50% of haredim involved in job market, survey says
Half of haredi adults participate in the labor market, according to a survey to be presented Monday by the Van Leer Center in Jerusalem at a two-day conference on "Haredim and Haredism in Israel: Encounters, Influences and Changes."
The conference will focus on a wide range of subjects relevant to ultra-Orthodox culture and socioeconomic makeup, including the infiltration of Hebrew into Yiddish, the geographic effects of new haredi cities such as Betar Illit, El-Ad, and Modi'in Illit (Kiryat Sefer), and theological discourse in popular haredi literature.
About half of haredim are either employed or looking for work, compared to 80 percent for the non-haredi public. according to "Haredim in the Marketplace," a study by Nir Fogel and Yisraela Friedman. Forty percent of haredi women said they were employed, while fewer men said they had work.
"Haredi society has arrived at several multilevel junctions," said Dr. Kimy Caplan, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. "The common denominator of the junctions at all levels is the ongoing struggle with Zionism, Israeli secularism and daily life in Israel." Caplan is the author of The Internal Popular Discourse in Israeli Haredi Society.
Although there appears to be a slight rise in the haredi employment, according to a study by Dr. Daniel Gottlieb of the Bank of Israel, the vast majority of the approximately 700,000 Israeli haredim are poorer than the general population.
Gottlieb, who has performed extensive research on the haredi population for the Van Leer Institute in past, found that that in 2004, 37% of haredi men were either working or actively looking for a job, compared to 67.7% among all Jewish Israeli men.
Some 59.4% of the haredi population lived under the poverty line (defined as half the median income) in 2004, compared to 23% for the general population. In a recent interview, Gottlieb said haredi poverty had only gotten worse in the wake of deep cuts in National Insurance Institute child allowances.
Both internal and external factors are forcing more haredim into the labor market, according to Dr. Avi Kay, head of the Technological Management and Marketing Department at the Jerusalem College of Technology-Machon Lev, who will also be participating in the Van Leer conference.
The internal factors include a growing realization that not all haredi men are cut out to spend their entire lives studying Torah. The cuts in state child allowances and in other social security benefits are one of the principal external factors.
"But there continues to be problem with socialization," said Kay. "Haredim were never encouraged to choose a profession. So you have situation where men aged 30 or more want to work, but they haven't the slightest clue what they want to do."
Numerous training centers catering to the haredi community have sprouted up over the past decade, creating a new generation of haredi youth motivated to join the work force, he said.
"But in addition to occupational training, a lot of these young haredim need to undergo a socialization process that enables them to identify with their working place, especially after years of social education that illegitimatized work," Kay said.
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