A new study from the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies points to the failure
of haredi schools to teach core curriculum subjects as one of the main factors
in low male haredi employment.
Most haredi primary school boys attend
either what are known as “recognized but unofficial schools” or “exempt
institutions,” which barely teach any core subjects set by the state, preferring
to teach religious studies instead.
According to the Taub Center’s study
published on Sunday, haredi employment has fallen from close to 88 percent in
1979 to 48% in 2011.
Although there have been recent increases in the
rate of employment in the ultra- Orthodox sector, the study attributes this to
the general uptick in the Israeli economy since 2005.
Ben-David, executive director of the capital’s Taub Center, said that the
decrease in male haredi employment was attributable to the increasing need for
skilled and educated workers in the modern labor market, and the failure of the
haredi education system to prepare its male children for entry into the
The study highlighted the similarities in decreased rates of
employment between haredi men and other poorly educated sectors of
In 1979, approximately 80%- 90% of non-haredi and haredi Israeli
men who received a poor education were nevertheless employed. Since that time,
however, the level of employment for both groups has declined to between 35% and
“At the end of the 1970s, when Israel’s standard of living was
relatively low, education was not imperative for finding a job,” Ben-David said.
“In those days, rates of employment among men with all levels of education, as
well as among haredi men, were over 80%. Today, in a competitive and global
Israeli economy, employment rates among the uneducated are below 50%, as are
employment rates among haredi men.
“The data reflect the increasing lack
of employment opportunities that the haredi education system provides its sons,”
He noted that removal in 1977 of the maximum quota of
800 military service exemptions for full-time yeshiva students, plus increased
welfare benefits, also contributed to the rise in haredi
“Looking forward, the country simply won’t be able to
support such a huge population which can’t work,” Ben-David said.
already a very problematic situation, both for the ultra-Orthodox community and
nationally. What will happen when the haredim are a fifth of the population as
opposed to the 8 or 9% they represent at the moment? “We need haredim as part of
the economy and part of the country. We need doctors and engineers. Where are we
going to get them from in the future? In recent years we’ve had to develop
Who knows what we’ll need to develop in 20 years
time, but we’re going to need educated skilled people to work out these
challenges,” he said.
Despite the report’s concerns, male haredi
employment has been on the rise. Between 2002 and 2011, their employment rate
increased, from 35% to 45%, according to a report published by the Israel
Institute of Technology-Technion’s Samuel Neaman Institute for National Policy
Research in August.
Within the haredi school system, “unofficial schools”
receive 75%, and “exempt institutions” receive 55%, of a non-haredi school
budget, and are expected to teach respective proportions of the state core
curriculum. In practice this is extremely rare.
No core curriculum
subjects are taught in haredi high schools for boys, known as yeshivot ketanot,
which teach only religious studies from grade nine onwards.
generally continue with a general education throughout their time in elementary
and high school as many join the work force at some stage.
In July, the
Education Ministry stated in response to a petition to the High Court of Justice
that it is considering whether to cut the budgets of haredi schools that do not
have their students sit for standardized elementary and middle school
The petition, filed in 2007 by the Israel Religious Action Center,
demanded that all state-funded schools teach the core curriculum subjects and
that an efficient system of inspection be established to oversee the
The “Status Quo” agreement signed in 1947 by then-head of the
Jewish Agency David Ben- Gurion promised the leaders of the haredi community,
which pre-dated much of the Zionist settlement, that “full autonomy” would be
granted to all sectors of society to control their own educational
This agreement, signed to create unity in Mandate Palestine
ahead of the UN vote on partition, has governed the state’s attitude to haredi
educational frameworks ever since, although it also stipulated that “minimum
[levels] of Hebrew, history, sciences and similar” would be obligatory.