Economy Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Wednesday that he would seek to advance legislation for affirmative action in employing the ultra-Orthodox in the civil service.
Bennett said he would present a proposal to the cabinet on Sunday that would oblige the Prime Minister’s Office and the Economy Ministry to draft legislation that would increase haredi participation in the public sector.
The decision would require that a draft bill be drawn up for review by the relevant government ministries by July 13 to enable such affirmative action.
It seems unlikely, however, that the bill will be put to the Knesset plenum for its initial readings before November. One significant problem will be the way in which a haredi person is defined.
Back in November, MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) proposed a similar bill but it was defeated in the Knesset plenum due to lack of government support.
Hatnua chairwoman and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni objected to the bill, saying that the lack of haredim in the civil service was due to “an unwillingness to integrate into Israeli life.”
In a statement on the issue on Wednesday, Bennett, who is also the chairman of Bayit Yehudi, said that very few haredim are employed by the civil service and implied that it would be hypocritical of the government not to advance such employment while it has called on employers to take on haredi workers.
“I preach to employers all the time: ‘Take haredim, it’s worthwhile for you.’ While with us in the public sector you simply don’t see haredim,” said Bennett.
“Haredim I have spoken to say they have simply not been able to get work in public service, even when they fulfill the criteria. The public sector needs to understand the amazing abilities of this community and give them a boost.
“The result will be more haredim working, fewer haredim unemployed. The more haredim integrate into society, the less prejudice they will face.
In the end, all Israelis will benefit from this,” he continued.
In the first quarter of 2014, 44.5 percent of haredi men had jobs, according to statistics from the Economy Ministry, compared to the national average of 81%.
And just 1% of male employees in public administration, such as government ministries and local government authorities, are haredi, while the haredi community makes up roughly 8%-10% of the population, depending on the definition.
A statement from the Economy Ministry on the issue acknowledged that the lack of relevant qualifications for employment among haredi men was a significant roadblock to increasing employment in the sector.
It pointed out, however, that the increasing number of haredi men with professional qualifications still had greater difficulty finding employment than their peers, and cited government research which indicated that on average they get fewer responses to job applications, take longer to find employment, and receive lower than average wages once they find a job.