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Expert Committee on Sustainable Well-Being in Israel

Background

Well-being is a widely shared aspiration. Governments and states, too, aim to facilitate and ensure their citizens’ well-being; and some would say that this should be their overarching goal. For many decades, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was the banner metric of a country’s level of development and progress, the gold standard adduced to gauge citizens’ well-being. In the past decade, however, the narrow economic interpretation lent by this indicator to issues of progress, development, and well-being has come in for criticism, leading to multiple academic and public efforts to broaden the measures of well-being. In this spirit, the Government of Israel resolved in 2012 to develop a comprehensive set of indices to assess the state of well-being in Israel (Resolution 5255, December 2, 2012). It took some three years for government players, academics, and members of civil society to develop these indices, in a process shared with the public and assisted by OECD experts. When it was done, in 2015, the Government adopted a frame of measurement comprising 88 indices in eleven different domains (Resolution 2494, April 19, 2015). The results of these measurements are published annually by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

 

With the recognition that well-being should be treated comprehensively and measured more broadly came the realization that monitoring current well-being is not enough. The state needs to ensure that posterity will have a similar opportunity to attain at least the level of well-being that the current generation is privileged to enjoy. In other words, it must ensure that our comportment today does not derogate from citizens’ basic ability to attain well-being at a level similar to if not higher than our own in coming decades. Therefore, evaluations of well-being must assess not only its current level but also its sustainability.

Accordingly, in its 2015 resolution, the Government of Israel instructed the Ministry of the Environment to assemble a set of complementary indices to those of well-being to examine the extent of its sustainability. In 2016, in cognizance of the statutory authority of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities “to advise the Government on issues of national importance in the field of research and scientific planning” (Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities Law, 5721/1961), the Ministry, the Bank of Israel, the Central Bureau of Statistics, and Yad Hanadiv asked the Academy to establish an expert committee to examine the issue and draft recommendations for the measurement of sustainable well-being.

The committee’s work

The Expert Committee on Sustainable Well-Being in Israel was appointed by the President of the Academy, Professor Nili Cohen, in March 2017. Chaired by Professor Menahem Yaari, its members are social scientists in various disciplines. Since it was appointed, the committee has met several times to study developments in Israel and abroad in the field of the characterization and measurement of well-being, and it has been in touch with various professional and government players, foremost among them the Ministry of the Environment, the Central Bureau of Statistics, the National Council on Economics, and the Bank of Israel.

As its point of departure, the committee adopted the widely accepted Capital Approach toward sustainable well-being. According to the Capital Approach, Israel’s ability to afford its citizens a high level of well-being depends on the resources or capital available to it—particularly economic capital, natural capital, human capital, social capital, and cultural capital. Accordingly, the systems and resources that are critical to well-being need to be monitored to make sure that a sufficient stock of these resources is handed on to posterity. The state of these critical resources is influenced both by their available stock and by the flows that affect them, particularly processes of investment, consumption, and natural depreciation.

To advance its work, the committee established six subsidiary teams. One is charged with constructing a theoretical frame to use in measuring well-being and its sustainability, while the other five are dealing, respectively, with the five above-mentioned types of capital that make well-being possible. Each team is tasked with characterizing how its specific type of capital affects well-being, identifying the critical components of this capital that facilitate well-being in Israel, and looking into ways of measuring them. The work of the teams is facilitated by scientific reviews commissioned especially for this purpose. The committee will also hold expert workshops to examine the various types of capital in greater depth, particularly with regard to their components, the challenges they face, and their interrelations.

Members of the committee

  • Chair: Prof. Menahem Yaari, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Professor Avner Offer, All Souls College, Oxford University
  • Professor Ori Heffetz, Department of Economics, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Professor Orit Kedar, Department of Political Science, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Professor Elhanan Helpman, Department of Economics, Harvard University
  • Mr. Ariel Weiss, Yad Hanadiv
  • Professor Hadas Mandel, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Tel Aviv University
  • Mr. Yoel Finkel, Central Bureau of Statistics
  • Professor Eugene Kandel, School of Business Administration, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Professor Nathan Sussman, Department of Economics, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Professor Eran Feitelson, Department of Geography, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Committee coordinator: Mr. Yarden Niv, yarden@academy.ac.il

 

Documents

Letter of appointment of the committee


Further information about the committee’s affairs

In Israel

Steering document for the process of measuring well-being in Israel (2013) (Hebrew)
Final report on the process of measuring well-being in Israel (2016) (Hebrew)
Steering document for the development of sustainability indices (Ministry of the Environment) (Hebrew)
Measuring Well-Being, Sustainability, and Resilience—Central Bureau of Statistics site (Hebrew)
The Van Leer Index of Well-Being
Quality of Life among Israel’s Population Groups (The Haredi Institute for Policy Studies) (Hebrew)

Abroad