The 2019 Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel provides both a snapshot of the ultra-Orthodox in Israel today and an analysis of trends characterizing this community in recent decades, in key areas such as demography, education, employment, and use of leisure time.
The Israel Democracy Institute published its fourth annual Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel (2019) providing a snapshot of ultra-Orthodox in Israel today and an analysis of trends characterizing this community in recent decades in the key areas of demography, education, employment, and lifestyle. The report serves as an important tool for the long-term planning of decision makers and for the formulation of policy geared to promoting the integration of the ultra-Orthodox into Israeli society while simultaneously respecting their desire to maintain their unique lifestyle.
Dr. Gilad Malach and Dr. Lee Cahaner, present a complex picture of the current situation: “We are witnessing the continued integration of members of ultra-Orthodox society into the Israeli mainstream as reflected in women’s participation in the workforce and in rising income levels, along with some degree of adoption of a middleclass lifestyle. But at the same time, the integration of ultra-Orthodox men into higher education frameworks and into the labor force has substantially slowed. This is apparently due to lack of the economic incentives that had previously spurred movement in this direction and the reinstitution of government allowances that discourage obtaining a higher education or joining the workforce.”
According to the report, employment among ultra-Orthodox men dropped from 52% in 2015 to 51% in 2018 (compared to 87% of other Jewish Israeli men). Among ultra-Orthodox women, however, employment rose from 71% in 2015 to 76% in 2018. Similarly, while the number of ultra-Orthodox students in higher education more than doubled over the past decade reaching 12.5% of this population; it slowed over the past two years with only 9% of Haredi men, and 12% of the women studied in higher education institutions.
Conversely, income among ultra-Orthodox, who make up 12% of Israeli society, increased by 10% to NIS 15,015 while among the rest of the Jewish population in only rose by 5% in this same time period. This closing of the gap with the rest of society can be seen in the use of technology as well. 49% of the adult ultra-Orthodox population –both men and women – reported using the internet. This is up from 28% in 2008. In a similar vein, while only 17% of the Haredim travelled abroad – in comparison with 52% of other Jewish Israelis – the figure for the ultra-Orthodox is up from 12% in 2013-14.
A halt in the integration of men into the labor force: Between 2015-2018, the integration of ultra-Orthodox men into the labor force has stagnated. The rate of employment among ultra-Orthodox men in 2018 was 51% (down from 52% in 2015) compared to 87% among other Jewish men. Among ultra-Orthodox women, we see an opposite trend: In 2018, 76% worked – up from 71% in 2015; and the gaps in employment rates between ultra-Orthodox and other Jewish women are quite small: 76% and 83% respectively
The Working Poor: In 2017, the average income of an ultra-Orthodox family was NIS 15,015 (before taxes), as compared with that of other Jewish families – NIS 22,190. This is notwithstanding the fact that in 2017, ultra-Orthodox families’ income increased by 10%, whereas among other Jewish families, incomes increased by only 5%.
These gaps come to the fore especially with regard to the prevalence of poverty among children: 55% of ultra-Orthodox children live below the poverty line, as compared with 9% among other Jewish children.
Differences between ultra-Orthodox children and other Jewish children are also striking in the area of food insecurity. 26% of ultra-Orthodox children suffer from food insecurity, as compared with 14% among other Jewish children. These differences are rooted primarily in the large number of children in Haredi families; along with their parents’ low rate of employment and low incomes. Nevertheless, we see a gradual decline in the prevalence of poverty among Haredi families: from 52% in 2013, to 43% in 2017, which may possibly be attributed to the growing number of Haredi women who work, employment grants (negative income tax) and increased support for yeshiva and kollel students.
Growing numbers of yeshiva (unmarried men) and kollel students (married men): In 2018, 133,933 among the ultra-Orthodox were studying in yeshiva and kollel frameworks. Between 1999-2012, these numbers grew steadily, at an annual rate of 4% (in line with the growth rate of the ultra-Orthodox population in Israel). However, between 2015 – 2018, we see a dramatic increase in the number of kollel students by 30% – from 66,000 in 2014, to 86,000 in 2018.
