Special Survey

An Increase Among Ultra-Orthodox Men Enrollment in Higher Education and Yeshivas

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Ultra-Orthodox Jews now make up 13% of Israelis, and are continuing to grow rapidly. In 2020, the pandemic led to an increase in the number of applicants for professional and academic training, especially among ultra-Orthodox men

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The Israel Democracy Institute published its sixth annual Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel today (Thursday). The survey presences recent trends in ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) society in a range of areas, including standard of living, education, employment, social mobility, leisure, and lifestyles.

Dr. Lee Cahaner and Dr. Gilad Malach, editors of the Statistical Report:

"The ultra-Orthodox society in Israel makes up 13% of the general population and, despite some slowdown continues to grow rapidly. Education tracks for Haredi women adequately prepares them for entering the labor force – however the education tracks for Haredi men still lag behind. IDI data indicates that the rate of employed Haredi women continues to rise in compared to Haredi men. In addition, both Haredi men and women's income is relatively low in comparison with the income of other Jews. The more significant impact of the pandemic on the employment rate of ultra-Orthodox men compared to ultra-Orthodox women, emphasized the low level of employment resilience of Haredi men. The appearance of COVID-19 in 2020 led to an increase in the number of applicants for professional and academic training, especially among ultra-Orthodox men. In the coming years we will we know if this signifies a change in trend or an isolated incident.”

Main Findings:

Population and Population Growth

The ultra-Orthodox population in Israel stands at around 1,226,000 (up from 750,000 in 2009). Its relative proportion grew from 10% in 2009 to 13% in 2021.

The Education System and the Yeshiva World

The ultra-Orthodox education system at (under age 18) had 362,000 students in the 2020/2021 school year, constituting 19% of all students in Israel and 25% of students in the Hebrew-speaking educational system. Within a decade, there has been a real increase in the number of ultra-Orthodox students taking the matriculation exams - even if they are not eligible for a certificate - which has risen from 24% to 37% (2008-2019). During these years, the rate of eligibility for matriculation in ultra-Orthodox society even rose from 11% to 14%, 5% among ultra-Orthodox boys and 22% among ultra-Orthodox girls. Eligibility for matriculations among other Jews is 81%.

Yeshiva and Kollel students: In 2020, the number of yeshiva and kollel students (18+) was 146,150 - an increase of about 5,500 students compared to 2019.

In 2020, the number of yeshiva students increased by 8.3% to 41,443 students, possibly due to a lack of supervision and oversights of these frameworks during the pandemic.

In the same year the number of kollel students increased by about 4%, similar to the rate of growth of the ultra-Orthodox population. In this year, there were 94,322 yeshiva and kollel students, which reflects the deep seated norm in Haredi society regarding Torah studies. 47% of the ultra-Orthodox in the main working ages (25-64) study in kollels and yeshivas.

Yeshiva and Kollel Students (not including students from abroad), 2012-2020

Higher education – In 2020/21, about 14,700 ultra-Orthodox students studied in institutions of higher education, constituting 4.5% of all students in Israel. After a limited increase in recent years, this year the number of ultra-Orthodox students increased to nearly 2,000 (about 14%), with the increase among ultra-Orthodox men slightly larger than that among ultra-Orthodox women. A significant part of the increase in the number of students, which was also recorded in the general public (5.5%), can be attributed to the pandemic, and in the coming years we will be able to see if this signifies a change in trend.

Composition of students: 67.5% of Haredi students are women, about 12,100 of Haredi students (82%) study for a bachelor's degree, and about 2,600 study for a master's degree, the vast majority for a master's degree.

A large majority of ultra-Orthodox undergraduate students studied in 2019/20 in colleges (45%) in colleges of education (24%), and only a minority in mainstream universities (11%) and in Open University (20%).

Ultra-Orthodox Students, Men and Women, in Higher Education (2009/10-2020/21)

The rate of ultra-Orthodox students dropping out of academic colleges and universities (7.8% and 5.4%), has dropped, similar to the data of other Jewish students.

The proportion of ultra-Orthodox students who do not continue a second year of study is higher than that of other Jewish Israelis (10% vs. 7%), but this phenomenon is prevalent mainly in colleges of education (27%), and in most cases is not dropout but completion of a short course by ultra-Orthodox students.

The age of male ultra-Orthodox male undergraduate students is on average higher than the age of male among other Jewish students, with 42% of them aged 30 and over. Among ultra-Orthodox female students, the phenomenon is the opposite: 42% of ultra-Orthodox female undergraduate students are under the age of 21.

Technological training – About 4,900 ultra-Orthodox students studied in the technological training tracks in 2020. This year, the "COVID year", there was a 26.5% increase in the number of male ultra-Orthodox students, but they still make up only about 7% of male students studying in these tracks. Within 6 years, there was a 54% increase in the number of ultra-Orthodox students in the technological training professions.

About half of the ultra-Orthodox students studied software engineering (49%), and other popular subjects are architecture and interior design (18%) and civil engineering (9%). Only about a third (34%) of ultra-Orthodox students in technological training are men, similar to the percentage of ultra-Orthodox men among the ultra-Orthodox students in academia. Ultra-Orthodox men study mainly civil engineering (36%) or electrical engineering (22%). Ultra-Orthodox women study almost all of software engineering (62%) and architecture and interior design (21%), and constitute 28% of all female students in Israel in these tracks.

Occupation - Large differences exist between ultra-Orthodox workers and other Jewish workers in 2020: There is no noticeable trend of rapprochement between the industries in which ultra-Orthodox men are employed and the industries of the entire Jewish population, whereas there is a noticeable closing of the gap between ultra-Orthodox women and other Jewish Israelis.

A special segmentation shows that only 3% of ultra-Orthodox men were employed in the hi-tech sector, compared with 14% of other Jewish men. Among ultra-Orthodox women, the gap is small, 5% compared to 7% of other Jewish women. The proportion of ultra-Orthodox women working in high-tech has doubled between the years 2020-2014 (from 2.7% to 5%).

Among ultra-Orthodox men, close to a third (29%) were employed in education, compared with a few percent of non-ultra-Orthodox Jewish men (5%). Only 3% of ultra-Orthodox men were engaged in public administration and security, compared with 13% among non-ultra-Orthodox Jewish men.

Among ultra-Orthodox women, 39% were employed in education, compared with 17% of other Jewish women. The reason for this is first and foremost the large number of children in the ultra-Orthodox population, and the convenient working hours and the possibility of working within the community. 23% were employed in the field of health, welfare and social services (compared with 19% among other Jewish women). Only 3% in the field of public administration and security - compared to 10% of Jewish workers. Similarly, in the field of commerce, only 5% were employed compared to 10% of other Jewish women workers.

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.