Half of Israel’s population will be either Arab or strictly Orthodox by the year 2059, researchers say.
Analysts reacting to the findings from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), said the most shocking statistic was the projected growth of the Charedi community, with “almost one million more than expected”.
The last CBS report in 2012 predicted Israel’s Charedi population by that date would total 4.5 million, but latest figures have risen dramatically to almost 5.3 million from a projected total of 18 million people.
Of these, 3.6 million are expected to be Arab, meaning the combined proportion of Orthodox and Arab Israelis will be 49 percent of the total.
Dr Gilad Malach, of the think-tank The Israel Democracy Institute (IDI), told the conference politicians and academics “must wake up to the need to integrate Charedim and Arab citizens into the economy and society, giving equal opportunities for success”.
Malach was speaking at a World Union of Progressive Judaism conference in Jerusalem to 450 lay leaders, rabbis, students and congregants from Progressive, Reform, and Liberal communities worldwide.
“It is time to stop treating Arabs and Charedim as liabilities who produce a drag on economic performance and treat them as resources that could vault Israel’s economy into the top 10 [countries] of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development,” he said.
Only 10 percent of strictly Orthodox students gain Israeli matriculation certificates compared with 70 percent of their non-Charedi peers, Malach said.
Likewise, while half of all Arab students gain matriculation certificates, Arab leaders say they subsequently face additional challenges not faced by Jewish students in finding highly-skilled work
The country’s top economists have long warned that low employment rates within both communities are unsustainable. Only half of Israel’s strictly Orthodox men of working age are employed, and whereas three quarters of strictly Orthodox women have jobs, fewer than a third of Arab women have an income.
However, Nasreen Hadad Haj-Yayha, head of IDI’s Arab-Jewish Relations programme, said there had been a 57 percent growth in Arab women’s employment over the past decade, while employment among Charedi males was also on the up.
“The investment in these communities over the past decade has led to positive results,” said Malach, “but there is still a long road ahead.”