New research has shown that graduates of the state religious school system earn 18% less on average than their peers from the state’s secular school system.The research was conducted for the Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah (NTA) religious-Zionist lobbying group, which said that despite the discrepancies in income, some of the findings of the study indicated healthy societal trends within the sector.The study, conducted by Ariel Finkelstein, examined data for religious graduates between the ages of 26 and 41 who are well-established in their careers. It showed that the average salary of a graduate from the religious system is NIS 9,299 a month compared to NIS 10,976 for those graduating from the secular system, a gap of NIS 1,700. One of the main causes behind the disparity according to the research appears to be the kind of employment fields into which graduates of the different educational frameworks enter, some of which are by nature more idealistic professions but less well-paying.One prominent sector into which large numbers of graduates of the state religious system enter, some 19%, is the educational field, which does not offer high salaries, compared to only 9% of secular graduates.And some 10% of religious school graduates also go into the health, welfare and social work sector, compared to 7% of secular school graduates, while 11% of the religious go into public administration compared to 7% of secular graduates.And state-religious graduates are also under-represented in professional, scientific and technical services, including hi-tech, engineering, scientific research and development, as well as financial services, insurance, property, and wholesale and retail sales. These fields are part of the more dynamic, productive sector of the economy, services and professions which are in demand and high-paying compared to work in the public sector.“The common denominator of these three sectors of the economy are that most of the work in them is concentrated in the public sector,” said Finkelstein. “Therefore we’re talking about sectors in which the majority of people who choose to work there do so out of a sense of mission and idealism.”Finkelstein said that this trend was “in keeping with the values- based perspective of the state religious school system,” a perspective echoed by NTA.“Public service is extremely important and income statistics do not reflect the amount a person contributes to the world,” said the organization.However, NTA director Shmuel Shetah said that the decision to enter the public sector must come about from a position of excellence and not from “a lack of options and mediocrity,” noting that the state-religious education system has been “closing the gaps” on educational achievement with the secular system in the last two years.“Closing these gaps shows us that it is possible to combine ‘Torah and science’ and that excellence in general studies and religious studies go together,” said Shetah.