Education blamed for low male haredi employment

Taub Center study points to failure of haredi schools to teach core curriculum as factor in low male haredi employment.

haredi kids studying 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
haredi kids studying 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A new study from the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies points to the failure of haredi schools to teach core curriculum subjects as one of the main factors in low male haredi employment.
Most haredi primary school boys attend either what are known as “recognized but unofficial schools” or “exempt institutions,” which barely teach any core subjects set by the state, preferring to teach religious studies instead.
According to the Taub Center’s study published on Sunday, haredi employment has fallen from close to 88 percent in 1979 to 48% in 2011.
Although there have been recent increases in the rate of employment in the ultra- Orthodox sector, the study attributes this to the general uptick in the Israeli economy since 2005.
Prof. Dan Ben-David, executive director of the capital’s Taub Center, said that the decrease in male haredi employment was attributable to the increasing need for skilled and educated workers in the modern labor market, and the failure of the haredi education system to prepare its male children for entry into the workforce.
The study highlighted the similarities in decreased rates of employment between haredi men and other poorly educated sectors of society.
In 1979, approximately 80%- 90% of non-haredi and haredi Israeli men who received a poor education were nevertheless employed. Since that time, however, the level of employment for both groups has declined to between 35% and 50%.
“At the end of the 1970s, when Israel’s standard of living was relatively low, education was not imperative for finding a job,” Ben-David said. “In those days, rates of employment among men with all levels of education, as well as among haredi men, were over 80%. Today, in a competitive and global Israeli economy, employment rates among the uneducated are below 50%, as are employment rates among haredi men.
“The data reflect the increasing lack of employment opportunities that the haredi education system provides its sons,” Ben-David added.
He noted that removal in 1977 of the maximum quota of 800 military service exemptions for full-time yeshiva students, plus increased welfare benefits, also contributed to the rise in haredi unemployment.
“Looking forward, the country simply won’t be able to support such a huge population which can’t work,” Ben-David said.
“It’s already a very problematic situation, both for the ultra-Orthodox community and nationally. What will happen when the haredim are a fifth of the population as opposed to the 8 or 9% they represent at the moment? “We need haredim as part of the economy and part of the country. We need doctors and engineers. Where are we going to get them from in the future? In recent years we’ve had to develop anti-missile technology.
Who knows what we’ll need to develop in 20 years time, but we’re going to need educated skilled people to work out these challenges,” he said.
Despite the report’s concerns, male haredi employment has been on the rise. Between 2002 and 2011, their employment rate increased, from 35% to 45%, according to a report published by the Israel Institute of Technology-Technion’s Samuel Neaman Institute for National Policy Research in August.
Within the haredi school system, “unofficial schools” receive 75%, and “exempt institutions” receive 55%, of a non-haredi school budget, and are expected to teach respective proportions of the state core curriculum. In practice this is extremely rare.
No core curriculum subjects are taught in haredi high schools for boys, known as yeshivot ketanot, which teach only religious studies from grade nine onwards.
Haredi girls generally continue with a general education throughout their time in elementary and high school as many join the work force at some stage.
In July, the Education Ministry stated in response to a petition to the High Court of Justice that it is considering whether to cut the budgets of haredi schools that do not have their students sit for standardized elementary and middle school tests.
The petition, filed in 2007 by the Israel Religious Action Center, demanded that all state-funded schools teach the core curriculum subjects and that an efficient system of inspection be established to oversee the process.
The “Status Quo” agreement signed in 1947 by then-head of the Jewish Agency David Ben- Gurion promised the leaders of the haredi community, which pre-dated much of the Zionist settlement, that “full autonomy” would be granted to all sectors of society to control their own educational frameworks.
This agreement, signed to create unity in Mandate Palestine ahead of the UN vote on partition, has governed the state’s attitude to haredi educational frameworks ever since, although it also stipulated that “minimum [levels] of Hebrew, history, sciences and similar” would be obligatory.