Sunday, November 9, 2014

Faith in the Future

Yoad Shahar

Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies

Jerusalem is considered one of Israel’s poorest cities. In 2011 the average gross monthly salary for employed individuals in Jerusalem was 8,014 NIS, compared with 10,409 NIS in Haifa, 11,445 NIS in Tel Aviv – Jaffa, and 9,461 NIS in Israel as a whole. Moreover, in the same year 44% of salaried employees in Jerusalem earned less than the minimum wage, compared with 38% of salaried employees in Haifa, 33% of salaried employees in Tel Aviv, and 38% in Israel.

In addition to these objective statistics, in the past summer the media published data from the annual social survey of the Central Bureau of Statistics. This survey provides another dimension that aids in understanding the standard of living and welfare in Israel – namely, the subjective dimension. The data painted a dismal picture of the manner in with Israel’s residents perceive their individual economic situation, and an even more dismal picture when respondents were asked about their expectations of the future in this regard. 

A total of 19% of survey respondents said they expect their individual economic situation to deteriorate in the future, 38% believed it would not improve, and 43% believed that their individual economic situation would improve in the future. One might expect that because Jerusalem is a poorer city in terms of objective indices, its residents would expect a bleaker future, as there would be fewer possibilities for financial savings and future planning. However, only 17% of Jerusalem’s residents believed that their individual economic situation would deteriorate in the future and 34% believed it would not change, whereas 49% believed their situation would improve – higher than the figure for Israel and the other major cities. In Tel Aviv and in Haifa only 40% and 42%, respectively, believed their situation would improve.

One of the factors that might explain this optimistic view of the future is the power of faith. The social survey also questioned respondents about the degree of their religiosity (ultra-orthodox, religious, traditional-religious, traditional and not very religious, and secular / not religious). A breakdown by outlook on one’s economic situation (among Jews) reveals that a greater degree of religiosity corresponds with a higher degree of optimism regarding one’s future economic situation. (A comparable trend was observed among non-Jews as well.)

Even though the economic situation of the ultra-orthodox in Jerusalem ranks among the lowest in the city in terms of objective indices, 59% of the ultra-orthodox stated that they expect their economic situation to improve in the future, compared with 46% of religious respondent, 43% of secular respondents, 35% of traditional and not very religious respondents, and only 31% of traditional-religious respondents. The effect of subjective expectations on the objective situation has not yet been demonstrated. If such an effect does exist, then believers have a brighter economic future.

Data source: The social survey, by the Central Bureau of Statistics

Translation: Merav Datan