Half a billion shekels allocated for boosting haredi employment

Program will include creation of employment guidance centers, increased demand to hire haredi employees.

Haredi man working 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Haredi man working 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The government has allocated half a billion shekels for advancing the integration of haredim into the workforce over the next five years, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday.
Bennett made the announcement during a hearing of the Knesset State Control Committee, which had convened to discuss the state comptroller’s findings on government progress toward increasing haredi employment.
The program will include the creation of employment guidance centers and provide professional training, as well as financial incentives in workplaces to increase employers’ demand for haredi workers.
Ravid Amosi, a representative of the Council for Higher Education who was present at the hearing, said that one of the main goals the government had established in 2010 was to make higher education more accessible to haredim.
Since then, Amosi said, seven new frameworks have been established for haredi higher education at different institutions around the country: in Ashkelon, Ashdod and Safed, at Haifa’s Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, and at three institutions in Jerusalem.
Michal Tzok, deputy director of the Economy and Trade Ministry, said that one of the main groups the haredi employment program would target would be the several thousands of yeshiva students who will receive exemptions from military service under the terms of new legislation now making its way through the Knesset.
As many as 28,000 haredi men will be able to gain complete exemption once the bill passes into law.
Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman said the most important goal was getting haredim to join the workforce.
“Let’s remember that tens of thousands of haredim are going to receive letters freeing them from service [so they can] go to work over the next few years,” said Lipman.
“We need to provide them with the ability to be trained for work and to find work, and that’s what we’re doing.”
The State Comptroller’s Report has nevertheless leveled criticism at the government for not doing enough to increase haredi employment.
The report revealed several deficiencies in government programs, noting that some of the projects were not ready for implementation, that sufficient oversight had not been established for the initiative, and that in some cases, not all budgets allocated for the different programs had been utilized.
Committee chairman Amnon Cohen of Shas said there were still bureaucratic obstacles for haredim seeking to enter the workforce, and expressed concern that employers would not want to hire haredim because of their outward appearance.
During the session, United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler called for considering religious studies to be on par with academic studies, arguing that many academic degrees are not relevant to entering the workforce.
He also called for legislation to guarantee equal representation for haredim in the public sector.