Press Release

Employment Rates for Ultra-Orthodox Women Continue to Rise

The new report finds that employment rates for ultra-Orthodox women continue to rise, while those for ultra-Orthodox men remain stagnant; household income for ultra-Orthodox families is 58% lower than other Jewish Israeli households; and over the last five years - a 33% increase in the number of yeshiva and kollel students in Israel

Flash 90

The 2020 Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel (the fifth annual Statistical Report), published today (Tuesday), surveys recent trends in ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) society in a range of areas, including standard of living, education, employment, social mobility, leisure, and lifestyles.

Dr. Gilad Malach and Dr. Lee Cahaner, the Statistical Report editors:
"The ultra-Orthodox community makes up about 12.5% of Israel's population and continues to be characterized by rapid growth, though at a bit slower rate than in the past. While the educational system for ultra-Orthodox women is more tailored to the needs of the labor market, the education system for men has lagged behind. This is evident in the continued rise in employment rates among ultra-Orthodox women, in comparison with rates among men. Similarly, when it comes to earnings, Ultra-Orthodox women's income is on par with that of other Jewish women, while the income of ultra-Orthodox men is lower than that of other Jewish men. It is apparent that the pandemic dealt a serious blow to men's employment rates as compared to those among women, highlighting their already precarious employment situation.”

Main Findings:

Population and Population Growth

As of the end of 2020, the ultra-Orthodox population in Israel stood at around 1,175,000, representing an annual natural growth rate of 4.2% relative to 2009, compared with 1.9% in the general Israeli population and 1.4% in the general Jewish population (excluding ultra-Orthodox Jews). The fertility rate in ultra-Orthodox society over the last decade has been approximately 6.5 live births per woman, compared with approximately 7.5 in 2003.

The ultra-Orthodox population’s relative share in Israel's overall population has grown from 10% in 2009 to 12.6% in 2020. If this trend continues, the ultra-Orthodox population will double in size every 16 years. By comparison, the general Israeli population is expected to double every 37 years, and the general Jewish population, every 50 years. At the same time, it is highly probable that the future will bring a decline in the ultra-Orthodox growth rate, due to lower fertility rates and rising age of first marriage.

Education and the Yeshiva World

The ultra-Orthodox education system numbered some 347,000 students in 2018–2019, constituting 19% of all school students in Israel and 25% of all students in the Hebrew-speaking education system. The annual growth rate of the ultra-Orthodox education system has slowed down in recent years to 3.5%, compared with a 2.3% growth rate in Hebrew-speaking State and State-Religious education systems.

The last decade has seen a rise in the percentage of ultra-Orthodox girls taking Bagrut (matriculation) exams (from 31% to 55%), while there has been a decline in the parallel percentage among ultra-Orthodox boys (from 16% to 13%).

Over just five years (2014–2019), there has been a rise of 34% in the number of yeshiva and kollel students in Israel, following an increase in state support for these students and cuts to incentives for ultra-Orthodox men to enter the labor market. In 2019, the total number of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva and kollel students in Israel was 140,614 (including students from abroad). Of the Israeli students, 70% were kollel students, and the rest were yeshiva students. Of the kollel students, 76% were granted an exemption from military service and were continuing their Torah studies in accordance with the accepted norms in ultra-Orthodox society.

Employment: Women's Employment Continues to Rise; Men's Employment is at a Standstill 

The employment rate for ultra-Orthodox men, which rose impressively between 2003 and 2015, has remained stagnate for the last five years, and in 2019 stood at 52.5% (compared with 52% in 2015). A major reason for this trend may be the cutback of incentives for ultra-Orthodox men to join the workforce and at the same time – the increase in financial support and subsidies to kollel students. By contrast, the employment rate for ultra-Orthodox women has continued to climb, from 71% in 2015 to 77% in 2019.

The last decade (2009–2018) has seen a decline in the percentage of ultra-Orthodox men working in the field of education (from 31% to 27%), alongside a rise in the percentage working in commerce (from 11% in 2009 to 14% in 2018). Among ultra-Orthodox women, the decline in the percentage employed in the field of education has been sharper – from 57% in 2009 to 39.5% in 2018.

As these trends increase and more and more among the ultra-Orthodox are employed in better-paying occupations, in the long term, we are likely to see a rise in per capita income and, as a result – an enhanced standard of living among ultra-Orthodox households.

Severe Economic Damage Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic

With regard to employment, the COVID crisis has harmed the ultra-Orthodox population more than the rest of Israel's Jewish population. This impact was particular evident among ultra-Orthodox women during the first wave of the pandemic, and among ultra-Orthodox men during the second wave. Nevertheless we see that ultra-Orthodox women have enjoyed greater employment stability than ultra-Orthodox men throughout the pandemic.

Thus, according to figures from the Chief Economist's Division at the Ministry of Finance, the decline in employment rates for the ultra-Orthodox population in March–May 2020, relative to the same months last year, was 35% on average (34% for men and 37% for women). Among the rest of the Jewish population, employment rates declined less sharply, and the differences between men and women were larger (19% for men and 27% for women).

In September–October 2020, at the height of the virus' second wave, the trend was reversed, and the decline in employment rates could be seen mainly among ultra-Orthodox men. Thus, in comparison with the parallel months in 2019, there was a decline of 20.5% in the employment rate for ultra-Orthodox men, compared with a 15% decline in the rate for women. Among the rest of the Jewish population, there was a much smaller decline in men's employment rate (10%) and a decline of 16% in women's employment rate, similar to that for ultra-Orthodox women. It is worth noting that ultra-Orthodox women have enjoyed greater stability in employment than ultra-Orthodox men.


The average gross monthly income for an ultra-Orthodox household in 2018 stood at NIS 14,745 – 58% lower than the equivalent figure for other Jewish households (NIS 23,235). The main income sources for ultra-Orthodox households were employment, (66%, compared with 78% for other Jewish households) together with allowances and support payments (24%, compared with 9% for other Jewish households).

An in-depth look at household income reveals a per capita income in ultra-Orthodox households of NIS 3,917, 52% of the equivalent figure for other Jewish households (NIS 7,531). This large discrepancy can be explained by several factors: the high average size of ultra-Orthodox households (5.2 persons) relative to the average in other Jewish households (2.9 persons); the difference in the average number of income earners (1.3 in ultra-Orthodox households, compared with 1.5 in other Jewish households); and to lower income from employment (NIS 9,767 in ultra-Orthodox households, compared with NIS 18,191 in other Jewish households). At the same time, the gaps in income may be smaller than would appear, due to higher levels of unreported income in the ultra-Orthodox sector.


The average monthly expenditure for an ultra-Orthodox household in 2018 was 16% lower than for other Jewish households (NIS 14,651 versus NIS 16,936), even though ultra-Orthodox households are larger. The average monthly tax expenditure for ultra-Orthodox households—on income tax, National Insurance payments, and health tax—is only around one-third (34%) of that for other Jewish households (NIS 1,524 versus NIS 4,461).

Despite the differences in household size and income between ultra-Orthodox and other Jewish households, there are no substantial differences in the makeup of their expenditures by type of expenditure, such as food, housing, health, or education. A significant difference is found in expenditure on transportation and communications (11% of the total expenditure in ultra-Orthodox households, versus 21% in other Jewish households). A possible explanation for this difference is that ultra-Orthodox Israelis rely more on public transport than do other Jews, and are less frequent consumers of internet services, television, and smartphones.

Data 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.