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Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Community in Israel:
Facts and Figures

(2020)

Population
Employment
National Service
Education
Marriage
Poverty
Income and Expenditures
Housing
Car ownership
Technology
Health
Politics


Population

The natural growth of the ultra-Orthodox population over the past decade has remained steady. The ultra-Orthodox population is relatively young, and numbered more than 1.1 million in 2020. Ultra-Orthodox women marry at a younger age and their fertility rates are more than double that of the general population. The ultra-Orthodox are also having their first child later. In 2004, an ultra-Orthodox woman aged 20-24 had an average of 1.7 children; today they have 1 child.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews As Percentage of Population
(thousands)

  2009 2014 2020
  Number % of Total Number % of Total Number % of Total
Ultra-Orthodox 750 10% 911 11% 1,175 13%
Other Jews 5,267 70% 5,560 68% 5,695 61%
Arab Israelis 1,536 20% 1,713 21% 1,956 21%
             
Total 7,553   8,184   8,826  
Note: Total does not include non-Arabs. Percentages for 2020 are of total Israeli population including non-Arabs.
Source: Israel Democracy Institute 

Demographics
(2020)

  Ultra-Orthodox Other Jews
Natural growth 4.2% 1.4%
Age 0-19* 58% 30%
Fertility rate 6.5 3.1
*2018 Figures

Employment

As of 2019, the employment rate among ultra-Orthodox men is 53%, and 77% among ultra-Orthodox women. The last decade (2009–2018) has seen a decline in the percentage of ultra-Orthodox men working in the field of education (from 31% to 27%), alongside a rise in the percentage working in commerce (from 11% in 2009 to 14% in 2018). Among ultra-Orthodox women, the decline in the percentage employed in the field of education has been sharper – from 57% in 2009 to 39.5% in 2018.

Percentage Employed
2019

  Men Women
Ultra-Orthodox 53 77
Other Jews (2016) 87 82

National Service

Ultra-Orthodox Enlisting in the IDF or Serving in National Service
  National Service IDF
2007 290  
2008 390 437
2009 730 970
2010 1000 1109
2011 1282 1190
2012 1458 612
2013 1972 953
2014 2203 634
2015 2475 877
2016 2850 667
2017 3070 615

Education

In 2019, ultra-Orthodox students made up 19% of the student population in Israel. The annual growth rate of the ultra-Orthodox system slowed down in the past five years from 4.2% in 2013 to 3.5% in 2019. By contrast, the annual growth rate of the state school system rose over the same period from 0.5% to 2.3%.

There are two possible explanations for this phenomenon: the falling birth rate in the ultra-Orthodox sector; and the decline in the attractiveness of ultra-Orthodox schools for families who are not explicitly ultra-Orthodox in observance.

Another interesting trend is the rise in the percentage of ultra-Orthodox who take the matriculation exams, from 23% in 2005 to 34% in 2019. This increase is particularly evident among ultra-Orthodox girls, 55% of whom are now taking the matriculation exams (2019), compared to only 31% in 2009. The figure for ultra-Orthodox boys has declined from 16% to 13%.

Students Taking Matriculation Exams
(2016)

  National and National Religious School System Ultra-Orthodox School System
% of 12th grade students taking matriculation exams 94% 33%
% qualifying for a matriculation certificate 11% 76%

In 2019, 140,614 ultra-Orthodox men attended yeshivas and kollelim (religious seminaries), up 34% since 2014.  

In 2018–2019, there were a total of approximately 13,100 ultra-Orthodox students in higher education institutions in Israel, representing 4% of the total student population. There is a clear female majority here as well, with women constituting 67.5% of all ultra-Orthodox students. 

Over the last decade (2010–2019), there has been an almost three-fold increase in the number of ultra-Orthodox students (men and women) in programs leading towards an academic degree. In 2019–2020, following several years of stagnation, the number of ultra-Orthodox students rose again, by some 9–12 % among women and 3% among men.

The number of ultra-Orthodox students in advanced degree programs has risen even more dramatically, reaching 1,630—five times more than in 2010. In the 2019–2020 academic year alone, a 17% increase was recorded over the previous year.

The distribution of undergraduate subjects studied by ultra-Orthodox students is different from that for the general student population. Ultra-Orthodox students seem to prefer practical subjects that will make it possible to work within the ultra-Orthodox community, such as education and teaching (31% of ultra-Orthodox students, compared with 15% of the general student population), and paramedical subjects (10% versus 5% respectively), as well as subjects considered relatively easy in terms of acceptance requirements, such as business administration (10% of ultra-Orthodox students compared with 8.5% of the general student population).

