The 2020 Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel found that over the last five years there has been a 38% increase in the number of ultra-Orthodox students in technological training tracks. The most in-demand subjects in academia are education and teaching, social sciences, and computer science.
Dr. Gilad Malach and Dr. Lee Cahaner, the Statistical Report editors:
"Many young members of the ultra-Orthodox community are discovering the value of academic education and high-quality technological training programs in finding employment. As a result, we see a trend in which growing numbers of young ultra-Orthodox men and women are choosing to pursue these tracks. We see a rapid growth in the numbers studying computer science (along with technological training), in addition to the growing numbers of students towards higher academic degrees. At the same time, we can point to a drop in the numbers studying law and business administration—fields in which the number of available jobs is limited.”
Ultra-Orthodox Family Life
Ultra-Orthodox Students in Technological Training Programs
Between 2014 and 2019, there was a 38% increase in the number of ultra-Orthodox students in technological training programs administered by the Government Institute for Technology and Science Training. This growth was mainly driven by ultra-Orthodox women students (44% increase), with more modest growth recorded among male students (26%).
In 2019, there were some 4,400 ultra-Orthodox students in technological training programs, making up 13% of the total number of students in these programs. Almost half of them (47%) were studying software engineering; 17% were studying architecture and interior design9; and 9% were studying civil engineering.
Analysis of the data by gender reveals that 70% of all students in technological training programs in Israel are men, but ultra-Orthodox men constitute only 5.5% of the total. By contrast, ultra-Orthodox women make up 30% of all women studying these subjects.
Ultra-Orthodox men mainly study civil engineering (37%) or electrical engineering (21%), while 30% of them study in general technological training tracks; the latter—very rare among ultra-Orthodox women, since almost all of them study general technological subjects in seminars (post-secondary education institutions for ultra-Orthodox women). The most common subjects studied by ultra-Orthodox women are software engineering (65%) and architecture and interior design (21%).
Ultra-Orthodox Students in Higher Education
In 2018–2019, there were a total of approximately 13,100 ultra-Orthodox students in higher education institutions in Israel, representing 4% of the total student population. There is a clear female majority here as well, with women constituting 67.5% of all ultra-Orthodox students.
Over the last decade (2010–2019), there has been an almost three-fold increase in the number of ultra-Orthodox students (men and women) in programs leading towards an academic degree. In 2019–2020, following several years of stagnation, the number of ultra-Orthodox students rose again, by some 9–12 % among women and 3% among men.
The number of ultra-Orthodox students in advanced degree programs has risen even more dramatically, reaching 1,630—five times more than in 2010. In the 2019–2020 academic year alone, a 17% increase was recorded over the previous year.
What are they Studying?
The distribution of undergraduate subjects studied by ultra-Orthodox students is different from that for the general student population. Ultra-Orthodox students seem to prefer practical subjects that will make it possible to work within the ultra-Orthodox community, such as education and teaching (31% of ultra-Orthodox students, compared with 15% of the general student population), and paramedical subjects (10% versus 5% respectively), as well as subjects considered relatively easy in terms of acceptance requirements, such as business administration (10% of ultra-Orthodox students compared with 8.5% of the general student population).
At the same time, ultra-Orthodox students are also responding to changes in the labor market and in state regulation. Thus, the percentage among the ultra-Orthodox studying law, which was 12% in the 2015–2016 academic year, dropped to 5% in 2018–2019, as it did in the general population (5%). Similarly, the share of ultra-Orthodox students in business administration fell over the same period from 14% to 10%.
In parallel, during this period there was an increase in the proportion of ultra-Orthodox students studying social sciences (from 8% to 19.5%) and in the natural sciences and computer science (from 9% to 14%). As a result of these changes, the differences in the distribution of field of study among ultra-Orthodox and other students, is smaller than in the past.
Students in higher education undergraduate programs, by study subject and population group, 2018–2019 academic year (%)
Findings presented in the Statistical Report are based on data produced by the Central Bureau of Statistics, government ministries and agencies, and the National Insurance Institute.