Employment fair in Jerusalem for men and women from the haredi sector,.
(photo credit: KIVUN JERUSALEM)
The number of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men in employment has declined over the last 18 months, bucking a decadelong trend of slow but steady increase of those joining the workforce, according to a report on Monday by the chief economist of the Finance Ministry.
Yesh Atid chairman and former finance minister Yair Lapid was fiercely critical of government following the publication of the figures, accusing it of paying haredi men not to join the workforce, in reference to steep increases in various benefits made available to the haredi community since the coalition was formed in 2015.
The current government has more than doubled the budget for stipends for full-time yeshiva students and reversed the requirement for subsidized daycare to be dependent on the employment of both spouses of a household.
The figures in the report pointed in particular to unrestricted subsidized childcare as one of the factors behind the decline in male haredi employment since the end of 2015.
According to the report, a peak of 54% of haredi men were in employment in the last quarter of 2015, but this has since declined to 51% as of the end of the second quarter of 2017, 37 percentage points lower than the employment figures for non-haredi Jewish men.
This figure is also 12 percentage points lower than the government’s target for male haredi employment for 2020 and the report stated that it is now unlikely to be reached before 2030 if the general rate of increase from 2012, when only 46% of haredi men were employed, to 2017 is maintained.
But the report also pointed out that this increase rate is unlikely to be maintained, pointing to the last 18 months of decreasing haredi employment as a possible harbinger given current trends.
The study did however reveal differences in the rate of male haredi employment in different ultra-Orthodox cities.
In the haredi stronghold of Bnei Brak, just 39% of haredi men are employed, as compared to 58% in Betar Illit and 56% in El’ad.
The report pointed to the higher population of Sephardi haredim in El’ad and Betar Illit, who have less of an ideological commitment to full-time Torah study than their Ashkenazi peers, as being a possible reason behind this discrepancy.
In addition, the number of haredi men taking high school diploma exams is much higher in El’ad, and significantly higher in Betar Illit than in cities such as Bnei Brak and Modi’in Illit, another possible explanation for their higher rates of employment.
Lapid decried the latest numbers, writing on Facebook: “The most cynical government in our history has turned Israel into the only country in the world which pays its citizens who can and want to work, not to go out and work.”
The Yesh Atid party said integrating haredi men into the workforce was “of the utmost interest for Israeli society and economy,” and that party would advance policies “to live together in partnership in which all citizens have equal rights and equal obligations.”