Skip to main content

Number of working Orthodox women on the rise

Over the past few years more and more ultra-Orthodox women are seeking work in the secular Israeli labor market, though not everyone in ultra-Orthodox society accepts this.
An ultra-Orthodox woman works at Matrix Global, a hi-tech company, in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Modiin Illit April 3, 2011. Ultra-Orthodox or "Haredi" women are exempt from the demands of religious studies imposed on men and the Bank of Israel says the past decade has seen "a significant increase" in ultra-Orthodox women's employment rate, now almost at 60 percent. To match Feature ISRAEL-ULTRAORTHODOX/ECONOMY   Picture taken April 3, 2011 REUTERS/Darren Whiteside (WEST BANK - Tags: RELIGION BUSINE

When Shaindy Babad, an ultra-Orthodox American immigrant, arrived in Israel in 1994, she decided that she wanted to work in a high-tech company. At the time, it was still not commonly accepted for ultra-Orthodox women in Israel to enter the workforce. “I worked as a secretary, and my salary was 11.9 shekels [about $3] per hour, which was then the minimum wage,” she recalls. “I spent 12 years working for the company, and ended up a manager.”

While the general employment rate of Israeli women has stood at a steady 75% for the past few years, the employment rate of ultra-Orthodox women has been growing consistently. In the second quarter of 2014, for instance, it reached 79.5%, surpassing the overall number of women employed nationally, according to figures provided by the Central Bureau of Statistics. Yet Babad believes that these figures might be a little misleading: “Even people who work for two hours a week are defined as employed, and it goes without saying that those people are not earning a livelihood. As far as I am concerned, an ultra-Orthodox woman who has a part-time job is not part of the workforce.”

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.