Employment down among ultra-Orthodox men

Israel Democracy Institute’s 2020 Statistical Report on ultra-Orthodox Society shows yeshiva study rose.

ULTRA-ORTHODOX men – one masked, one not – are seen in the haredi enclave of Borough Park in Brooklyn, New York, on October 6.  (photo credit: CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS)
ULTRA-ORTHODOX men – one masked, one not – are seen in the haredi enclave of Borough Park in Brooklyn, New York, on October 6.
The number of full time yeshiva students in Israel has risen by a third over the last five years, likely due to a rise in state financial support for such students and a decrease in incentives for employment in the ultra-Orthodox sector, the Israel Democracy Institute’s (IDI) annual index of the ultra-Orthodox community has found.
At the same time, rates of male ultra-Orthodox employment have stagnated, and the percentage of ultra-Orthodox men obtaining high school matriculation has dropped from its already extremely low level.
According to the new IDI index published on Thursday, the ultra-Orthodox population in Israel at the end of 2020 stands at 1,175,000, or 12.6% of the total population.
This represents a 4.2% rate of growth since 2009, compared with 1.9% in the general Israeli population and 1.4% in the general Jewish population, excluding ultra-Orthodox Jews.
Over the last five years from 2014 to 2019, there has been a rise of 34% in the number of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva and kollel students in Israel, with the total number now standing at 140,614, including foreign yeshiva students.
Male ultra-Orthodox employment has stagnated, following significant increases from 2003 to 2015 when it went just 37% in 2003, increasing to 52% in 2015.
As of 2019, just 52.5% of ultra-Orthodox men were employed.
The stagnation since 2015 is likely due to the reversal of cuts to yeshiva stipends and other welfare benefits made by the 34th Knesset.
At the same time, the number of ultra-Orthodox high-school pupils matriculating has declined over the last decade from 16% to 13%.
Both levels of education and employment are significantly higher amongst ultra-Orthodox women.
The percentage of ultra-Orthodox girls matriculating has increased, from 31% to 55% over the last decade.
And the employment rate for ultra-Orthodox women has continued to climb, from 71% in 2015 to 77% in 2019.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis has hit the working ultra-Orthodox population hard, with steeper declines in the rate of employment in the sector than other parts of the population.
According to figures from the Chief Economist’s Division at the Finance Ministry, the decline in employment rates for the ultra-Orthodox population in March–May 2020, relative to the same months last year, was 34% for men and 37% for woman, as compared to 19% for men and 27% for women in the general population.
There were less steep but nevertheless significant decreases in ultra-Orthodox employment during the second wave of the COVID crisis in September and October, which were also significantly greater than in the general population.
“While the educational system for ultra-Orthodox women is more tailored to the needs of the labor market, the education system for men has lagged behind, as evidenced in the continued rise in employment rates among women, in comparison with rates among men,” said report authors Dr. Gilad Malach and Dr. Lee Cahaner of the IDI.
“Ultra-Orthodox women’s income is similar to that of other Jewish women, while among ultra-Orthodox men – income is lower than among other Jewish men. We are seeing that the pandemic dealt a serious blow to men’s employment rates as compared to those among women, bringing to light the men’s precarious employment situation.”