Avigdor Liberman is putting in overtime to convince Israeli voters that this election is about Religion, State and Chareidim (the Ultra-Orthodox)- when it is only about dethroning Netanyahu, distancing Liberman’s former close partners – the Chareidim, from the government, and if his latest faux pas is any indication, to maneuver his way into the premiership.
We’ve all heard claims how Chareidim don’t work, that Chareidim don’t go to the army, that Chareidim don’t carry their share of the national burden. Liberman’s supporters are saying Liberman is raising this anti-Chareidi / anti-religious flag for their own good and ours.
The tone, the rhetoric, the Sinat Chinam is horrifying – and far too many people accept these statements/assumptions as fact.
Here at the Muqata, we had a theory we wanted to test. What if these assumptions are not really true or not completely true, how would we prove it? And if these claims don’t reflect reality what do we need to look at instead?
We decided to examine the data for ourselves, and discovered that everyone is comparing apples to oranges.
Chareidim (Not) in the IDF
Back in June, as part of a discussion on IDF service and Liberman, we were confronted with some very wild anti-Chareidi claims. We noticed something interesting.
True, if you compare the overall percentages of Chareidim that haven’t done the army to non-Chareidim, the difference is huge, and will remain huge.
But we asked ourselves, is that really the right way to look at the numbers and the situation?
A 30-something Chareidi man with six children will never be going into the army, so those statistics don’t actually tell you anything useful, other than he is never going to go into the army.
The real questions that need to be asked are:
(1) What percentage of Chareidim that are required right now to go into the army, are actually enlisting?
(2) How does that percentage compare to previous years?
(3) How does that compare to non-Chareidim that have to enlist now also?
(1) 34% of Chareidi males obligated to enlist in the IDF or Sheirut Leumi in 2017 were enlisted, according to a 2018 IDI study. 83% of those Chareidim joined the IDF, many of them in combat, cyber and intelligence units.
(2) That percent that enlisted is up 5% from 2016, and that percent has been going up every year.
To put it in perspective, in 2007, only 270 eligible Chareidim enlisted in the IDF vs. 3685 in 2017 (including Sheirut Leumi). This is an incredible upward trend in just 10 years.
According to a Knesset report, in 2017, there were 7066 Chareidim in active IDF service.
As the Chareidi population is growing, not only are the percentages higher than previous years, the absolute numbers are larger too.
(3) Among the non-Chareidi (male) population, it appears that IDF enlistment is estimated at 85%. (It’s actually hard to find real numbers on that.)
If the current upward Chareidi conscription trend were to continue at the current pace (it’s admittedly a big stretch to believe it can be sustained for that long), you could expect to see parity in around a decade. But even if the conscription rates manage to reach a difference of only 30% before tapering off, that’s a clear win.
Conclusion on IDF Service:
When you look at the relevant statistics, you see a completely different picture than what is portrayed by Liberman and the media.
You see a society that is integrating. You see a society that is catching up to their non-Chareidi counterparts in terms of service. You see a society that is undergoing both evolutionary and revolutionary changes at a healthy pace that is non-destructive to their society.
You then realize that the argument that Charedim don’t go to the army is not only blown out of proportion, but is false and must be rejected.
Chareidim (Not) in the Workforce
It’s become popular to point out that it is even more important for Israel’s economic well-being that Chareidim participate in the workforce than that they join the IDF. But the claim is that Chareidim also don’t work. Or more specifically, that most Chareidi men don’t work.
We again decided to examine the data and not accept what common knowledge and Liberman keep feeding us, and discovered something else quite interesting.
Everyone has been comparing apples to oranges when it comes to Chareidim in the workforce.
Here are some interesting and relevant facts and tidbits about Chareidim.
Chareidim earn less than non-Chareidim. Chareidim live on less than non-Chareidim. Chareidim choose to work in different fields than non-Chareidim. Chareidim spend their money differently than non-Chareidim – they even buy different types of bread. Chareidim volunteer more than non-Chareidim (excluding Datiim). Chareidim are more likely to give charity than non-Chareidim. Chareidim get married younger than non-Chareidim. Chareidim (83%) are more likely to be married than non-Chareidim (63%). A young Chareidi is 3 times more like to own an investment apartment (15%) than a non-Chareidi (5%). Only 42% of Chareidim own a car, compared to 80% of non-Chareidi Jews.
The average 25-year-old Chareidi man is in a completely different place in life than the average non-Chareidi man. If nothing else, he’s more likely to be married with children.
And all that is what bothered us about the data and conclusions we are being shown.
All the statistics we’ve seen until now separately compared the number of Chareidi men working, the number of Chareidi women working, and then compared that to their non-Chareidi male and female counterparts.
It’s very Tzanuah (modest) of them to present it that way, but it doesn’t represent certain social and fiscal realities in Israel.
Is that really a fair comparison? Is it even a relevant comparison?
Why are we comparing individuals when we should be comparing households?
In a household it doesn’t matter if the husband or wife is working (certainly not in a progressive household), only if they are making enough money to support their household unit and chosen lifestyle.
We looked around, but couldn’t find any comparisons of how many households have at least one breadwinner.
