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Ben-Eliezer wants to adapt haredi employment center nationwide

August 18, 2009. Jerusalem Post: Sharon Wrobel

Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer plans to adapt Modi'in Illit's employment-center model to the rest of the country in an effort to bring thousands of haredim into the workplace.

"The haredi community in general, and the male population in particular, is able and needs to work to be part of the growth engine of the country," he said during a visit to Modi'in Illit's Employment Center on Monday. "Not only do they need to be part of the working population, they also want to, and its political leadership should recognize it."

Modi'in Illit, also known as Kiryat Sefer, is a haredi town located between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where some 5,000 haredi women work. Over the past few years Israeli hi-tech companies such as Matrix Talpiot have been developing programming centers in Modi'in Illit, hiring hundreds of haredi women for cheap, quality labor in a move to combat outsourcing to India.

"I am glad that the mayor of Modi'in Illit understands the importance of its residents to entering the workplace," Ben-Eliezer said, "and I intend to copy and adapt the model of its employment center and training center for this population to the rest of the country."

Encouraging the haredi population to join the workforce would be one of the ministry's goals, he said. The plan would entail the implementation of special training programs tailored to the needs of haredim, special support programs for small businesses and an employment track at the Investment Center that will give preference to haredi employment in factories, he added.

Deputy Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Orit Noked said the ministry's aim was to help women from weak and underprivileged segments of the population join the workforce.

"In Modi'in Illit there are companies who have developed a unique and successful model for the employment of haredi women, which allows them to combine a career with family life," she said. "I am convinced that we will be able to copy this model for other segments of the population."

The ministry's data found that although employment participation of haredi women, which has grown to 49.1 percent, is far higher than that of haredi men between the ages of 20 to 64, with a rate of 37.4%, it is still significantly lower than that of secular women, at 70%, and that of secular men, at 79.9%.

In the years 2002-2007, the average size of the haredi population was 637,000, or 8.8% of the total population. The number of haredim aged 20 to 64 was 233,000, out of which 118,000 were men. Among haredim, 12.4% have an academic background, compared with 37.2% of the secular and traditional population. In addition, 19.9% of haredim serve in the army, compared with 72.2% of the secular and traditional population.

The average salary of haredi women was NIS 3,690, 40% lower than that of haredi men (NIS 6,123). The average salary of secular women was NIS 5,698, 36% lower than that of secular men (NIS 8,955). Haredi women earned 35% less than secular women, while haredi men earned 30% less than secular men.

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