Marriage

There has been a rise in age at marriage in recent years: while in 2003-2004, 77% of ultra-Orthodox Israelis aged 20-29 were married, as compared with 73% in 2010-2011 and today stands at just 67%..

Marriage Rates (under 20)
(2016-17)
   
Ultra-Orthodox 83%
Other Jews 63%

Poverty

The prevalence of poverty is much greater among ultra-Orthodox Israelis than in the general population - 45% in 2017 in comparison with 11% among other Jewish Israelis. Nonetheless this is a sharp decrease, down from 58% in 2005, when government stipends were cut.

Income and Expenditures

The average gross monthly income for an ultra-Orthodox household in 2018 was 58% lower than the equivalent figure for other Jewish households. The ultra-Orthodox average increased 17% since 2015 compared to 11% for other Jews.

Average Monthly Income (NIS)
  2015 2018
Ultra-Orthodox 12,616 14,745
Other Jews 20,807 23,235

 

Per capita income in ultra-Orthodox households was NIS 3,917, 52% of the equivalent figure for other Jewish households (NIS 7,531). This discrepancy can be explained by the high average size of ultra-Orthodox households (5.2 persons) relative to the average in other Jewish households (2.9 persons); the difference in the average number of income earners (1.3 in ultra-Orthodox households, compared with 1.5 in other Jewish households); and to lower income from employment (NIS 9,767 in ultra-Orthodox households, compared with NIS 18,191 in other Jewish households). The gaps in income may be smaller than would appear, however, due to higher levels of unreported income in the ultra-Orthodox sector.

The average monthly expenditure for an ultra-Orthodox household in 2018 was 16% lower than for other Jewish households (NIS 14,651 versus NIS 16,936), even though ultra-Orthodox households are larger. The average monthly tax expenditure for ultra-Orthodox households—on income tax, National Insurance payments, and health tax—is only around one-third (34%) of that for other Jewish households (NIS 1,524 versus NIS 4,461).

Housing

As or 2017, 74% ultra-Orthodox own an apartment, down from 79% a decade ago while in the general Jewish population there was no significant change during those years. The change is particularly dramatic among ultra-Orthodox aged 20-29. A decade ago 60% owned the apartment they lived in and 33% rented. Today, only 50% own the apartment they live in and 47% are renting.

About 15% of the young ultra-Orthodox own housing they purchased as an investment, compared to 5% among the general Jewish population. This confirms the claim that many of the young ultra-Orthodox who marry, are required to buy an apartment as a condition for approval of the wedding. They buy an apartment at low prices in the periphery, rent it out, and live in a rented apartment in more central areas.

Car ownership

Between 2003–2017 the number of ultra-Orthodox Israelis who own a car increased by 35% (up from 31% to 42%) as compared with 80% of the general Jewish population. However, only 29% of ultra-Orthodox women have a driving license, compared to 59% of ultra-Orthodox men.

Technology

Use a Computer (ages 20+)
  2007 2017
Ultra-Orthodox 44% 54%

 

Health

Believe Their Health is Good
  2017
Ultra-Orthodox 73%
Other Jews 51%

Most of the ultra-Orthodox report that they did not have to forgo medical treatment (92%), medications (95%) or hot meals (95%), despite the high poverty rates (45%) among this population. Accordingly, the ultra-Orthodox trust in the health system is high and stands at 76%, similar to the non-ultra-Orthodox Jewish population. 94% of the ultra-Orthodox have their children vaccinated, the same rate as that among the general Israeli population.

Politics

Israel has historically had religious parties. In 2020, the two main ultra-Orthodox parties are the  Sephardic Shas Party and United Torah Judaism. In 2020, for the first time, a female ultra-orthodox politician was given a cabinet post. Omer Yankelevich, from the non-religious Kahol Lavan Party was appointed Diaspora Affairs Minister.


Sources: The 2018 Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel is conducted by Dr. Gilad Malach and Dr. Lee Cahaner from the Israel Democracy Institute and is based on data provided by the Central Bureau of Statistics, government agencies, the IDF and the National Insurance Institute;
Tom Gross, “First female Ethiopian-born and ultra-orthodox Israeli cabinet ministers sworn in, Mideast Dispatch, (May 18, 2020);
The Israel Democracy Institute’s 2020 Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel:  Ultra-Orthodoxy and Higher Education, Press Release, IDI, (December 31, 2020);
The Israel Democracy Institute’s 2020 Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel: Economic Overview, Press Release, IDI, (December 31, 2020).