Haredi programmers make a fraction of nonreligious peers' salaries
A glance at the tables comparing salaries of ultra-Orthodox high-tech workers to those earned by nonreligious colleagues is enough to elicit protest from anyone with even the slightest inkling of social justice. In reality, though, the situation is much more complex than it initially appears.
First the figures: A Haredi Java programmer with 3-5 years experience makes NIS 11,000 to 15,000 a month; a non-Haredi in the same job gets NIS 16,000 to 24,000. For a software development team leader, the differences are much greater: NIS 16,000-18,000 compared to NIS 27,000-30,000.
Salaries for Haredi computer professionals fall into two categories: Those below the market average - and those even lower. It seems that when ultra-Orthodox men or women show up for a job interview, they are offered at least 15% to 25% less than a non-Haredi is offered for the same job.
This appears to violate labor law but the threat of legal action seems ineffective.
Still, Haredim working in the regular high-tech world are much better off than those - mostly women - who work in special centers established specifically for the ultra-Orthodox community. They work close to home in places like Modi'in Ilit or Beit Shemesh, and usually employ programmers or software testers. These women make only two-thirds, or sometimes even only half, of what their counterparts earn at similar jobs in regular high-tech workplaces.
So how do the companies get away with it? "The image of Haredim as 'low cost' workers is clear and set in stone," said Chaim Arbel, the head of high-tech at Manpower Bereshit. "Quite a few employers call and ask euphemistically for 'workers who will help them lower costs,'" he added.
He's heard employers remark: "Why are his salary demands so high? He's Haredi."
But cruel employers don't bear all the responsibility for exploiting ultra-Orthodox workers. The Haredim can also blame themselves for the unequal pay: Their lack of confidence in their professional abilities, their fears of a competitive marketplace and their deep desire to land a job often lead them to lower their price.
It's comparable to what happens to women in a male-dominated work environment: A feeling of inferiority over not understanding accepted norms can make them feel weak and frightened. Haredim often want to make themselves attractive candidates and are therefore willing to make do with less - while most employers are not so generous as to volunteer to pay more.
The solution lies in patience and awareness. The high-tech sector has already discovered the abilities within the Haredi world and the time will come when these talented workers' will no longer settle for half.
Ofer Mane, 43, married with four children, left his Torah studies at 30. To begin with his story was somewhat different from the norm, as he had served in the army. Today he works as a computer programmer at Yael Software.
Mane, who did not study programming at university, instead did a retraining course in sponsored by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, though now he somewhat regrets not getting a college degree. Today he is considering that option, which would help him get ahead in the workplace.
Mane believes both spouses should work and should not be dependent on allowances or their parents. He says he does not have high salary demands, certainly not compared to his nonreligious colleagues, but agrees that employers take advantage of Haredim because they are willing to make do with very little.
"They do not want to be vice presidents making tens of thousands of shekels a month, and the high-tech companies know that," he said. "They advertise in Haredi papers, with want ads offering candidates NIS 4,000 [a month]. That is infuriating. It is simply exploitation of workers."