OECD: Israelis are Underpaid, Overworked but Happy, Healthy

Matkot is the most popular game on Israel's beaches, with fierce, hard-hitting sessions played on the Tel Aviv waterfront and shores across the country. AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

TEL AVIV – Despite a huge gap between rich and poor, a dismal housing market, and low wages, Israel still ranks high in terms of overall life satisfaction, according to a report released Sunday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Regarding wages, the report showed that the gross annual earnings of full time employees were well below the OECD average of US $28,817 in 2013, compared to $40,640 on average. Israelis also work longer hours than in other OECD countries at 40.9 hours per week compared to the OECD average of 38.4.

In 2014, only 36% of Israelis were satisfied with the availability of housing, well below the OECD average of 52% and ranking Israel third lowest after Slovenia and Poland. Housing prices and the cost of rent is exaggerated when compared with the housing market in the U.S.. The report also found that housing prices were rising at the fastest rate in OECD countries and the struggle to find affordable housing is increasingly affecting the middle class.

The report cited figures from May that showed  Israel ranking second only to the United States among developed nations in terms of income inequality. The richest 10% in Israel earn 15 times more than the poorest 10%, a much larger gap than other OECD nations.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said in response to the report that the government “is working on fixing almost all of the problems mentioned.” Among other things, Kahlon said, the government will appoint a task force on housing.

But the report also showed that Israelis rank among the highest of OECD countries in terms of life satisfaction, happiness, health, and academic achievements. Israelis are very satisfied with life, scoring 7.4 (out of a possible 10) compared to the OECD average of 6.6.