Israel and Canada got high marks in a report, the Better Life Initiative, recently released on the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) website.
“Israel performs favourably in several measures of well-being and ranks close to the average or higher in several topics in the Better Life Initiative,” the OECD said in the document.
“Canada performs exceptionally well in measures of well-being, as shown by the fact that it ranks among the top countries in a large number of topics in the Better Life Index,” the OECD stated.
The OECD index tracks well-being based on 11 “essential” parameters in the areas of material living conditions and quality of life. Among them are housing, health, income, jobs, community interaction, education, environment, governance and safety, as well as work-life balance and life satisfaction.
In its summary for Israel, the OECD, an organization of 34 of the world’s most advanced industrial states, most of them democracies, reported that the average Israeli life span is 81.1 years, nearly two years above the OECD average. The life expectancy in Canada is 80.7 years.
In measuring income, the OECD found that Israelis’ “average household net-adjusted disposable income is estimated at $19,456 a year (all figures US), lower than the OECD average of $22,284. Household wealth, the total value of a household’s financial worth, was estimated at $62,684, much higher than the OECD average of $36,808. The Canadian figures were $27,015 in disposable income, but only $59,479 in average household wealth.
Looking at personal security, “the risks of people being physically assaulted or falling victim to other types of crime… in Israel, three per cent of people reported falling victim to assault over the previous 12 months, lower than the OECD average of four per cent.”
In Canada, only one per cent of people reported falling victim to assault in a 12-month period.
The OECD found that Israelis live in more crowded conditions than the OECD average. “Overcrowded housing may have a negative impact on physical and mental health, relations with others and the development of children… In Israel, the average home contains 1.1 rooms per person, less than the OECD average of 1.6 rooms per person. In terms of basic facilities, an estimated 4.4 per cent of dwellings in Israel lack private access to indoor flushing toilets, more than the OECD average of 2.8 per cent of dwellings.”
Canadian homes, on average, contain 2.5 rooms per person while only .9 per cent lack private indoor flushing toilets.
On the jobs front, the index found that “in Israel, nearly 59 per cent of the working-age population aged 15 to 64 has a paid job. This figure is lower than the OECD employment average of 65 per cent.” However, “the percentage of the labour force that has been unemployed for a year or longer is currently at 1.85 per cent, lower than the OECD average.”
In Canada, “nearly 72 per cent of the working-age population aged 15 to 64 has a paid job… The percentage of the labour force that has been unemployed for a year or longer is currently at .97 per cent, lower than the OECD average.”
Examining “work-life balance,” the OECD rated Israel near the bottom when it took into consideration the employment rate of women with children, hours at work, and time devoted to personal care and leisure.
Israel scored five on the life-work index, placing it 31st among the 34 OECD members, ahead only of Mexico, Turkey and Japan. Canada was 14th with a score of 7.1.
Denmark received the highest score for life-work balance with a mark of 9.1.
The OECD reported that “in Israel, an estimated 55 per cent of mothers are employed after their children begin school: this figure is lower than the OECD average of 66 per cent and suggests that mothers encounter difficulties when balancing family and career.”
The only countries where fewer mothers work are Greece (52 per cent), Chile (51 per cent), Italy (49 per cent) and Turkey (24 per cent).
In Canada, “71 per cent of mothers are employed after their children begin school,” suggesting “mothers in Canada are able to successfully balance family and career.”
The OECD noted that “a good work-family balance reduces parental stress, and thus benefits both parent-child and parent-parent relationships,” the OECD stated.
Finding a good work-life balance is also a critical issue for child well-being, as children with two working parents are three times less likely to grow up in poverty than children with just one, the OECD found.
The OECD reports that the average person works 1,739 hours a year and devotes nearly 64 per cent of the day, or 15 hours, to personal care (eating, sleeping, etc.) and leisure (socializing with friends and family, hobbies, games, using the computer, watching television, etc.). Israelis devoted 15.15 hours a day to personal care and leisure, close to the OECD average.
Nearly 23 per cent of Israelis work more than 50 hours a week, the OECD found. Only Mexicans and Turks work more, and in the Netherlands just 0.62 per cent of people work more than 50 hours a week
Productivity in Israel is not particularly high. In recent years, the productivity of the G7 nations has been about 30 per cent higher than in Israel, according to OECD statistics.
Outdoor air pollution is relatively high in Israel. The level of “atmospheric PM10” – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to be inhaled and damage the deepest part of the lung – is 28 micrograms per cubic metre in Israel, higher than levels found in most OECD countries, the organization writes.
“Having a good education is an important requisite to finding a job,” the OECD writes. In Israel, 81 per cent of adults aged 25 to 64 graduated high school, higher than the OECD average of 73 per cent. That doesn’t necessarily mean they can read well, however. “As to the quality of its educational system, the average student scored 474 out of 600 in reading ability – lower than the OECD average,” the report says.
In Canada, 87 per cent of adults aged 25 to 64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school diploma.
The OECD also found that “Canada is a top-performing country in reading literacy, with the average student scoring 524 out of 600. This score is higher than the OECD average of 493, making Canada the third-strongest OECD country in reading skills. Additionally, students performed well in mathematics and science, with more than 11 per cent reaching the two highest levels of proficiency.”
Israel performed well in other areas. The OECD found there is a real sense of community in the country: 93 per cent say they know someone they feel they could rely on during a time of need. That figure is close to the OECD average of 91 per cent.
And what may be the most important of the factors considered, 72 per cent of Israelis said they were satisfied with their life, above the OECD average of 59 per cent. Seventy-eight per cent of Canadians were satisfied with their lives.
– With files from Ha’aretz