'Government targets for haredi male employment in Israel not being met'

Israel Democracy Institute says govt should focus on increasing quality of haredi employment as well as rate of employment to increase haredi productivity for Israeli economy.

January 25, 2016 20:21
2 minute read.

Ultra-Orthodox man take part in a rally in Bnei Brak.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

A senior official at the Economy Ministry said on Monday that government targets set in 2010 for increasing the employment of haredi men are not being met.

Ministry senior deputy director Michal Tzuk was one of several panelists at a conference of the Israel Democracy Institute think tank on ways to increase haredi employment and to ensure that haredi men and women can obtain well-paying, professional jobs.

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Tzuk referred to targets set by the government in 2010 which established a goal of 63 percent employment for both haredi men and women by 2020.

The latest figures from the Economy Ministry show that male haredi employment stands at just 49%, compared to just over 80% of all Israeli men. However, 74% of haredi women are employed, which is close to the national average for Israeli women of approximately 82%.

“It’s not a target where we’ve seen much progress,” said Tzuk regarding male employment. “The challenge is very substantial.”

She said that although efforts to increase the quality of jobs the haredi working public are able to obtain is an important and necessary undertaking, “no one should think that we’re meeting [male employment] targets.”

Haredi male employment grew from a low of 35% in 2002 to the current level of 49% or about one percent a year. This would be insufficient to meet the 2020 target of 63%.

A report by the state comptroller in 2013 made similar observations and called the government targets “unrealistic.”

The authors of the IDI report made its findings public on Monday, noting in particular that the average monthly wage of haredi employees is less than 80% of the average wage in the economy.

According to the report, low productivity of haredi workers could constitute a significant drag on the Israeli economy even if the rate of employment in the sector is brought closer to the national average.

“As a result of the low employment rate and low income that characterizes this [haredi] sector, most ultra-Orthodox households are below the poverty line. Given the consistent growth of this community, ultra-Orthodox poverty has macro effects on tax revenues, benefit payments, consumption, and GDP,” the report found.

As such, it recommended that the government address not only the rate of haredi employment but the type of employment haredi men and women can obtain.

“This change would ensure that entering the work force will actually enable ultra-Orthodox Israelis to earn a decent wage and live comfortably,” wrote the report’s authors. “In addition, it would contribute to increased productivity and a more equitable distribution of the tax burden, which would benefit Israel’s economy and society as a whole.”

The report stated that the government should set the desired rate of employment for haredi men to 67% for men and 78% for women by 2025 and that 23% of haredi women and 33% of haredi men be employed in industry and commercial services.

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