The number of ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jews working in the Israeli tech sector grew by 52% between 2014 and 2018, according to a new report released Tuesday.
The report was published by Israel Advanced Technology Industries (IATI), an umbrella organization of the tech and life science industries in Israel, and KamaTech, a nonprofit organization working to integrate Israel's ultra-Orthodox population into its technology industry.
According to the report, the number of Haredim studying tech-related subjects, working in the sector, or starting their own companies is on a rise, yet their average salaries are significantly lower than the industry standard.
As of 2018, the report showed, the number of Haredim employed in the tech industry was 9,700. This still amounts to just around 3% of the total number of employees in the sector, while Haredim amount to some 12% of Israel’s population.
The rise in the number of Haredi tech employees goes hand in hand with a growing number of Haredi students in universities and colleges majoring in tech-related subjects. In 2014, 1,050 Haredi students studied tech-related subjects, amounting to 3.8% of students in the field, compared to 1,417 and 4.1% in 2018. This represents a 35% increase in the number of Haredi tech students.
When taking into account the number of graduates the leap is far more significant. According to the report, in 2008, only 19 ultra-Orthodox Jews graduated from an academic institution with a degree in a tech-related subject. This number multiplied by more than 11 in 2018, with 216 graduates.
In recent years, more and more Haredi women have entered the workforce, with 76% of working-age Haredi women employed in 2018, a slightly higher rate than 74.2% among the non-Haredi population. The number of employed ultra-Orthodox men, on the other hand, was just 51.7%, compared with 86.9% among the general population.
As of 2018, 71% of Haredi tech employees, 6,900, were women, compared to just 2,800 men. Of the total number of ultra-Orthodox female employees, 5% work in tech, slightly lower than 6.5% among non-Haredi women. Among Haredi men that are employed, just 3.6% work in tech, compared to 10.4% in the general population.
According to data from the Israel Tax Authority, the average salary of a Haredi tech employee is NIS 10,830 (approximately $3,170) a month, compared to an average monthly wage of NIS 22,479 (approximately $6,585) among non-Haredi tech workers. Haredi tech workers without an academic degree make an average of NIS 9,786 (approximately $2,870) a month, Haredim with a college degree in a relevant field make an average of NIS 16,692 (approximately $4,900) a month, and Haredi workers with university degrees in relevant fields make an average of NIS 25,698 (approximately $7,530) a month. In every one of these education levels, Haredi tech employees consistently make less than non-Haredi employees in tech.
The report offers several explanations for the wage gap between Haredi and non-Haredi tech employees. As women account for the majority of the ultra-Orthodox tech workforce, the report suggests the gap results from these employees’ preference to work shorter hours and remain within a Haredi environment, which limits their employment options. Also, the report claims, Haredi women tend to be less career-oriented and more focused on providing for their families.
The good news appears to be that the wage gap narrows down with experience. Comparing the wages of Haredi and non-Haredi women in tech suggests a NIS 1,986 (approximately $580) monthly gap for fresh graduates, a NIS 1,628 (approximately $480) gap one year after graduation, and a gap of just NIS 610 (approximately $180) four years after graduation. In addition, the wages of non-Haredi women see a slight decrease two years after graduation while the wages of Haredi women remain in a constant upward trend as experience accumulates.
According to a survey conducted by the Haredi Institute for Public Affairs, the majority of Haredi seminar (ultra-Orthodox high schools for girls) graduates in other sectors make less than NIS 6,000 (approximately $1,760) a month—these include 97% of Haredi women employed as secretaries, 82% of those employed in education, and around half of those working in accounting. In tech, however, just 10% of Haredi female employees make less than NIS 6,000 a month. Of all Haredi women in tech, 21% make NIS 6,000-NIS 7,999 (approximately $1,760-$2,340) a month, around 25% make NIS 8,000-NIS 10,000 (approximately $2,340-$2,930) monthly, and 44% make over make more than NIS 10,000 a month.
According to data from Israeli government investment arm the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA), since it launched a special program for young companies, 100 startups founded by Haredi entrepreneurs applied and 33 received a grant, while, among the general population, around 42% of applications are approved for a grant. According to IIA, 5%-9% of the applications it receives now come from ultra-Orthodox entrepreneurs.
IATI and KamaTech’s report was presented to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in a meeting at his residence Tuesday. “This report indicates tech is the optimal sector for integrating the Haredi population into the Israeli workforce, as it is a group focused on education and learning and is highly committed and dedicated,” Rivlin said in a statement. “There are no magic solutions when it comes to training,” Rivlin added, “and it is crucial to make sure that Haredi candidates do not fall short in skills compared to their peers in the general population.” According to Rivlin, the integration of the Haredi population into the general workforce is in the direct interest of the state of Israel, whose continued prosperity depends upon it.
Especially at a time like now, when Israel is at a deep financial and employment crisis, it is crucial to accelerate the integration of Haredi workers within the country’s tech and general workforce, KamaTech CEO Moshe Friedman said in a statement. “With the right investment and budgets, it is possible to significantly strengthen the integration trend and the Israeli economy with it,” he said. Any future plan should focus on increasing wages and improving tech training among the Haredi population, he added.