OECD urges Israel to cut funding for yeshivas

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development releases report calling on Israel to make drastic cuts to subsidies for yeshivas, and to increase funding for Arab schools.

By World Israel News Staff

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released its annual report on Tuesday, which included recommendations for Israel to curtail funding for yeshivas and to limit social spending on ultra-Orthodox families.

In its report, the OECD voiced concerns regarding the future of the Israeli economy, noting that while the country has a “thriving hi-tech industry,” employment levels, education levels, work hours, and wages for members of the country’s ultra-Orthodox and Arab sectors remain relatively low.

Given the high growth rate of both these sectors, the OECD’s economists recommend that Jerusalem take immediate steps aimed at greater integration of Arab-Israelis and ultra-Orthodox men into higher education and academic degree programs.

“Certain groups, especially the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) and Arab-Israelis, are underrepresented in the thriving high-tech sector, and have low employment rates, working hours and wages.”

Among other things, the report recommends Israel take dramatic steps to disincentivize extended study in yeshivas by married ultra-Orthodox men.

Specifically, the OECD urged Israel to “remove government subsidies for yeshiva students.”

Furthermore, the government should scale back social programs for ultra-Orthodox families and “condition childcare support on [the] fathers’ employment.”

The report also urged Jerusalem to increase funding for Arab schools and for childcare programs in Arab-majority towns, to incentivize Arab women to seek careers.

The OECD recommendations challenge the Israeli government’s increased financial support for married yeshiva students – a key issue for the coalition’s ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism.

Former Finance Minister and Yisrael Beytenu party chairman Avidgor Liberman lauded the OECD report, saying the organization was “fully adopting my approach on the matter of ending subsidies for people who don’t get a profession and education, and evade joining the workforce.”

Tuesday’s report also argues that Israel should reduce tariffs and other trade barriers, and to transition Israel’s power grid to renewable energy sources.