting that small and conscious steps can be taken to promote positive social change in society.

“What’s Happening?” was an incredibly successful event, bringing in hundreds of young Israelis to hear from a variety of experts and engage with current socioeconomic issues.  We wish to thank Roni Levit, the Bezalel Academy infographics teacher and Itamar Daube, the Shenkar College animation teacher, for mentoring their students during our visual arts contest, as well as to all of the presenters and WIZE for making this enlightening and informative evening possible!

Inequality Conference

The topic was “Causes and Consequences of Inequality.” Participants in this unique symposium included two of the world’s leading scholars in the field of economic inequality – Prof. David Autor of MIT and Prof. Brian Nolan of Dublin University. The speakers presented to senior policy makers in Israel and to the general public groundbreaking studies that explain the reasons for the surge in income inequality in most of the developed countries of the world and the social and economic consequences of that surge. Following their presentations was a discussion on inequality in Israel.

Among the studies and findings presented at the conference:

Trends in Wage Inequality in Israel: a new study presented for the first time at the Taub Center conference (click to download presentation)
A study conducted by Taub Center researchers Ayal Kimhi and Kyrill Shraberman examined the development of wage gaps in Israel between 1997 and 2011. The researchers found that whereas the return on education grew over that period, a phenomenon likely to lead to a rise in wage inequality, in effect wage gaps diminished somewhat and the relative situation of low-wage earners improved. Kimhi and Shraberman also examined the distribution by occupations and found that the return on education in low-wage occupations increased, whereas in higher-wage occupations it remained stable. This may explain the relative rise in the wages of low-wage workers. What these findings mean is that higher education is coming to have economic value, as it did not in the past, also for workers who are employed in fields where wages are low.

Kimhi and Shraberman also found that workers in the seventh and eighth deciles experienced a drop in wages relative to both lower-wage workers and higher-wage workers, and as a result the wage distribution in Israel has become more polarized since the wages of the “middle group” have declined relative to the wages of the other groups. The distribution of total working hours in the economy by occupations has also become more polarized, since working hours in low-wage occupations and in high-wage occupations have increased relative to total working hours in middle-wage occupations.

Causes and Consequences of Inequality in Industrialized Economies (click for presentation)
A study by Prof. David Autor of the Economics Department at MIT examined the inequality issue from an innovative perspective. According to Autor, over the last three decades income inequality has grown to huge dimensions in many of the industrialized nations, and even though the worldwide economic crisis wiped out a lot of capital in the course of the last five years, inequality again appears to be on the rise, making the topic more relevant than ever. Autor found that inequality has risen at a rapid rate in some countries, but much more slowly in others. In other words, rising inequality is not inevitable, but the outcome of social and cultural circumstances and of policy. The study examined the potential causes of rising inequality in industrialized economies, including technological changes, globalization, fiscal policy and the development of social norms, as well as the consequences of inequality for economic efficiency, social mobility, and the quality of the democratic state. In light of the findings, Autor constructed an estimation of the cost to society of inequality and showed that high inequality obstructs social mobility and is damaging to the structure of the family and investment in children. In his presentation, Autor shows a study that was conducted in 13 countries and proved that in countries with high inequality intergenerational social mobility is very low, or as Autor puts it: “In such countries someone born to very wealthy parents is likely to be very wealthy, and someone born to very poor parents is likely to be very poor – and it doesn’t have to be that way. In countries with low inequality there is much greater social mobility. We need economies that are dynamic, not economies based on dynasties.” Autor added that in an economy without social mobility there is less incentive to work, because people feel they have no chance of climbing the social ladder.

Another interesting finding presented by Autor, concerning the structure of the family, is that the more educated a man is, the greater the probability he will be married, and vice versa, the less educated a man is, the lower the probability he will be married. In reproduction, however, no connection to education was found, although the less-educated people who are unmarried establish single-parent families characterized by less time and resources invested in children, which greatly impacts inequality in terms of children’s education and their future opportunities.

