Govt efforts at haredi integration insufficient

Report: State Control Committee chairman says report shows government was guilty for “lack of [haredi] integration."

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Government programs to help the haredi population integrate into the workforce are insufficient and inefficient, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira wrote in a soon-to-be released report.
The report revealed several deficiencies in government programs, noting that some of the projects are not ready for implementation, sufficient oversight has not been established for the initiative, and in some cases not all budgets allocated for the various programs have been used.
Knesset State Control Committee chairman Amnon Cohen of Shas said the findings showed that the government was responsible for the “lack of [haredi] integration into the workforce due to contempt, bureaucracy and laziness,” and that claims made by Finance Minister Yair Lapid on the issue were false.
No specific program to encourage haredi integration into the workforce has been devised and the Economy and Trade Ministry has not prepared an operative plan for employment, while a staff panel has not been established to deal with the issue either, the State Comptroller’s Office found.
“This is a socioeconomic mission of national importance, but the picture that arises indicates that progress in dealing with it is slight and slow,” the report states.
Many haredi men over the past 35 years have chosen to study full time in yeshivas rather than perform military service and subsequently join the workforce. Haredim postponing employment until after age 31 cost the economy NIS 4 billion in 2009, according to Treasury calculations.
One example highlighted by the report was the allocation by the Treasury of a fund to finance special study programs for haredim from 2005 to 2008. In 2008, only 50 percent of the money was used, while at the same time, requests by academic institutions to establish courses for haredim were not approved.
The State Comptroller’s Report also notes that the targets set by the government for haredi employment by 2020 are unrealistic.
It cites data from 2008, showing that the total rate of employment in the haredi sector between the ages of 25 and 64 was 48% compared with the national rate for the non-haredi Jewish population of 77%.
For haredi men, employment stood at 40%, compared with 82% for non-haredi Jews, and 57% for haredi women, compared with 74% for non-haredi Jewish women.
More recent data published by the Bank of Israel in 2012, however, shows male haredi employment at 45.6% and female haredi employment at 61.2%.
The government’s target for men by 2020 is 63%, and for 9,200 haredi males to join the workforce every year.
The report noted that just 620 men signed up to the central government program, “Income with Dignity,” for professional training for haredi men, during the years 2005 to 2010, with 250 finding jobs as a result.
Similarly, a government work placement program has succeeded in placing just 1,250 haredim in employment since 2006.
“This contribution is important, but its rate is almost insignificant bearing in mind the targets established by the government,” the report notes.
Said MK Cohen, “They promised to provide fishing rods instead of fish. They’ve cut out the fish and the rods haven’t been made yet.”
The State Control Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the issue on Tuesday, with Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett as well as representatives from other ministries expected to attend.