Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday implored business- owners to accept ultra-Orthodox workers into their businesses.
“Hire haredim. Take haredim to work,” he told the fifth Meda-conference Small and Medium Business conference.
Lapid acknowledged the difficulty in hiring haredi workers: training them, dealing with female customers who do not dress “modestly,” creating a comfortable work environment.
An Economy Ministry study released on Monday found that 37 percent of employees preferred not to hire haredim, and 30% of those surveyed (both employers and workers) preferred not to work alongside them.
Lapid said that the challenges could be overcome, that haredim were intelligent, hard workers and learned quickly.
“The important point is that if we, as a humane society, do not meet the challenge of bringing haredim into the workforce, if we simply demand that they enlist in the army and work without enlisting ourselves to help them integrate into Israeli society, we have done nothing,” he said.
Some 28,000 haredi men are to begin receiving full exemptions from military service immediately after Passover, under the terms of the ultra-Orthodox conscription law the Knesset approved on March 12.
The government hopes many of these men will leave their full-time Torah studies and enter the workforce, and is therefore preparing programs to help them find jobs.
Until now, it has not been possible for ultra-Orthodox men to legally work without first performing military or civilian service.
The state has set up large employment and career guidance centers in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem, and others are to be opened in Ashdod, Modi’in Illit, Petah Tikva and Beersheba.
The Bank of Israel has warned that, given demographic trends, failure to integrate both haredim and Arab Israelis into the labor force would eventually lop 1.3% off the economy each year.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.