Between 2014-2018 the number of yeshiva students also increased by 21%, from 30,000 to 37,000. In a single year - 2018, the number of yeshiva students grew by 6% - exceeding the rate of growth of the ultra-Orthodox population (4%). This growth can be attributed to the financial incentives provided to yeshiva and kollel students, and reinstitution of their government allowances.
Yeshiva and Kollel Students (2012 – 2018)
Population Projections: The ultra-Orthodox population in Israel today numbers 1,125,000 – 12% of Israel’s population. Their young age at marriage coupled with the relatively large number of children per family; contribute to the community’s high rate of population growth (4% annually), as compared to the rest of Israel’s population (1.9% annually). Therefore, while Israel’s population and that of other developed countries – are aging, the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel is very young: more than half of its members are under age 16. If the current rates of growth among the Haredim are maintained, the ultra-Orthodox community will double in numbers every 16 years.
Population Projections by Population Group 2019 – 2064
The Ultra-Orthodox and Higher Education: Over the past decade, the number of Haredi men and women studying for an academic degree was multiplied by 2.5, with the average annual increase being 12.5%. In the 2018/2019 academic school year – around 12,000 Haredi students studied in higher education frameworks, and made up 3.8% of the general student population in Israel; 70% (8,400) of the Haredi students are women. Nevertheless, the growth in the number of Haredi students in higher education, in particular among the men, has slowed down. In the past two years, 9% of Haredi men, and 12% of ultra-Orthodox women studied in higher education institutions.
Fields of Study: The rates of Haredi students studying fields such as education, para-medical professions, and business management are higher than those among other Jewish Israelis (35% and 18%, 12% and 6%, 12% and 10%, respectively). This reflects the desire among the ultra-Orthodox to study practical, applied subjects that will help them find employment - particularly within their own community. On the other hand, there are subjects only rarely studied, such as: engineering-- (9%, in comparison with the rest of the Jewish population -21%) – apparently because the Haredim—especially the men-- lack the relevant prior education which is essential for these fields.
Students for a BA degree by Fields of Study and Population Group, 2017/2018, (%)
Bagrut (Matriculation) Certificate: The numbers of Haredim taking at least one matriculation exam is on the rise—though not all taking the exam fulfill the necessary requirements for a matriculation certificate. The numbers went up from 23% in 2004/5 to 35% in 2016/17. The rate of Haredi girls taking the exams rose over the past decade, from 31% in 2008/9 to 51% in 2016/17, but we see a small decline in the number of Haredi boys taking matriculation exams – down from 16% in 2008/9 to 14% in 2016/17.
Ultra-Orthodox Taking Bagrut (Matriculation) Exams, by Gender and Academic Year
Narrowing the Gaps in Standard of Living: The increase in both the numbers of Haredim who are employed and the rise in income has had a positive effect on their standard of living. The rate of ultra-Orthodox over the age of 20 reporting that they or someone in their household owned a car rose from 31% in 2003 to 44% in 2018. Additionally, the percentage using the internet has grown: from 28% in 2008-2009, and 38% in 2010-2011 to 49% in 2017-2018. Finally, in 2017/18, 60% of the Haredim used a computer.
Travelling Abroad: in 2017-18, 54% among the Haredim over the age of 20 vacationed in Israel – compared with 60% among other Jewish Israelis. While only 17% of the Haredim travelled abroad – in comparison with 52% of other Jews-, the figure for the ultra-Orthodox is up from 12% in 2013-14. This can be attributed both to factors which have an impact on the entire population (for example, the “open-skies” reform, lowering airfare prices) , along with factors whose impact is specific to the ultra-Orthodox community, such as a higher monthly income, and a growing connection of the ultra-Orthodox to the concept of a leisure culture.
Vacationing in Israel and Abroad, by Population Group, 2017-2018
More Drivers’ Licenses: In 2017-2018, 46% of the Haredim over the age of 20 held a drivers’ license – compared with 81% among other Jews. Looking at the data by gender reveals that the gaps between Haredim and other Jews were particularly significant among women. In 2018 only 32% of Haredi women held a drivers’ license, compared with 74% of other Jewish women; nevertheless, we see an increase in the number of Haredi women with driving licenses: up from 21% in 2007. The underlying factors in this growth include; improvement in women’s status within the Haredi community; the increased numbers of women who work and study; and infiltration of modern discourse into some of the ultra-Orthodox groups. The gap among men was smaller, yet still substantial: 59% and 89% respectively.