Poverty and Inequality over Time – In Israel and in the OECD (click for presentation)
A study by Prof. Dan Ben-David and Haim Bleikh of the Taub Center focused on changes in the poverty and income inequality rates in Israel over recent decades and relative to other countries. Contrary to prevailing opinion, the poverty and disposable income inequality rates in Israel are very high compared to developed countries, even when the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and Arab Israeli populations with their relatively high poverty rates (though not especially high in terms of economic income, i.e., before welfare payments and taxes) are taken out of the calculation.

The study also found that poverty among children after welfare payments and taxes is the highest in the developed world: one-third of the children in Israel are below the poverty line.

The Taub Center researchers found also that the share of national income reaching the top percentile of the population is not particularly large in Israel, but on the other hand the gap between people in the 90th income percentile and those of median income is the widest in the West; the gap between those of median income and the 10th percentile is even larger.

The Growth in Income Inequality and Its Effects –Examples from 30 Countries over 30 Years (click for presentation)
Prof. Brian Nolan of Dublin University in Ireland conducted a study on inequality from a global perspective. At the Taub Center conference Nolan presented the findings of the cross-country study, which examined the rise in the Gini coefficient for inequality in thirty countries over three decades, and showed the political and social effects of that rise in those countries. Inequality in the OECD countries is currently very high, in fact, the highest it has been in the past fifty years. According to Nolan, the factor which most influences inequality is the market forces, including wage gaps and the structure of the family. As regards the structure of the family, Nolan came up with two findings. First, two-parent families tend to be in better economic condition than single-parent families; and, even among families with two parents, in families in better economic condition, there is a greater probability that both parents will work than in families in poor economic condition. The second influential factor on inequality, according to Nolan, is the government policy regarding the social security net. Surprisingly, Nolan’s study found no proof that high inequality has a bad effect on society – not in terms of health and inequality in healthcare, not in terms of crime, not in terms of social mobility, and not even in terms of social solidarity and trust in the public system and in society in general. Nonetheless, Nolan qualified his remarks: “Although we have seen nothing to attest that inequality negatively impacts society, we must look at the aspect of morality and justice, and inequality is unjust and in a normative society it is better not to reach high levels of inequality.”

Alongside the presentation of the studies at the Taub Center conference, a roundtable discussion was conducted led by the incoming Governor of the Bank of Israel, Dr. Karnit Flug, with the participation of Knesset Member Isaac Herzog, Prof. Ayal Kimhi, Prof. David Autor, Prof. Brian Nolan, Prof. Eran Yashiv and Prof. Haya Stier.

The roundtable participants discussed the topic of income inequality on the basis of the studies presented at the conference and their rich knowledge of the field.

Dr. Karnit Flug (click for presentation): “In recent years we have witnessed high levels of inequality, beside a rise in the flexibility of the labor market. We must ask ourselves: does the situation we are in today reflect the proper balance between labor market flexibility and the level of inequality? And are there possible policy measures that can contribute to reducing inequality without harming labor market flexibility? In this context, the negative income tax policy, whose implementation has begun in Israel in recent years, is a good example of policy that meets these two conditions.”

Dr. Flug referred to processes in recent years that have aggravated inequality in Israeli society: “There is a clear interchange between labor market flexibility and inequality in disposable income, and the process which has occurred in recent years, of reduction in transfer payments on one hand, and a reduction in direct taxes on the other hand, has contributed on one hand to enhancing flexibility in the labor market, and on the other hand to rising inequality in disposable income.”

Knesset Member Yitzhak (Buji) Herzog said: “I am grateful to the Taub Center for placing such important issues, such as poverty among the elderly, on the agenda. The government copes only with problems from day to day and long-term planning is lacking, as is dealing with the core issues. My concern is for the working poor – a large percentage of those living below the poverty line work, and are still poor, and in the State of Israel a situation has arisen almost of modern slavery.”

The Taub Center for Social Policy Research in Israel, headed by Prof. Dan Ben-David, is an independent and nonpartisan institution for socioeconomic research located in Jerusalem. The Center provides to leading decision makers in Israel and to the general public an overview of the social and economic fields. The Center’s professional staff and interdisciplinary teams – which include prominent scholars from academe and the leading experts in their policy fields – conduct studies and propose policy recommendations on the key social and economic issues which confront the State of Israel.

