The Cabinet on Sunday approved an initiative to increase haredi employment by giving them preference in government hiring.

The proposal appointed a team to flesh out the specifics of the policy, and set specific benchmarks and goals within 60 days (July 24).

Just 44.% of haredi men work, barely more than half the national average of 81%, according to the Economy Ministry. Even though it comprises 8-10% of the population, just 1% of the community's males are employed in public administration.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that initiative was taken "for the benefit of the ultra-orthodox community and to integrate it into the general labor market. I think that this is the right step in the right direction and there will be other steps."

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said the plan proved the governments commitment to integrating the ultra-Orthodox community into the labor market. "I hope that a year from now, when I walk down the hallways of the Economy Ministry, I will see haredim in key positions in the ministry," Bennett said.

The government's hope is that easing entry to Israel's largest employer, the government, would act as a "multiplier" by helping haredim gain new job skills and serving as an example for the community.

Hiddush, an NGO that promotes religious freedom, spoke out against the bill, saying it would discriminate against the non-religious.

The government, said Hiddush CEO Uri Regev, "is trying to approve policy that will give [haredim] a prize for draft-dodging and preference in acceptance to public service over those who have served."

A better policy, he argued, would give preference only to those who served in the army or national service for at least one year.

Finding ways to integrate the haredi population into the workforce has been set as a central goal for Israel's medium and long-term economic security.

Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug found that, given demographic trends, low employment rates among Haredi men and Arab women could chop 1.3% off of Israel's annual growth, and 7% off the national employment rate in the long-run.

The economy ministry has opened vocational training centers to help get haredi job skills up to snuff. But Bennett has noted that even educated and well-trained haredim face difficulties in getting hired.

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