Use of the Internet: in 2017-18, 59% of Haredim over age 20, reported using a computer – compared to 80% among other Jews. In the same years, 49% of the adult Haredi population –both men and women – reported using the internet – up from 28% in 2008. Greater use of the internet reflects the deep penetration of technology into the ultra-Orthodox community, in part due to their integration in the labor force and the increase in the numbers of students among them.
Internet Use over the Age of 20, by Population Group, 2008-2018
The picture emerging from IDI’s annual Statistical Report on ultra-Orthodox Society tells a very interesting story about ultra-Orthodox women: They are first and foremost women.
In terms of employment, they are more similar to other Jewish i women than to Haredi men: in regard to promotions on the job, in gaining authority on the job (or more precisely, in not gaining authority), and in their hourly wages: If, on average, Haredi men earn 68% of what other Jewish men earn, the hourly wage of Haredi women is the same as that of other Jewish women, and is even slightly higher than the average hourly wage of all women—including both Jewish and Arab women (103%).While the percentage of Haredi women promoted at work (31%) is only somewhat lower than that among other Jewish women (40%), the gap between Haredi men (32%) and other Jewish men (47%) is dramatic. The similarity between the two groups of women is even more pronounced when it comes to being given greater authority on the job. The percentage of Haredi women who were given more authority at work (31%) is very close to that of other Jewish women (34%). In contrast, only 23% of Haredi men were given greater authority, compared with 34% among other Jewish men.
Ultra-Orthodox Women Work More and Earn Less: As noted, the rate of participation of Haredi men in the labor force stagnated between 2015–2018, and in the past year we are even seeing a slight drop in this rate: 51% of Haredi men are employed, in comparison with 87% among other Jewish men. Between 2014-2017, the hourly wages of Haredi men went up by 11%, as compared with an 8% increase among other Jewish men.
Things are different among Haredi women: In 2018-19, 76% were employed – up from 71% in 2015. Gaps between Haredi and other Jewish women are relatively small – 76% and 83% are working, respectively.
Employment among Ages 25-64, by Population Group, 2013-2018
Haredi Men Earn Substantially Less than other Jewish Men: In 2017, the average monthly income of Haredi men was NIS 8,467 – only 62% of that of other Jewish men, which stood at NIS 13,669. Between 2015-2017, Haredi men’s average income went up by only 5% - in contrast to a 30% increase in Haredi women’s average income. In 2017, Haredi women’s average monthly income was NIS 7,527 – 82% of that of other Jewish women – NIS 9,232.
In 2017, the average monthly income among Haredi men was NIS 7,920 – 63% of that of other Jewish men, which was NIS 12,552. A closer look at the data reveals that’s Haredi men’s hourly income was only 55% of that of other Jewish men, while Haredi women’s income was 76% of the income of other Jewish women.
Why are there differences in income? Lower income among Haredi men can be attributed primarily to their low hourly wages averaging NIS 53 – 68% of the hourly wage of other Jewish men (NIS 70). Another is the low number of monthly hours worked (37 hours) – 81% of the number of hours worked by other Jewish men (45.3).
The low wages among Haredi women stem first and foremost from part-time work: the work hours of Haredi women are 79% of those of other Jewish women. In 2017, Haredi women worked an average of 28.9 hours a month – in comparison with 36.5 monthly hours among other Jewish women. On the other hand, Haredi women’s hourly income was similar to that of other Jewish women. In 2017, Haredi women earned an average of NIS 60.5 an hour – in comparison with NIS 61 earned by other Jewish women. Among the total population of Israeli women—(including Jewish and Arab women), the average hourly income stands at NIS 58.8. This data reflects the fact that Haredi women have high level skill sets – equivalent to non-Haredi women.
Monthly Income, by Population Group and Gender, 2018 (Ages 25-64)
Work vs. Career: A look at the opportunities for promotion on the job among Haredi workers over the last decade reveals that Haredi workers were not promoted at the same rate as other Jewish workers (31% and 44%, respectively). They are also given less authority at work: Only 28% of Haredi workers were given greater authority on the job as compared with 34% of other Jewish employees.
