The Israeli finance minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has frequently clashed with ḥaredi leaders, unveiled a plan this week to draw ḥaredi men to the workforce by “halving the hours spent in religious study in return for the same state stipend.” About half of ḥaredi men work while the rest study during the work week and receive state funding—a practice dating back to the formation of the state, when the ḥaredi population was far smaller. As Steven Scheer notes, this arrangement has long concerned economists and policymakers.
The Bank of Israel and economic leaders have warned of long-term strains on the budget if they are not integrated into the workforce—especially with the ultra-Orthodox population forecast to grow from 12.6 percent last year to 32 percent by 2065.
Under his plan, Lieberman—who has long believed ultra-Orthodox men should earn a living not based on handouts—said he would cut the hours men spend studying to 20, while still giving them the same state stipend.
“This will allow them to go to work,” he said.
Lieberman has already proposed requiring that both parents be employed to receive state subsidies for child daycare.