In 2010, Israel became a member of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), the world’s largest international organization for developed countries.
With a mission to promote policies that improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world, the OECD provides a forum in which governments can work together to share experiences and to seek solutions to common problems.
The OECD collects data from all member countries on an on-going basis and uses the information to produce comparative reports and to sponsor dialogue with the members. As a member of the OECD, Israel now becomes part of these international conversations about social and economic progress to an unprecedented degree. It also means, however, that Israel's social and economic system will be subject to greater international scrutiny than ever.
For MJB, Israel’s OECD membership creates new opportunities to contribute to the international dialogue between Israel and the rest of the world.
Policy Progress Report
The Institute’s involvement in the OECD dates to 2009, when the OECD was first reviewing Israel’s application for membership. At that time, the Directorate for Employment, Labor, and Social Affairs commissioned MJB to prepare two background reports on employment and labor market policies in Israel, one on immigrants and one on Arab-Israelis including the Bedouin. The papers contributed to the OECD’s dialogue with Israel on these issues, and thus played a key role in the review of Israel's application.
Following its acceptance of Israel as a member in 2010, the OECD issued a review of the country’s Labour Market and Social Policies with 16 major policy recommendations for improvements in a range of social and economic areas, including employment and education. The review took special interest in vulnerable populations such as immigrants, low-wage workers, Arab-Israelis, and the ultra-Orthodox.
Israel agreed to submit a two-year follow-up report on its progress in these areas. The government turned to MJB to assist by gathering and integrating the relevant information and preparing a draft of the report. The Institute worked with 17 government ministries and agencies to present an integrated and objective analysis of the progress made since 2009.
The result is a unique, comprehensive picture of how Israel's social and labor market policies have changed in recent years, with a special focus on changes in key indicators and the implementation of new policies and programs.
In September, a team from the Directorate will visit Israel to review the report with the government and will be meeting with MJB as well. The meetings will serve as a background for a larger forum of ministers from OECD countries that will meet in Paris in October at a special session dedicated to reviewing Israel's report, which will be presented by the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Labor. Following this meeting, the report will be made available to the wider public.
MJB has also been enlisted by the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor for another OECD project, this one on vocational training.
In 2011, the OECD embarked on the “Skills Beyond School” study of vocational education and training in member states, and Israel decided to participate. The Ministry asked MJB to develop a national report on the status of vocational training for adults—what programs exist, who funds them, who attends, what are the outcomes, and what are the key strengths and challenges in the system.
The report gives, for the first time, an in-depth perspective on the state of vocational training in Israel.
The report was presented to a special mission of the OECD, which visited Israel in April. Following that visit, the Skills Beyond School research team prepared a country commentary, integrating Israel’s report into a larger comparative context. The report is also being used as a basis for discussions regarding next steps in Israel’s participation in the study.
As another step in our collaboration with the OECD, in May the Institute hosted a seminar on income inequality, with Dr. Michael Foerster of the OECD’s Social Policy Division. Joining Dr. Foerster were three leading analysts of Israel’s economic environment, Prof. Momi Dahan of the Hebrew University’s School of Public Policy, Dr. Neri Horowitz, Chairman of the Agora Policy think tank, and Daniel Gottlieb, Deputy-Director General at the Social Security Administration.
The seminar was based on Prof. Foerster’s recent publication, Divided We Stand: Income Inequality in the OECD, which identified a significant trend towards income inequality across the 34 OECD member countries—Israel included. The panelists explored the underlying reasons for this trend, including the growth of the high-tech sector and changing tax and benefit policy. They also discussed some of the differences between Israel and other OECD members, such as a high level of cultural and educational diversity absent in many European countries.
With thought-provoking presentations that offered differing interpretations of the trends, the seminar provided a valuable opportunity to think about Israel’s policies to reduce inequality.
Membership in the OECD has raised the international profile of Israel’s socio-economic system, and the attention is likely only to increase in the coming years.
MJB looks forward to continuing to be a significant resource in these discussions.