 

For more details or to schedule an interview, please contact Gal Ben Dor, Taub Center Director of Marketing and Communications: gal@taubcenter.org.il

Health Conference

First Session: The Fiscal Issue
Chair: Suzanne Patt Benvenisti, Taub Center

Trends in Funding Israel’s Healthcare System
Prof. Dov Chernichovsky, Taub Center and Ben-Gurion University

Private Health Insurance in Israel from an International Perspective
Dr. Tuvia Horev, Ministry of Health

Taxation vs. Alternative Funding for Ensuring Welfare Services
Prof. Zvi Eckstein, IDC, Herzliya

Discussant: Dr. Adi Brender, Bank on Israel

Second Session: Supplemental Insurance in Other Countries
Prof. Wynand van den Ven, Erasmus University, The Netherlands

Prof. Konstantin Beck, Director of CSS Insurance Mathematics and Statistics, Switzerland

Dr. Mark Bassett, Former Director of Public Policy, Bupa Group, United Kingdom

Roundtable Discussion
Chair: Prof. Meir Oren, Director,Hillel Yaffe Medical Center
Prof. Roni Gamzu, Director General, Ministry of Health
Dr. Avigdor Kaplan, Chairman, Clal Group
Prof. Avia Spivak, Ben-Gurion University 

Closing Remarks: Prof. Dov Chernichovsky, Taub Center and Ben-Gurion University

 

Israeli Society: Trends and Prospects

10:30 am Morning session
Greetings:
Lauren Benton, Dean for Humanities, NYU
Ronald Zweig, Director, Taub Center for Israel Studies, NYU
Dan Ben-David, Executive Director, Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel.

The Israeli economy: structural challenges and unsustainable dynamics
Eran Yashiv Chair, Economic Policy Program, Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel and Tel-Aviv University

Employment and wage gaps in Israel: the role of education
Ayal Kimhi Chair, Labor Policy Program, Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel
and Hebrew University

Does the protest generation have cause to complain? On the socio-economic condition of
young adults in Israel
Yossi Shavit Chair, Education Policy Program, Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel
and Tel-Aviv University

2:00pm Afternoon Session
Hidden dimensions of welfare state retrenchment: structural changes in Israel’s social
insurance system
Michal Koreh Taub Center for Israel Studies, NYU

States, classes and challenges to neo-liberalism: lessons from Israel’s social protests
Michael Shalev Chair, Welfare Policy Program, Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel
and Hebrew University

The “Americanization” of Israel’s healthcare system
Dov Chernichovsky Chair, Health Policy Program, Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel and Ben-Gurion University

4:30pm Concluding Lecture
Israel’s social protests – the big picture
Dan Ben-David Executive Director, Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel
and Tel-Aviv University

6:00pm Conference Dinner
Greetings
Dan Ben-David, Executive Director, Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel

Remembering Henry Taub
Ronald W. Zweig, Director, Taub Center for Israel Studies at NYU

Keynote Address
Amos Schocken, Publisher, Haaretz newspaper

The Socioeconomic Impact of Education

The speakers presented cutting-edge research – in a non-academic setting – on education’s effect on societies and economies and on ways to improve educational systems. The findings were presented to senior Israeli policymakers and to the general public, followed by a high-level discussion pertaining directly to Israel.

Session 1 Chair: Ayal Kimhi, Hebrew University, Taub Center Deputy Director and Chair of the Taub Center Labor Policy Program

2:30 pm   Introduction
Greg Rosshandler, Chair of the Taub Center Board 
Dov Lautman, Israel Prize Laureate, Taub Center Board Member
Dan Ben-David, Tel-Aviv University, Taub Center Executive Director

3:00pm    Impact of Educational Attainment and Skills
Robert Topel (University of Chicago)

Session 2 Chair: Yossi Shavit Tel-Aviv University, Chair of the Taub Center Education Policy Program

4:00pm       Impact of Educational Quality
Eric Hanushek, Stanford University

4:45pm    Improving the Education System – What Works?
Adam Gamoran, University of Wisconsin-Madison: Presentation Part 1Presentation Part 2

Roundtable Chair:  Stanley Fischer, Governor of the Bank of Israel

6:00pm    Implications for Israel
Presentation:   Dan Ben-David, Tel-Aviv University, Taub Center Executive Director