Over half of haredim would be interested in receiving advanced secular education in preparation for a profession if they could be assured of a religious, gender-segregated classroom environment, according to a survey released on Tuesday. The poll was commissioned by Chakima, an institute that helps haredim prepare for university entrance exams, ahead of a Knesset Education Committee discussion of affirmative action legislation aimed at encouraging haredim to enroll in institutes of higher learning. The Shiluv Group, the Israeli representative of the Millward Brown research company, asked a sample of 500 haredim if they would be interested in earning an academic degree in preparation for professions such as medicine, nursing, economics and law. While 53 percent said they would be interested, 63% of female respondents said they would, while only 41% of males were interested. Hassidim were more open to secular learning, with 59% answering in the affirmative, while only 42% of the Lithuanian respondents said yes. No differences were found between older and younger haredim or between married and singles. According to Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry data, 49.1% of haredi women of working age participate in the labor market, higher than the 37.4% rate for haredi men aged 20 to 64, but lower than secular women's at 70%, and secular men's at 79.9%. In the years 2002-2007, the average size of the haredi population was 637,000, 8.8% of the total population. There were 233,000 haredim aged 20 to 64, including 118,000 men. Some 12.4% of haredim had at least a bachelor's degree, compared with 37.2% of the secular and traditional population. In addition, 19.9% of haredim served in the army, compared with 72.2% of the secular and traditional population. The average monthly salary of haredi women was NIS 3,690, 40% lower than that of haredi men (NIS 6,123). The average salary of secular women was NIS 5,698, 36% lower than that of secular men (NIS 8,955). Haredi women earned 35% less than secular women, while haredi men earned 30% less than secular men. "A lot of the tension and polarity in our society is a direct result of the fact that the haredi population does not integrate into the labor force," said Shay Cohen, CEO of Chakima. "There is no doubt that as soon as they start to join the workforce, with all the implications of such as move, barriers that separate between people will fall."