Haredi and other Jewish women are promoted at similar rates: While the differences between Haredi and other Jewish men are significant in this area: 31% of Haredi women were promoted – lower than the percentage among other Jewish women (40 %). 32% of Haredi men and 47% of other Jewish men were promoted – a dramatic gap. By contrast, the rate of Haredi women given greater authority on the job – 31% - is very similar to the rate of other Jewish women (34%). Only 23% of Haredi men were given greater authority, and 34% of other Jewish non-Haredi men.
Given Greater Authority at Work (between 2008-2018, %)
Education Drives Growth: Haredi women’s relatively high income as compared to that of Haredi men can be attributed to the large number of Haredi women who took Bagrut (Matriculation) exams as well as the large number of Haredi women students. In the past decade, the number of Haredi women who took the Bagrut (Matriculation) exams went up from 31% in 2008/9 to 51% in 2016/7/ Among Haredi boys, these numbers dropped from 16% to 14% over the same period.
In addition, there is an impressive increase in the numbers of Haredi women studying in higher education institutions, such that 70% of all Haredi students in 2018/19 were women. Between 2017-2019, there was an increase of 9% among Haredi men and 12% among Haredi women in the number of students
Yeshiva and Kollel Students
Increase in the Number of Yeshiva and Kollel Students: in 2018, there were 133,933 yeshiva and kollel students – up from 97,000 in 2014 – that is, an increase of 37%. Between 1999-2012, this number grew at an annual rate of 4%—coinciding with the rate of growth of the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel. However, in the past four years, the rate of growth in the number of students was much higher—30% - from 66,000 in 2014 to 86,000 in 2018.
Over the years, the number of yeshiva students has also grown by 21%, from 30,000 to 37,000. In just a single year—2018, the increase in the number of yeshiva students reached 6% - higher than the growth rate of the ultra-Orthodox population, which stands at 4%. This can be attributed to the reinstatement of incentives for Torah study and of financial allowances to yeshiva and kollel students.
Another emerging trend in the ultra-Orthodox community relates to elementary schools. As of 2018, the percentage of Haredi students in the overall Israeli education system (including Arab students) was 18.5% and 24.5% in the Jewish non-Haredi stream. In addition, in the last 6 years, there has been a marked decline in the numbers of students in the Haredi education stream—from 4.2% (coinciding with the rate of growth of the ultra-Orthodox population) in 2013, to only 3.4% in 2019. This compares with an increase in the rate of students in the non-Haredi Jewish education stream – from 0.5% in 2013 to 2.3% in 2019.
The Drop in Civilian National Service: In 2018, 530 Haredi men joined the Civilian National Service —that is, only about 5% of the boys who graduated from the ultra-Orthodox education system. This is just a quarter (26%) of the target set for Civilian National Service for 2016 (2,000 volunteers), and the numbers applying for Service in 2018 was less than half their number in 2011, and in fact, the number of applicants in 2018 was the lowest since National Civil Service began more than a decade ago.
Voting for the Knesset: In the elections to the 22nd Knesset (2019, Round #2), the ultra-Orthodox parties – United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and Shas – garnered 13.5% of all votes, compared with 8.2% in the 1992 elections. The number of votes for UTJ is an indicator of the number of Haredim in Israel and their geographical distribution (some of the voters for Shas, on the other hand, are not ultra-Orthodox). 24% of UTJ voters are from Jerusalem, and 19% from Bnei Brak. Approximately 20% of UTJ voters are from the "new" ultra-Orthodox cities (Elad, Beitar Illit, Modi'in Illit and Beit Shemesh), and another 12% are from large cities with large ultra-Orthodox communities (Haifa, Netanya, Ashdod, Petah Tikva and Rehovot). Others come from Israel’s geographic and social periphery and other localities. A comparison of 1992 and 2019 election data reveals that there are cities in which voter turnout for UTJ has doubled—or even more-- as a result of the growth in the numbers of the Haredim in Jerusalem, Ashdod, Haifa and Arad. In Tel Aviv, on the other hand, the percentage of Haredi voters dropped to half their rate in 1992.
** The Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israelis based on data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, government ministries and authorities, and the National Insurance Institute.