Daily Israel Report

'Affirmative Action' to Boost Hareidi Employment?

Economics Minister Naftali Bennett to push bill demanding employers hire hareidi men, blames prejudice for the workforce gap.
By Hezki Ezra
First Publish: 5/21/2014, 4:37 PM

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett
Flash 90

Economics Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) announced Wednesday that he would be introducing a program of affirmative action to Israel, requiring employers to hire more hareidi applicants. 

"On Sunday I will submit to the government a proposal for Haredi affirmative action in the public sector," he wrote on Facebook. "I say to employers all the time: Take Haredim. It will be worthwhile. They are solid workers." 

"But the truth is that 'the shoemaker's children go barefoot'," he continued. "In the government ministries and in public service, you just do not see Haredim."

"I have been a minister for over a year, and I barely see Haredim in the public sector. Arabs, women, handicapped - Yes. Haredim - no."

Bennett blamed cultural prejudices for the gap, and said that many hareidi candidates are more than willing to work in the public sector.

"Haredim that I talk to tell me they are not accepted to public service, even when they meet the criteria," he said. "The public sector should understand the amazing abilities of this population, and our proposal will give them a boost."

"The result will be more Haredim working, less Haredim unemployed," he added.  "The more Haredim integrate into society, the less prejudice they will face. In the end, all Israelis will benefit from this."

A Labor Force survey recently revealed that during the first quarter of 2014, the employment rate of Haredi men was just 44.5% - significantly lower than the general rate of employment of men of working age (25-64), which is around 81%. 

Another survey showed significant prejudice among Israeli employers. Forty-two percent of employers showed reluctance to employ Arab men; over a third of employers (37%) expressed a reluctance to employ hareidi men; and 13% of employers were unwilling to employ married women with small children from any sector.