The employment rate among haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) men in Israel fell below 50% in the third quarter, according to figures distributed to government decision-makers by the Central Bureau of Statistics in recent days. The figures show that the third-quarter employment rate among haredi men in the 25-64 age bracket was 47.8%, compared with 51.4% in the preceding quarter and 51.7% in the corresponding quarter last year.

This is the first time that the employment rate among haredi men was below 50% since the first quarter of 2015. The target set by the government for the inclusion of haredi men in the labor force is 63% by 2020. The rate of participation in the labor force for haredi men (employment plus unemployment) is 50.7%, compared with 81% for the general population in the 25-64 age bracket.

Economists say that the main factor in halting the increase in participation in the labor force by haredi men is the policy by the current Netanyahu government, which canceled the subsidies for work instituted by then-Minister of Finance Yair Lapid under the previous Netanyahu government and restored the government subsidy and scholarships for yeshiva (Jewish religion seminary) students. These economists state that the upward trend in participation in the labor force among haredi women continued in the third quarter, and that haredi women are close to eliminating the gap in labor force participation between haredi and non-haredi women.

“Part-time work at low pay”

The Ministry of Finance chief economist said in September 2017 that the upward trend in employment rates among haredi men had come to a halt, but the most recent figures show a decline for the first time in what is considered the greatest long-term challenge to the Israeli economy, given the demographic trends showing that haredim are the only population group whose proportion in the population is projected to rise significantly in the coming decades.

Government economists following employment in different population groups say, “Conclusions cannot be drawn from data in one quarter,” but they add that this figure does not deviate from the general trend in recent years. “The problem is that even those joining the labor market work at low-paying part-time jobs, with a low proportion of academic degree holders. What aggravates the problem is that we do not always know what is happening with jobs within the community, for example in education.”

The factors affecting employment among haredi men are military service, the lack of skills suitable for the labor market, and a lack of incentives for entering the labor market. Prominent in this context are the measures taken by the current government, which in 2015 canceled the work incentives introduced by Lapid and increased budgets and scholarships for yeshiva students.

Published by Globes, Israel business news – en.globes.co.il – on November 5, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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