2018 Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel

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IDI’s 2018 report on ultra-Orthodox society is out - shedding light on changing trends in population, education, employment, and leisure in the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel.

The 2018 Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel published for the third consecutive year provides an overview perspective on the far reaching changes prevalent in recent decades and presents trends in population, education, employment, and leisure in the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel.

Dr. Gilad Malach and Dr. Lee Cahaner from the Israel Democracy Institute: “This year’s report reveals worrisome trends. The findings show that the trend towards the rise in the rate of employment and academic studies has come to a standstill, after several years of a consistent increase in both. Although there is encouraging data regarding an increase in income and a decline in poverty rates, this appears to be the fruits of past government policies that encouraged higher education, army service and employment.”

Key Findings:

Population – The natural growth of the ultra-Orthodox population over the past decade is steady at 4.2% compared to 1.4% among the Jewish non ultra-Orthodox population in Israel. The ultra-Orthodox population is relatively young, and numbered in 2018 over one million. 58% are between ages 0-19 compared to 30% among Jews who are not ultra-Orthodox. Ultra-Orthodox women marry at a younger age, and fertility rates are high: an average of 7.1 children per ultra-Orthodox woman compared to 3.1 in the general population. We see an increase in the age of first birth - in 2004, an ultra-Orthodox woman aged 20-24 had an average of 1.7 children and today 1 child.

Marital status – The marriage rate in the ultra-Orthodox population (aged 20 and above) in 2016-2017 stands at 83%, compared with 63% for the rest of the Jewish population. However, there has been a rise in age at marriage in recent years: while in 2003-2004, 77% of ultra-Orthodox Israelis aged 20-29 were married, as compared with 73% in 2010-2011 and today stands at just 67%.

Education – In 2017, ultra-Orthodox students made up 18%-24% of the student population in Israel (general and Jewish population respectively). The annual growth rate of the ultra-Orthodox system slowed down in the past five years from 4.2% in 2013 to 3.2% in 2017. By contrast, the annual growth rate of the state school system rose over the same period from 0.5% to 2.2%. 

There are two possible explanations for this phenomenon: the falling birth rate in the ultra-Orthodox sector; and the decline in the attractiveness of ultra-Orthodox schools for families who are not explicitly ultra-Orthodox in observance. 

Another interesting trend is the rise in the percentage of ultra-Orthodox who take the matriculation exams, from 23% in 2005 to 34% in 2016. This increase is particularly evident among ultra-Orthodox girls, half of whom are now taking the matriculation exams, compared to only 31% in 2009.

More Yeshiva students – Less Attending Academic Institutions – In 2017 114,000 ultra-Orthodox men attended yeshivas and kollelim (religious seminaries) - Up 21% in the past three years and the reverse of the trend in 2013-2014, when the number of yeshiva students dropped by 16%. The decline in 2013-2014 can be partially explained by subsidy cuts to yeshivas.

On the macro level, in the past decade (2010-2017), the percentage of ultra-Orthodox students grew by 141% (in comparison to 9% growth rate among the general population). In addition the numbers of graduate students (M.A. degrees) continues to grow, and in 2017 there were 1,525 students – 5 times more than in 2010.

Poverty – The prevalence of poverty is much greater among ultra-Orthodox Israelis than in the general population - 45% in 2017 in comparison with 11% among other Jewish Israelis. Nonetheless this is a sharp decrease, down from 58% in 2005, when government stipends were cut.

Income and Expenditures – The average monthly income of ultra-Orthodox households increased by 8% (from NIS 12,616 to NIS 13,658) between 2015-2016, compared to a much smaller increase of 1.7% among other Jews (from NIS 20,807 to 21, 173). The average monthly expenditure of ultra-Orthodox families grew by 5% (from NIS 13,676 to 14,357). 

These increases reflect a rise in ultra-Orthodox salaries (by 10% between 2014-2016) among those employed

Dr. Gilad Malach and Dr. Lee Cahaner added that “Contributing factors include the rise in the number of well-educated members of the ultra-Orthodox community and the advancement of ultra-Orthodox workers in the labor market (as a result of a combination of appropriate skills and education, and government programs). Nevertheless the expenditures of the ultra-Orthodox are still higher than their income, which may point to the transfer of illegal funds and the receipt of unreported donations from abroad.”

Employment Rates and Wages – As of 2017, the employment rate among ultra-Orthodox men is slightly over 50%, and 73% among ultra-Orthodox women and has stopped rising since it plateaued in 2015.

Housing – Purchase and Rental – Today 74% ultra-Orthodox own an apartment, down from 79% a decade ago while in the general Jewish population there was no significant change during those years. The change is particularly dramatic among ultra-Orthodox aged 20-29. A decade ago 60% owned the apartment they lived in and 33% rented. Today, only 50% own the apartment they live in and 47% are renting. 

About 15% of the young ultra-Orthodox own housing they purchased as an investment, compared to 5% among the general Jewish population. This confirms the claim that many of the young ultra-Orthodox who marry, are required to buy an apartment as a condition for approval of the wedding. They buy an apartment at low prices in the periphery, rent it out, and live in a rented apartment in more central areas.

Car ownership – Between 2003–2017 the number of ultra-Orthodox Israelis who own a car increased by 35% (up from 31% to 42%) as compared with 80% of the general Jewish population. However, only 29% of ultra-Orthodox women have a driving license, compared to 59% of ultra-Orthodox men.

Technology – As of 2017, 54% of the ultra-Orthodox over the age of 20 reported using a computer, compared with only 44% in 2007.

Enlistment in the IDF or Volunteering for Civilian National Service – In 2017, 3,700 ultra-Orthodox men enlisted in the IDF or joined a civilian national service framework, up slightly from the previous year.

Health – 73% of the ultra-Orthodox believe that their health is very good (compared with only 51% among other Jews).Most of the ultra-Orthodox report that they did not have to forgo medical treatment (92%), medications (95%) or hot meals (95%), despite the high poverty rates (45%) among this population. Accordingly, the ultra-Orthodox trust in the health system is high and stands at 76%, similar to the non-ultra-Orthodox Jewish population. 94% of the ultra-Orthodox have their children vaccinated, the same rate as that among the general Israeli population.

* The annual study is conducted by Dr. Gilad Malach and Dr. Lee Cahaner from the Israel Democracy Institute and is based on data provided by the Central Bureau of Statistics, government agencies, the IDF and the National Insurance Institute.