One of our Muqata researchers turned to Dr. Asher Meir, Director of Economic Research at the Kohelet Policy Center, and asked him the following simple question:
(Note: Any factual mistakes below in interpreting the data are our own, and not Dr. Meir’s. This report is not endorsed by Kohelet or Dr. Meir.)
What percent of Chareidi households have at least one breadwinner compared to non-Chareidi households (and Arab households)?
It turns out that this isn’t a simple question either, one of the primary reasons is that Charedim households are younger (Chareidim marry younger), so the comparison is also not one-for-one.
But the answer (based on raw 2017 survey data we received from Kohelet) to the question of how many households have at least one breadwinner is as follows :
Non-Chareidim: 80.1% | Chareidim: 84.6% | Arabs: 79.5%.
Read those numbers again. What you see above is not a mistake.
Dr. Asher suggested we eliminate households where at least one person is receiving old-age benefits (even if the other spouse is still working) we discover the following:
Non-Chareidim: 94.1% | Chareidim: 88.9% | Arabs: 87.3%
(Sidebar: This jump suggests to me that in non-Chareidi households, both spouses tend to retire around the same time which explains the 14% increase in household employment, while in Chareidi households, the other spouse often continues to work, so the jump is smaller. Regarding the inversion of who is higher when retirees are removed from the data-set, the cause of that is unclear to me right now without further research.)
In simple English what do these statistics mean?
It means that most Israelis households have at least one breadwinner who is working and supporting the family.
Regarding the average number of breadwinners a household has:
Non-Chareidim: 1.88 | Chareidim: 1.48 | Arabs: 1.46
Those number are of course irrelevant, as it represents a lifestyle choice, not whether or not a household is an economic burden on society.
What does this mean for the question as to whether or not Chareidim are participating in the workforce?
The answer is that when comparing household to household, there is no effective difference between Chareidi and non-Chareidi Jews. Both family household units work and support themselves.
(Not) Living on the Dole
Looking at 2016 CBS data, Hilonim (completely secular Jews) make the most money and have the least mouths to feed in their household, and as one gets more religious, the less money one makes and the more mouths there are to feed (the same 2016 survey also states that Chareidim self-report being more satisfied with their lives).
But here’s where the numbers get interesting.
Chareidi households on average receive NIS 3191 in financial assistance (combined government, organizational, and family sources), vs. NIS 2100 for Chiloni families.
But in terms of standard government assistance (such as children allowances from Bituach Leumi), Chareidim (with 5.3 average children) receive the least amount from Bituach Leumi from all those in the religious categories – just NIS 1639.
The religious group that receives the most government assistance are not Chareidim, but rather the Mesorati (traditional) category at close to NIS 1821 per month. The Dati category received NIS 1678 per month.
Hilonim (with an average of 2.6 children) receive NIS 1473 from Bituach Leumi.
So, it’s safe to say that one can stop repeating the myth that Chareidim are sucking the country dry through Bituach Leumi.
Other Interesting Differences
Chareidim are slightly above average in home ownership (68.6%). Their homes tend to be more crowded and cheaper. Hilonim are least likely to own a home (62.3%), and if they do own one it will be more expensive and not crowded with people.
A young Chareidi couple is 3 times more likely to invest in an apartment (in the periphery of the country) than their Hiloni counterpart.
By the way, 78.3% of Arabs own their homes (and 97% if they are very religious), though the value of their homes is only around half of that of Jewish-owned homes. They also squeeze more people into them.
Conclusions from the Work Force
What becomes clear is that Chareidi households are not a drag on Israeli society and tax payers as Liberman and friends may claim. Israeli households and society are holding their own and doing their part.
Chareidim make less money and spend less money. Their purchasing patterns are also very different. And those are all valid lifestyle choices.
What becomes clear is that Chareidim are not economic burdens on society.
When comparing household to household – which is the only comparison that matters – Chareidim households are on par with the rest of Israeli society.
Are Hilonim Sharing in the Burden?
The same unfair question can of course be turned around. Are secular Jews doing their share for Israeli society?
The data shows that when it comes volunteering and charity, Hilonim are not giving close to what their Chareidi counterparts are giving back to their fellow Israelis. (Before you mention reserve duty as volunteering, you should be aware that according to a 2016 report, only 25% of eligible Israelis do reserve duty, or enough to be considered active reservists.)
Hiloni households are also not doing their share in the demographics battle with the Arabs. It’s the Chareidim that are out-birthing the Arabs and maintaining Israel’s demographic balance, and it is the Chareidim that are bearing the financial burden of the demographics battle.
The next time you hear Avigdor Liberman complain about Chareidim not carrying their share of the national burden and that drastic action is needed to fix the situation, you’ll now know that not only is Liberman completely wrong, you can ask him, why aren’t his Hiloni voters doing their share for their fellow Israelis?
In reality, neither question is fair to ask. Israel is a mosaic and every community is contributing in their own way to make Israel a dynamic, vibrant society. Everyone is shouldering the burden in their own way, but there are far too many false claims made against Chareidi society that simply aren’t backed up by the data – especially when you start to compare data points that more accurately represent real life in Israel.