It is the Israeli establishment that should be held responsible for the low
rates of participation in the labor force within the haredi sector, which has
the desire to work but needs state intervention to realize its work
That was the gist of a Monday conference titled “Employment in
the Haredi Sector – Trends and Future Directions,” initiated by the Industry,
Trade and Labor Ministry.
“We must blame ourselves, first and foremost,
for not approaching the haredim as a target group that can be brought
workforce, while taking into account its cultural, religious and
characteristics,” Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin
in his opening remarks to ministry and municipal representatives,
activists, and haredim involved in promoting employment.
“There is no
contradiction between being haredi and serving the State of Israel [in
or earning a living with dignity,” he said. “Ministries are willing to
funds and effort to help the activities of the Industry, Trade and Labor
Ministry, which is providing incentives to employers who take haredim.”
According to ministry data, some 37 percent of haredi men and 49% of
women participate in the Israeli workforce.
Ben-Eliezer further noted the
growing numbers of haredim who worked, and cited positive feedback from
who employed haredim.
“This is one of the most important and sensitive
sectors in the public,” Ben-Eliezer said.
“Being part of the workforce is
not only a contribution to the state, economy and society, but primarily
shattering the existent culture of not working.”
Last month, Ben-Eliezer
presented Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with his ministry’s program
encourage haredi employment, which will focus on four facets of helping
haredi workforce participation, and strive to set a long-term change in
within that sector. Ben-Eliezer also announced the appointment of a
head of staff for haredi employment, Amihai Katz.
“This is an important
social challenge for workplaces, which should be open-minded about
different kinds of people into their midst,” Ben- Eliezer said, and
ultra-Orthodox to “keep on being haredim, but work, too.” Benny
ministry’s head of research and economics and moderator of the event,
that while the workforce participation among haredim was lower today
than it was
30 years ago, the trend of the past 10 years was a constant rise in
Pfefferman even went so far as to predict that within 15 years,
the rates of employment among haredim would be similar to those of the
He stressed that the major challenge facing his ministry and
society in this issue was creating workplaces compatible with the haredi
lifestyle and sensitivities.
“This is a populace that wants to work and
can work,” he said.
MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), head of the
Knesset’s Finance Committee, delivered a provocative address, praising
haredi educational system, which he determined was superior to the
He lauded the diligence, loyalty, intelligence and
dedication of haredim as employees, who don’t always get the chance to
despite their desire to do so.
“The broad haredi public,” Gafni said,
setting aside the haredim who wished to and were capable of dedicating
themselves to a life of Torah study, “wants to work. It is the fixated,
narrow-minded state that won’t let them, even if there are sincere
want to promote haredi employment].”
Gafni blamed the state’s mechanisms of
setting thresholds for certain positions, such as high school
university degrees, instead of reworking the conditions to pave the way
haredim who have different diplomas and training.
“The Industry, Trade and
Labor Ministry is full of good intentions, but weighed down by
which must be overcome in order to promote the economic goal of
haredim into the workforce,” he said.
Gafni also claimed there were two
additional obstacles to the haredim’s entrance to the labor force – the
that there was no affirmative action for them, and the “incitement” to
employers are exposed by the media, which, he said, create a negative
“When a haredi wants to get a job, he’s last in line – first
there are immigrants, then Arabs, then people with disabilities, and
haredi, whom the media portrays as a flag-burner who is constantly gone
to take care of new babies,” he said.
The challenges and sensitivities
involved in growing efforts to help the haredi populace integrate into
workforce were highlighted in two loud walkouts by haredim during a
lecture by Prof. Kimmy Caplan. Caplan read aloud a parody mocking
contemporary ultra-Orthodoxy to illustrate some of the prevalent
against haredim in Israeli society, and spoke of the inner discourse
place within the haredi sector regarding birth control.
“This attitude is
a reflection of the problems we are facing,” said Avraham Schwarz, the
former directorgeneral of the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, who
angrily left the auditorium when Caplan spoke of family planning.
here to be partners to this ministry that took the ‘hot potato’ of
employment for professional, egalitarian and positive handling. It is
employment, or lack thereof, that is keeping haredi mayors, such as Bnei
Ya’acov Asher, awake at night,” he said.