After several years of stagnation or decline, male ultra-Orthodox employment is back on the increase, according to new statistics from the Central Bureau for Statistics. New figures released by the CBS last week show that 51.5% of ultra-Orthodox men were employed as of the end of 2019, compared to 50.2% at the end of 2018. After finally breaking 50% of all ultra-Orthodox men in 2015, and reaching a high of 51.7% in 2016, the rate of employment in the sector began to drop off again, reaching just 50.2% in 2018. The increases up to 2016 were thought to be the result of policies enacted by the 33rd government which dramatically cut stipends for full-time yeshiva students and other welfare benefits for the ultra-Orthodox community. These cuts forced some ultra-Orthodox men out of yeshiva and into the workforce due to the increased financial burden on their households. The outgoing 34th government reversed these cuts and even increased them above their 2014 levels, which is thought to have contributed to the decrease in male ultra-Orthodox employment over the last three years. It is as yet unclear what explains the recent increase.Morechai Feldstein – director of the Kemach Foundation which seeks to increase ultra-Orthodox employment – said that the increases were due in part to efforts to work at a micro level with ultra-Orthodox job seekers, and to help them find appropriate training and work. Feldstein also criticized the politicization of the issue and its use within political campaigns. “It appears that despite the efforts of some politicians and organizations who are trying to besmirch or make political profit on the backs of the ultra-Orthodox community, there is no substitute for efforts to integrate the ultra-Orthodox into the work force by representatives from the ultra-Orthodox community itself who know ultra-Orthodox culture, along with adhering to ultra-Orthodox values and a respectful dialogue,” said Feldstein.