Many believe that the election results closed the door on attempts to integrate the ultra-Orthodox into Israeli society.
“There is no positive development in ultra-Orthodox society,” says Dr. Shuki Friedman, vice president of the Jewish People Policy Institute. Friedman is familiar with the data attesting to increasing integration of ultra-Orthodox in workforce, even in the high-tech sector, but according to him “it’s simply because there are more ultra-Orthodox. Among ultra-Orthodox women, the employment rate is close to that of all Jewish women, but among ultra-Orthodox men the figure hovers around 50%. Even among working ultra-Orthodox men, the average salary is 57% of that of a non-Orthodox Jewish man.”
Friedman explains that the reason the employment rate of ultra-Orthodox men has not increased: “The acute problem is that the ultra-Orthodox men have no incentive to go out to work.” According to him, “The additional income that an ultra-Orthodox student who goes to work, minus the welfare benefits he loses as a result, is only NIS 1,500-2,000 a month, a small amount. An ultra-Orthodox who leaves the ‘Kollel’ pays a high social price – without earning anything.”
Friedman is pessimistic about the expected consequences of the elections, and estimates that the lack of incentive to work among ultra-Orthodox males will intensify. “The election promise was that all ultra-Orthodox institutions would be fully funded, and there is no reason why this will not be fulfilled. I don’t think Goldknopf (the head of the United Torah Judaism political party) will hesitate,” he said. “The meaning is a negative incentive to learn core subjects. Those institutions that until now taught core in order to receive a full budget, will be able to stop. The chance that an ultra-Orthodox student will encounter educational content beyond the Gemara until he decides to leave the Kollel will decrease sharply. The share of ultra-Orthodox who do not integrate into the general Israeli society will increase.
“The statistics show unequivocally that the employment rate decreases when the ultra-Orthodox are in the coalition. Ultra-Orthodox politics uses power to preserve the ultra-Orthodox way of life and increase transfer payments to finance the ability of the ultra-Orthodox to continue studying. Maybe there are fringe groups that will want to work and help them, but there are no Knesset members who will fight for them.”
He further adds that “the data show that the chance of ultra-Orthodox students being successful in their studies is one in four, and that too results in relatively low earnings.”