‘Ultra-Orthodox employment more important than draft’

Economics Minister Naftali Bennett says labor market will soon see massive influx of religious workers

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Naftali Bennett at a party meeting on March 18, 2013 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Naftali Bennett at a party meeting on March 18, 2013 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Integration of ultra-Orthodox Israelis into the workforce is more important than a universal draft law to mandate the religious community’s enlistment in the military, said Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday.

Speaking at a conference in Tel Aviv, Bennett claimed that “the issue of employment opportunities for the ultra-Orthodox community is important and even more necessary than military service.”

“We will soon see a massive influx of ultra-Orthodox workers joining the job market,” Bennett said, without elaborating.

According to statistics cited in The New York Times and the Washington Institute in 2012, more than 60 percent of Israel’s approximately 700,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews are unemployed.

“Our test is to ensure they are integrated into the right, productive places,” he claimed.

Earlier this week, outgoing Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer said in his annual report that Israel’s unemployment rate was “stable at its lowest level of the past 30 years” and noted that, despite the economic slowdown of 2012, “employment and labor force participation rates continued to rise.”

Bennett’s statements appeared to be part of the newly inducted minister’s push to increase employment rates in Israel’s weakest economic sectors. At a conference in Ramle on Wednesday, Bennett called on employers to hire more ultra-Orthodox and Arab women.

“These sectors’ talents have yet to be exhausted, and for every employer who is looking for business, it will pay off in every aspect possible,” he said. “Open your lines to the ultra-Orthodox and Arab women and you will find it will do your company good.”

Earlier on Thursday, the Jerusalem municipality pressed charges against Bennett for hanging political posters and signs in dozens of unauthorized locations across Jerusalem during the campaign leading up to January’s national elections.

Bennett’s office responded to the allegations, saying that “the party’s activists may have been too enthusiastic and we will, of course, investigate it.”

“It is important to maintain the appearance of the city and cleanliness,” the party added.

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