More than 70 percent of ultra-Orthodox men and about 50 percent of women are not employed, and most of their families live below the poverty line, according to a survey conducted by the Trade, Industry and Labor Ministry, the Koret Fund and the Milken Institute.
The survey shows that since most of the men in the ultra-Orthodox community dedicate most of their time to religious studies and not work, the burden of making a living falls on the women. However, many of these women cannot find work due to a lack of professional skills and training, as well as the heavy burden of child rearing.
The unemployment problem stems in part from the low level of professional education and training in the ultra-Orthodox sector, which is below the accepted levels in the Western world, as well as a lack of jobs in their communities.
The families usually live off grants from the husbands' yeshivot as well as guaranteed income and child allowances from the National Insurance Institute.
The average wage in ultra-Orthodox towns is very low: NIS 4,482 a month in Bnei Brak, NIS 3,945 in Elad and only NIS 3,203 in Beitar Ilit, well below the poverty level and the minimum wage.
The authors of the survey recommend changing the law that allows yeshiva students to postpone their army service (the Tal Law). They would like the law to allow community service too, which would allow the ultra-Orthodox to enter the job market. Changing the law would add 1.4 percent to Israel's GDP, say the authors, Koret's Sharon Azrieli and Shimon Yifrah, an economic adviser to the trade and industry minister.
Another step they recommend is encouraging ultra-Orthodox entrepreneurs by offering initial state funding.
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