As part of a study by the Haredi Institute for Public Affairs carried out in the last two years, clear conclusions emerge regarding the need for urgent government reform in the professional training system in Haredi seminars for girls. In recent years, hundreds of millions of shekels have been invested in promoting Haredi employment, as a critical macroeconomic and social issue in Israel. But when discussing Haredi employment, it is important to take notice – today, Haredi people make up about 10% of the workforce in Israel, and about 60% of working Haredi people are Haredi women. In 20 years, the Haredi will make up 15% of the workforce.
Haredi women are substantial to the labor market in Israel today, and certainly in the near future. Especially regarding the issues of Haredi employment rates and quality, special emphasis should be given to them. Currently, the situation is far from ideal: a Haredi woman earns monthly on average 30% less than a Jewish non-Haredi woman. Hourly wages are not far off, and estimated to be 25% less for the Haredi woman (based on Israel Tax Authority data analyzed by the Haredi Institute).
The quality of employment is tightly connected to the quality of training that Haredi women receive. The initial and most significant training for the labor market is given to the vast majority of Haredi women as part of the Haredi seminars for girls: 150,000 Haredi women are working today, to which approximately 10,000 women are added every year, the vast majority of whom, over 8,500 girls per year, enter the labor market as soon as they complete the professional training in Haredi seminars. The seminars are not only the largest training body in Israel, but also the central and most important platform for training female graduates of the Haredi education system for the workforce. The training phase in the seminars is critical to the quality of the Haredi women’s employment: upon graduation from the seminary, most of them get married and go to work. Therefore, during the years of study in the professional training courses in the seminars, there is an almost unique opportunity to prepare the girls for the job market in a significant and professional way, and there is a fundamental importance to the quality of the professional trainings provided to them in these years, and the quality of their adaptation to the world of work.
In the research we conducted on the professional training in the Haredi seminars for girls, we found significant budget deficits in both the teaching and professional courses offered by the seminars, a complete lack of pedagogical guidance or assistance, and lackluster infrastructures that do not meet the needs of the training. The findings are all but symptoms of this fact – the government does not recognize the seminars’ important role in the professional training of Haredi women.
Building professional and high-quality training systems requires great resources: updating content to adapt it to the needs of employers, building new training programs, building a broad curriculum of soft skills and other required aptitudes. Seminars, which charge maximum tuition fees from their frequently poverty-stricken students and their families, do not have the necessary resources. Moreover, in parallel courses in academia such as accounting and software engineering, there is a budget of tens of thousands of shekels per year for each student, while in the very same courses taught in seminars and under full academic supervision, there is no budget at all.
The research findings raise the critical need for creating a national program for reforming the professional training in seminars, which will include two important parts: professionalism and job placement.
For professionalism – it is required to establish a governmental body that will be responsible for the content of the training programs in the seminars: this body will accompany the forming of the professional programs; produce enrichment content according to the skills required in the labor market; examine the need for new training programs and assist in their assembly; review the scope of the majors so that they are in line with the demands of the labor market; and budget fitting pedagogical infrastructures to that end.
For job placements – it is required to establish a placement system for the graduates of the seminars: a system with regional employment development units and branches of the center within the various seminars. the department will include professional sections, employer relations units and specializations, and will have the ability to assimilate and control the study programs in the seminars, professional enrichment and workshops for occupational development, job databases and more.
Only by taking systemic responsibility – budgetary, pedagogical and regulatory – the desperately needed change in Haredi employment will be made possible.
Yehudit Miletzky is head researcher in the field of employment at the Institute, and specializes in education and employment in the Haredi community, from gender-based, community-based and geographical perspectives.
The article was published in Hebrew in Calcalist on 11 April 2023