More than 50 percent of ultra-Orthodox men are participating in the workforce for the first time in recorded Israeli history, the Central Bureau of Statistics said. The new numbers marked a continuation of a 12-year trend, the CBS reported this week.

In 1995 male ultra-Orthodox participation in the workforce hit 48% and seemed to be on the rise, but then the trend reversed, dipping as low as 36% in 2003. In that same year, then-finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu implemented a series of welfare cutbacks designed to promote participation in the Israeli workforce. Since then numbers have been steadily on the rise, and have finally passed 50% among male Haredim.

The data presented by the CBS show that Haredi women have an even more impressive presence in the workforce, with 73% of them working. This compares to workforce participation among the general Jewish population of 80%.

The city that features the largest Haredi workforce participation is Bnei Brak, where 82% go to work.

Ultra-Orthodox men study toward professional degrees at Kemach, a Jerusalem-based organization that guides Haredim through study programs and job placement. (photo credit: Kemach/JTA)

Ultra-Orthodox men study toward professional degrees at Kemach, a Jerusalem-based organization that guides Haredim through study programs and job placement. (photo credit: Kemach/JTA)

The participation in the workforce among male Haredim is still far smaller than in the general Jewish population, where 86% of males work. Still, in an interview with Channel 2, Dr. Gilad Malach, researcher of Haredi culture at the Israel Democracy Institute, called the new numbers “a historic change” and said they show that Haredim have gone from being a Torah-learning society to a working and Torah-learning society.

According to Malach, the rising numbers of working Haredim within Israeli society is bound to bring about major historical, sociological and cultural changes.