Unemployment Rates Equal Among Ultra-Orthodox and Uneducated Secular Israelis

Study shows that ultra-Orthodox lack tools to get by in Israel's labor market, resulting in hundreds of thousands of Haredim who can't find work, says researcher Dan Ben-David.

Talila Nesher
Talila Nesher

The employment rate of ultra-Orthodox men is almost identical to that of non-Haredi Israeli men who have completed four years of education or less, according to a new study conducted by Dan Ben-David, the executive director of the Taub Center for Social Policy Research in Israel.

The study, which examined the value of the ultra-Orthodox school system in the modern labor market, found that the employment rate of Haredim and elementary-school dropouts has significantly decreased over time, dropping from a range of 80 percent to 90 percent in 1979 to a range of 35 percent to 50 percent this decade.

That's because the job market has changed a lot since then, said Ben-David. "At the end of the '70s, when the quality of life in Israel was relatively low, it wasn't necessary to have a lot of skills to find work," he said. "Today the Israeli economy is competitive and open to the global economy, and the data reflect the lack of employment opportunities that the ultra-Orthodox education system gives its sons."

The study shows that "the ultra-Orthodox just don't have the tools to get by in the labor market, and that means hundreds of thousands of Haredim who can't find work," said Ben-David.

The macroeconomist said the ultra-Orthodox boys schools, which generally want their students to spend their lives studying Torah instead of working, are not preparing their students for the modern work world.

"Due to the fact that Haredi boys don't learn the core curriculum at all after eighth grade, and that their curriculum until that point is deficient, it turns out the preparation of ultra-Orthodox men for the workplace is identical to the preparation that uneducated Israeli men get, and has caused a consistent and ongoing drop in their chances of finding work," said Ben-David.

He said the decline in ultra-Orthodox employment could not be attributed to a corresponding drop in motivation to work, whether due to a substantial increase in welfare supplements or for any other reason.

The parallel drop among uneducated non-Haredi men substantiates that, he said.

An ultra orthodox Jew working at a gold and silver store on 47th street in midtown Manhattan, October 4, 2011. Credit: Natan Dvir

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