Press Release

Lowering the Age of Exemption will Lead Thousands of Haredim into the Labor Force

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Congratulations to the Bennett government on approving the outline for lowering the age of the students exempted from service in the IDF to 21. This is a vital and necessary step that the Israel Democracy Institute has recommended in recent years. A kind of necessary evil that will lead in the short term to the entry of about 5,000 ultra-Orthodox into the labor market and thousands more in the coming years.

"This is a vital step. We must not allow the inequality in IDF service to spawn inequality in the labor market, which for the long term, will deal a huge blow to Israel's economy. According to an IDI study, in the short term--lowering the exemption age will to bring 5,000 ultra-Orthodox men into the workforce, and thousands more in the coming years. If the lower age for exemption remains in place, by 2030, we can expect an increase in the GDP amounting to approximately NIS 14.5 billion.

Nevertheless, there is no reason why this bill should include a mechanism that would nullify it and reinstate the previous exemption age at the end of 3 years. It is important that even young ultra-Orthodox adults who want to go to work without taking part in a vocational training, program will be able to do so, and avoid "being locked up" in yeshivot. The bill can be adjusted when it reaches the Knesset committees, so that it will be passed by a temporary order for a period of 5 years, without a mechanism for reinstating the higher exemption age, and at the end of that period it will be possible to examine the consequences and effectiveness of the move.

Reducing the exemption age is at the same time—both irritating and essential: Under the current circumstances and taking into consideration the failure to recruit ultra-Orthodox men in significant numbers, this amendment is a necessary evil. Exemption from military service at the age of 21, will make it possible for many ultra-Orthodox men to acquire appropriate vocational or academic training - a step they were previously denied due to the late age at which exemption was granted. As a result, their ability to find their place in the "quality" employment market will also be enhanced, benefiting not only them, but the entire economy as well."

Plesner and Malach added that: "Increasing the subsistence allowance of those serving in the IDF goes hand in hand with the changes in the Conscription Law, and acknowledges that in the foreseeable future the burden of service will not be shared equally, making it imperative to step up our appreciation for those who do serve."

The Israel Democracy Institute spearheaded the new blueprint for lowering the age of exemption and recommended this change early on—in 2018, at the time of the Ministry of Defense's formulation of the conscription blueprint Along with the lowering the exemption age, IDI recommended that in parallel —compensation for those who serve in compulsory service—should be upgraded accordingly.