Internet use, vacations up among haredi population

If these rates of increase continue, the ultra-Orthodox population will double every 16 years, while it would take 50 years for the rest of the Jewish population to double in size.

A HAREDI STUDENT works on a computer  at the Jerusalem College of Technology. (photo credit: JCT)
A HAREDI STUDENT works on a computer at the Jerusalem College of Technology.
(photo credit: JCT)
Trends of modernity are on the increase in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox population according to new figures, with car ownership, Internet use and household income all rising in recent years.
Despite this, employment among ultra-Orthodox men has decreased over the last four years and the number of full-time yeshiva students has increased, likely due to the increased financial incentives to remain in religious study frameworks instituted by the last, outgoing government.
The data was provided by the Israel Democracy Institute in its annual review of haredi society.
Citing a Central Bureau of Statistics estimate, the size of the ultra-Orthodox community currently stands at approximately 1,125,000 people, some 12.5% of Israel’s total population.
And the ultra-Orthodox community has a population growth of 4.2% per year, compared to 1.9% for the general population and just 1.4% of the non-haredi Jewish population.
If these rates of increase continue, the ultra-Orthodox population will double every 16 years, while it would take 50 years for the rest of the Jewish population to double in size.
According to the 2019 report, the number of ultra-Orthodox adults vacationing in Israel reached 54% of the population in 2018, compared to 46% in 2003, while the number taking vacations abroad increased from 12% in 2003 to 17% today.
Another crucial metric analyzed frequently regarding the ultra-Orthodox community is that of Internet usage, which continues to grow.
Some 49% of the community now use the Internet, according to the IDI’s figures for 2017-2018, compared to 43% for 2016, and up from 28% in 2009.
Use of the Internet was strongly resisted by the haredi leadership at first, but opposition has proven ineffective, given the ubiquity and importance of the Internet in modern life, especially in employment. The sector’s rabbis and communal leaders have therefore sought to ensure that ultra-Orthodox Internet users make use of filtering software.
These figures are still far below Internet use in the general public which stands at some 89%.
Another indicator of increasing middle-class status amongst parts of the ultra-Orthodox community is an increase in car ownership.
According to the IDI’s report, 44% of ultra-Orthodox households now have a car, up significantly from 29% in 2006. Car ownership among the non-haredi public stands at 81%.
Despite these trends, recent years have seen stagnation, and now a fall, in employment of ultra-Orthodox males. From 2003 to 2015 there was a consistent rise in that sector’s employment from just 37% in 2003 to 52% in 2015.
The 33rd government between 2013 and 2015 dramatically cut yeshiva stipends and other economic benefits enjoyed by the ultra-Orthodox community, and male employment continued to rise.
Over the course of its four years in power, the last government reversed those cuts; ultra-Orthodox male employment first leveled off, and has now started to decline slightly, reaching 51% in 2018.
Outside of the ultra-Orthodox community, 87% of Israeli men are employed.
EMPLOYMENT AMONG ultra-Orthodox women has continued to rise, and stood at 76% in 2018, compared to 71% in 2015, which is close to the 83% of non-haredi women who are in the work force.
The number of full-time, ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students, which decreased during the 33rd government, swelled significantly during the tenure of the previous, 34th government.
In 2012 there were just over 70,000 full-time, married ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students, which went down to 66,000 in 2014, but shot back up to 86,000 in 2018.
From 1999 to 2012, the increase in such students was roughly 4% per year, in line with the rate of increase of the ultra-Orthodox population – but from 2015 to 2018, the increase was 6%.
Despite the decrease in male workforce participation, average gross household income in the haredi community has actually increased, from NIS 12,616 in 2015 to NIS 15,015 in 2017, an increase of some 19%.
This compares to average household income for non-haredi households of NIS 22,190 in 2017, which grew at a rate of just 7% from 2015.
The increase in ultra-Orthodox average household income is likely due to the increases in female employment from the sector, and the fact that more ultra-Orthodox women are working in more well-paying sectors of the economy.
There has also been a reduction in poverty in the ultra-Orthodox sector, from 52% in 2013 to 43% in 2017.
Despite this, some 55% of ultra-Orthodox children live under the poverty line, compared to just 9% of Jewish, non-haredi children. And 26% of ultra-Orthodox children are food insecure, compared to 14% of the rest of the Jewish population.
The IDI noted that the reason for the high poverty and food insecurity rates among ultra-Orthodox children is the large number of children in haredi families, as well as low male workforce participation and low average wages of those who do work.
“We are seeing the continued integration of ultra-Orthodox households into the Israeli mainstream as reflected in women’s participation in the work force and in income levels, along with some degree of adoption of middle class lifestyles,” said Dr. Gilad Malach and Dr. Lee Cahaner, the authors of the 2019 annual report.
“But at the same time, the integration of ultra-Orthodox men into higher education frameworks and into the labor force has substantially slowed down, apparently due to lack of economic incentives and reinstitution of their government allowances.”