Government approves affirmative action for haredi men and women in civil service

Among the steps that will be taken to increase haredi employment in civil service will be a campaign to increase exposure of haredi community to employment possibilities in public service.

Employment fair in Jerusalem for  men and women from the haredi sector, (photo credit: KIVUN JERUSALEM)
Employment fair in Jerusalem for men and women from the haredi sector,
(photo credit: KIVUN JERUSALEM)
The government on Sunday approved a decision to accelerate the integration of haredi men and women into the state civil service, following recommendations from Periphery Minister and Shas head Arye Deri and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The measures approved are supposed to lead to the employment by the civil service of approximately 150 haredi men and women with academic qualifications per year for the coming years. This is also intended to serve as a message to the private sector that there is an increasing pool of qualified and talented potential employees from the haredi community.
One of the steps to be taken to increase haredi employment in the civil service will be a campaign to increase the exposure of the haredi community to the employment possibilities in public service.
This will include publication of such jobs in haredi news media and search engine optimization for the haredi community when advertising civil service positions. In addition, “suitability and selection tests will be examined in order to ensure equal opportunities,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.
A program will be created for haredi students who have excelled academically.
They will be eligible for a “green path toward entrance to key junctures in the civil service and will qualify for close support and training.”
Haredi candidates will also be able to apply for “initial positions” for a limited period within the civil service, and then be positioned to apply for jobs advertised internally within the civil service system.
Several of these paths will be opened, including in the Health Ministry, led by Health Minister and United Torah Judaism chairman Ya’acov Litzman, where a course for those who have achieved academic excellence will integrate haredi employees in the government health system for roles including X-ray and MRI technicians, medical laboratory workers, and nurses.
Sunday’s decision was taken following the recommendations of a working group on the integration of haredi men and women into the civil service, which was established by the last government in May 2014.
The working group was headed by the director of the prime minister’s office, and its members included the directors of the Economy Ministry, the Science, Technology and Space Ministry, the deputy attorney-general, and other government representatives.
“The number of haredi employees in the civil service is tiny, and this is what we’re trying to change today; it’s a type of positive discrimination,” said Deri following approval of the decision.
The minister said that he frequently heard complaints from haredi men and women “who served in the army and have academic degrees, but are rejected outright for various reasons at the stage of submitting résumés.
“This is a clear message: the state wants to integrate more and more haredim into the civil service, and this message is going out to the private sector too – that they should also integrate haredi workers,” he said.
The Hiddush religious pluralism organization said in response to the decision that if Deri wants to integrate haredim into the work force, he should ensure that children in Shas’s network of primary schools go on to study in high schools that teach core curriculum subjects.
“Before Shas speaks about discrimination against haredim in the civil service, it would be worthwhile for the party to remember that the principle responsibility for the current situation [is with] the haredi political parties who have in the past done everything to make it harder for their voters to obtain higher education,” said Hiddush chairman and attorney Uri Regev.
Dr. Haim Zicherman, a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute for its Project on Religion and State, warmly praised the government decision, saying that it would help create role models in the haredi community who would serve as an example to others in the sector that they can obtain quality well-paid positions in the general work force, too.
“So far, the haredi community’s only role models have been those who excel in the world of Torah and yeshiva,” said Zicherman, who submitted recommendations to the working group that drew up the proposals approved on Sunday.
“The haredi community works by word of mouth, so if we can create a layer of first-class haredim in the work force, then this can encourage other people to reach for this level. If people in the community can see that there are successful, high-achieving haredi men and women in the economy, in business, in industry, who serve as doctors and other positions, then they will be impressed and want to achieve something similar,” he said.
“If, on the other hand, they see people who leave yeshiva but earn less than they do in full-time religious study, or not getting employed, then they will ask themselves why they should leave yeshiva in the first place.”