Getting to work
Economic Change Will Need Ultra-Orthodox Men
Hiddush Vice-President, Shahar Ilan, warns the Trajtenberg Committee meeting that economic reform must take into account the lack of young ultra-Orthodox men to the work force.
Professor Manuel Trajtenberg, Chairman of the Committee for Socio-Economic Change
This summer, hundreds of thousands have gathered in the streets shouting “The People demand social justice!” The Trajtenberg Committee has been appointed by the Prime Minister to address the public’s concern on socio-economic issues.
“The employment rate of Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] men has hardly increased over the last decade.” Vice-President of Research and Information at Hiddush, Shahar Ilan told members of the Trajtenberg Committee for social and economic change. The committee met on August 24th at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem.
Common perception today is that there has been a mass exodus of yeshiva students out into the work world. According to Ilan, however, this is only a tiny start. “The Bank of Israel’s last report categorically states that the employment rate for Haredi men has almost not risen at all. Over the last decade, the rate has vacillated between 34-45 percent, and set in 2009 at 39%.” The employment rate for other Jewish men remained steady during this period, at approximately 80%.
Ilan submitted a Hiddush document to the Trajtenberg Committee entitled “Without the work of Haredim [ultra-Orthodox men], it will not work.” He cautioned that an economic plan that streams large budgets into welfare and housing subsidies, and does not stipulate funding for work or help in gaining professional experience, will further hinder efforts to get yeshiva students to work and will even will keep them in the yeshivas.”
Therefore, he continued, “Not only would they [the government] not help the middle class, but they would actually harm it.
Any socio-economic deal must include the following two principles:
• Stipulating core curricula with all school funding: any educational institution that does not teach the materials that the state considers to be the basic, common knowledge necessary for children in Israel will not receive a penny. There will be partial funding for partial core programs.
• Stipulating welfare benefits, discounts and housing assistance based on earning power; meaning that both partners work or are trying to work.”
The Trajtenberg Committee has a one-time opportunity. Whatever happens next with the economic plan will be very hard to change after it is set. It is therefore essential that the committee recommend a series of steps to get ultra-Orthodox men out working. Otherwise, we might regret it for generations to come.
Ilan explained, “One of the heaviest burdens on the middle class that lowers the level of social justice here is the missing ultra-Orthodox presence in the workforce. This cause is also the fastest growing.” The damage that the absence of Haredi men from the labor force causes costs, Ilan says, of nearly 15 billion NIS per year or more. Therefore, “any social justice [change] that the middle class wants must include measures to ensure that ultra-Orthodox society will be integrated into [broader] Israeli society and the economy.”
Avital Tomer, from the newspaper “Calcalist”, a financial newspaper, reported that Ilan claims, “funding for welfare and housing stipends without obligating ultra-Orthodox men to work keeps young men in yeshivas and damages the middle class.”
According to reports by Lior Detel, from the newspaper “TheMarker,” Ilan said: “Every year, there is increasing damage caused by the absence of Haredi men from the workforce, and another generation is being raised without basic training for modern life. Every year, social justice is further distanced from the middle class.”
“The Trajtenberg Committee has a one-time opportunity. Whatever happens next with the economic plan will be very hard to change after it is set. It is therefore essential that the committee recommend a series of steps to get ultra-Orthodox men out working. Otherwise, we might regret it for generations to come.”
To see the report delivered to the committee in full, click here
To see the article in Hebrew from The Calcalist, click here
To see the article in Hebrew from The Market, click here