Employers in professional fields reluctant to hire haredim

By JONAH MANDEL
January 5, 2011 23:56

Arabs, disabled also at disadvantage; few who find work, show good track record, even less likely to get promoted, Ono report concludes.

4 minute read.



A scene from an episode of ‘Haredim’

haredi crowds 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Are the lack of higher education and vocational training what prevent haredim, Arabs and people with disabilities from taking a significant part in the work force? Apparently not. The Ono Report 2010, released on Tuesday, set out to challenge that premise, by shining a spotlight on the problematic attitudes to those “excluded” groups, prevalent in Israeli society and specifically employers.

The report, which followed the Ono Report 2009 but also explored new grounds, scrutinized three fields of employment – high-tech, medical services and government offices – and found that the most imbedded deterrence among employers in those groups was to hiring people with limitations (physical or developmental/psychiatric).

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But even if a disabled person, or an Arab or haredi, did have the good fortune of being employed, their chances of promotion were even smaller than of getting hired, despite a good track record of employment.

Dr. Erez Ya’acovi, one of the report’s six authors, pointed out in his opening presentation that a vast majority of employers wouldn’t want to promote a haredi working for them, without thinking they were less capable. Ya’acovi noted two bills his institute was intent on promoting at the Knesset, aimed at “shattering the glass ceiling.”

Founder and chairman of the college, Ra’anan Hartman, addressed the prevalent claim in Israeli society that “if haredim and Arabs only served in the army,” the attitude toward them would be different.

“Don’t immigrants from Ethiopia and Druse serve in the IDF?” he asked. “What we need more than more reports are to continue producing success stories [from the excluded groups in society] since those are what break the walls of separation in society.”

Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer noted the many efforts his ministry was making to promote the inclusion of those groups in the work-force.

He criticized recommendations made by Eyal Gabai, the Prime Minister’s Office director- general, exempting haredim from age 29 of military service. Gabai’s report, aimed at finding ways to promote employment among Arabs and haredim, was recently accepted by the government.

“The proposal distances us from our goal – more training, help with child care is what could have helped,” Ben-Eliezer said to an audience that included Gabai.

“What is the power of coalition? The weakness of its components,” he said, noting that he could get almost any budget he requested for vocational training and support to employed mothers.

“But that clashes with a political problem,” he said of the haredi parties’ objection to a change in the norm of kollel students receiving subsidiaries. “Some of our decisions are political,” he continued. “Gabai’s report contradicts the government recommendations to bring more Arabs and haredim into the workforce.

“The growth of haredi and Arab populations necessitates that they work, not only for the future of the economy, but also of the groups to support themselves, and be an equal part of society,” he said. “It is their responsibility to overcome the barriers of culture [and] religion. Without their desire, we can’t reach a joint solution.

“There is a window of opportunity for haredi employment,” Ben-Eliezer said of the haredi leadership, who recently met with him on the topic. “They want to break out of poverty.

Seeing the squalor in which some of that population lives is hard, and can’t be solved by saying ‘God willing.’ “I believe in God,” Ben- Eliezer continued, “and that he helps those who help themselves.”

Gabai himself defended the government’s stance by saying that “dealing with a 30 year old going into the army today is important, but taking care of that group in 15 years will be critical,” referring to the high rate of growth in the haredi society. The Finance Ministry was concerned that insufficient numbers of haredim, who are likely to compose a larger segment of the population in the future, will be employed.

The ministry will therefore push as hard as possible for the swift and painless entry of haredim into the workforce, even if it means exempting them from military service.

Gabai further noted the impossibility of changing a long-standing situation in one stroke, such as the exemption of haredim from the IDF.

“Whoever goes to work is rarely part of the poor segment of society, even if that poverty is a choice,” he said of the haredim. “The goal is to balance between two public needs, that of the security burden, and the economics of the country.

The desire from 10 or 20 years ago – that all haredim serve in the army – isn’t true today. Now it’s right to exempt some, to make a shorter service,” so that more might join the workforce, something they cannot do as long as they postpone their military service to learn Torah.

“In the future it might be more natural for haredim to be in army, and then join employment,” he added.

Regarding the question of the IDF’s attitude towards enlisting haredim, Gabai said that “the army really wants them, but on the ethos level.

Taking a haredi man with three children into the military costs money. But not taking them is an ethical problem.

We reached an agreement with army on everything – serving less time, exempting individuals with three children, giving more money to enable accepting haredim – but only on the age of exemption we have yet to agree.”


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