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INCREASED INTEGRATION of Haredim into the workforce has resulted in a record-low poverty rate in the Haredi sector..(Photo by: DARREN WHITESIDE / REUTERS)
Haredi population tops one million
There is a record low in the poverty rate for the Haredi sector, having diminished from 58% in 2005, reflecting increased integration of Haredi men and women into the work force in recent years.
 The number of Haredim in the country reached one million in 2017, representing 12 percent of the population and rising.
The Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) sector is projected to comprise 16% of the total population by 2030, and Haredim will constitute a third of all citizens and 40% of the Jewish population in 2065.
However, the fertility rate amongst the community has been dropping since 2005, when the number of children per Haredi woman stood at 7.5; now it is 6.9 per woman, compared with 2.4 for non-Haredi Jewish women.
These figures come from the Israel Democracy Institute’s annual statistical review of Haredi society for 2017, which included some positive trends for what several Israeli governments have described as the national goal of integrating the Haredi community into Israeli society, as well as some less encouraging developments.
In particular, the report noted that while increased numbers of Haredim are taking high-school diploma exams, that increase is almost entirely confined to girls, with the figure for boys remaining static and extremely low.
And while there has been a general increase in male Haredi employment in recent years, the current government’s policies have reversed that trend, while the number of Haredi men studying in yeshiva has risen again.
In terms of education, although the number of Haredi boys taking the Bagrut high-school diploma test remained very low at just 13% in the 2014/2015 school year, compared to 14% in 2004/2005, the number of Haredi girls taking the test increased from 31% to 51% in the same period, an increase of 65%.
In all, some 300,000 pupils study in the Haredi school system, approximately 18% of all pupils in the country.
At the same time, the number of Haredi men and women in higher education has continued to grow steadily over the last decade, with some 10,800 currently studying towards degrees; other studies have found even higher rates of participation.
Of those Haredim in higher education, 69% are women and 31% men.
Haredi students continued to study for degrees in the field of education and to be medical assistants to a much higher extent than the general population; they study for degrees in engineering to a much lower extent. And while the rate of employment of Haredi men only recently went above the 50% mark, reaching a high of 54% at the end of 2015, it subsequently decreased to 51% at the end of the second quarter of 2017, according to the Finance Ministry.
It is thought that the various government subsidies and welfare benefits restored by the current coalition to the Haredi sector following the last government’s cuts have been the major cause of this reversal.
Because of those increases, especially yeshiva-study stipends, the number of Haredi men studying in yeshiva between 2015 and 2017 began to increase again following the decreases seen between 2012 and 2014. The Haredi political parties were not then in the government, and the coalition, spurred by Yesh Atid, cut yeshiva stipends and other financial benefits to the sector dramatically.
While the number of yeshiva students increased by about 4% a year between 1999 and 2012, the number declined by 16% during the course of the 33rd government – which included Yesh Atid – between 2012 and 2014.
This effect was also boosted by the reduction in the military-service exemption age by that government, which meant that Haredi men could leave yeshiva and enter the workforce at a younger age.
Following the establishment of the new government with the Haredi parties, the number of yeshiva students grew again in 2016 by 4%.
Participation in national service has however continued its slow but steady rise, with some 34% of graduates of the Haredi education system in 2016 enlisting either in the IDF or the civilian service, totaling about 3,500 men.
Of those, 81% enlisted in the IDF while only 19% went to the civilian service.
In terms of income, the average Haredi household lags some 35% behind that of Jewish, non-Haredi households, while fully 45% of Haredim are under the poverty line.
This is however a record low in the poverty rate for the Haredi sector, having diminished from 58% in 2005, reflecting increased integration of Haredi men and women into the work force in recent years.
Another interesting development in the Haredi sector is an increase in the age of marriage.
In 2005, 61% of Haredi men and women aged 20 to 24 were married.
That figure has dropped to 44% as of 2017, and there have been similar drops in the percentages of Haredim married in higher age brackets as well.
Finally, rates of Internet usage have risen swiftly in recent years, with some 43% of Haredim using the Internet in 2016, compared to 28% in 2009 – an increase of almost 50%.
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