Increasing numbers of haredim are serving in the military, obtaining higher education and joining the workforce, a comprehensive study on the sector finds.
Poverty, however, remains high within the sector, although the large majority of haredim are satisfied with their financial situation, while a higher proportion volunteer or give charity than the Israeli average.
The “2016 Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel” was prepared by the Israel Democracy Institute together with the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies and reviews populations, education, economic, social and political trends in the community.
As of the end of 2015 there were 950,000 people in the haredi community, comprising 11 percent of the nation’s population, according to the report.
The community is growing rapidly, at an annual rate of 4% compared to just 1% among non-haredi Jews, with haredi women having on average 6.9 children between 2012 to 2014 compared with 3.1 for the general population.
By 2024, the haredi community will comprise 14% of the population, and it will grow to 19% by 2039 and 27% by 2059, when it will be 35% of the Jewish population.
However, the birthrate among haredi women fell from an average of 7.5 children per woman to 6.9 between 2003 and 2014, and is expected to fall to 5.5 per woman by 2029.
In the 2012/2013 school year, 17% of pupils were in the haredi sector.
The rates of high-school matriculation in the haredi community is extremely low, with only 10% of boys and girls earning a matriculation certificate compared to 70% for the general population.
Matriculation among haredi boys is especially rare, with just 2% of them obtaining a matriculation certificate, along with 17% of haredi girls. Girls, however, do study general education subjects in high school, unlike the overwhelming majority of boys who do not, and many take an alternative examination to the standard matriculation exams.
Despite the lack of general education in high school, growing numbers of haredi boys are getting a basic education in elementary school.
While in 2003 some 47% of haredi boys studied at schools which did not teach core curriculum subjects (English, science and math), in 2013 that figure was 42%.
And there is more news regarding the number of haredim in higher education.
Using statistics from the Central Bureau of Statistics social survey for 2013/2014, the study found that 19% of the haredi population was pursuing, or had pursued, an academic degree – a noticeable increase over 2007/2008, when the figure was 15%.
Twenty-three percent of women engaged in academic study, compared to 15% of men.
Employment among ultra-Orthodox men is also on the rise. In 2015, 50% of haredi men were employed, compared with 87% of men in the general population, while 73% of haredi women were employed, compared to 81% of non-haredi women.
However, much higher rates of haredi men and women work parttime jobs than the rest of the population.
In 2013 and 2014, 38% of haredi employees, as opposed to 19% of non-haredi Jewish workers, worked fewer than 35 hours a week.
And in 2015, there were approximately 108,000 ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students, with 65% of them married.
Poverty remains a significant problem in the community, with 52% of the haredi population living under the poverty line, compared to 19% of the general population, and a quarter of haredi families suffer from food insecurity.
However, the proportion of haredim who say they are very satisfied with their lives is double that of the rest of society.
Haredi men are increasingly going to the army. The number of haredi men (of various ages) who enlist in the army or civilian national service each year is roughly equivalent to 30% of the annual cohort of eligible draftees.
The figure for haredi enlistment is not precise since it includes enlistees from several annual cohorts.
However, these overall percentages are holding steady and rising every year, giving justification to the 30% approximation.
Thirty-nine percent of haredim engage in volunteer activity, a considerably higher proportion than in the general population of which only 23% do volunteer work, though the gap has diminished over the years.
In addition, the share of haredim who make charitable donations is much greater than in the general population, with 91% of haredim doing so compared to 69% of the general population.
Dr. Gilad Malach, head of the Israel Democracy Institute’s ultra-Orthodox program and one of the report’s authors, said the results demonstrated a definite trend in the community toward integration in respect to the three key areas of concern – military service, higher education and employment.
“This doesn’t mean to say that we’ve solved all of the problems and challenges, issues such as the lack of a general education and core curriculum studies among the most serious, but the achievements of the last 10 years are quite clear,” said Malach.
He was, however, skeptical of the achievements of the previous government, noting in particular a slowdown in the rise in the rate of enlistment to the IDF compared to previous years, as well as a slowdown in the increase in the numbers of haredi men and women entering higher education during the same period.