A letter signed by 280 of Israel's most senior economists has expressed opposition to the government's budget, which will be presented to the Knesset this week, and includes a significant increase in funding for the haredi sector.
"We lecturers in in economics and management reinforce the cautions given by Ministry of Finance senior officials and warn that the transfers of funds within the framework of the coalition agreements, as reflected in the upcoming budget that will be voted on this week, would result in significant and long-term damage to Israel's economy and its future as a prosperous country. This is due to the unprecedented increase in the allocation of resources to non-official haredi educational institutions, without being contingent on mandatory supervision and full core studies, and due to the increase in financial support for yeshiva students and the granting of food stamps through channels outside the normal welfare system, regardless of any employment test," the economists wrote, after the government increased coalition funds by more than a NIS 1 billion to NIS 13.6 billion.
The letter's signatories include former Ministry of Finance director general Prof. Avi Ben-Bassat, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Avia Spivak, Prof. Eitan Sheshinski and former Chairman of the National economic Council Prof. Eugene Kandel.
According to letter, these measures will deny haredi children in education the opportunity to acquire basic skills essential for their integration as graduates into the job market in an advanced economy, and will reduce the incentive of haredi graduates to integrate into this market.
"Unfortunately, the Israeli government not only does not deal with this dire issue, but also chooses measures that exacerbate the problem and push the future of Israel's economy towards the Third World. The Israeli government must come to its senses and reconsider the allocation of coalition funds that are now given for short-term political considerations, But they will turn Israel in the long-term from a progressive and prosperous country into a backward country where a large part of the population lacks basic skills for life in the 21st century," the letter claims.
According to the economists, already today, almost 25% of children under school age are born to haredi families, and this proportion is expected to double by 2050. "There is a consensus among Israeli economists that the ability of these children to integrate into the job market in the future, earn a decent living and pay taxes, is a crucial issue regarding the future of the Israeli economy. The research clearly shows that children who do not study core studies to the full extent have great difficulty overcoming this as adults, while the average level of knowledge of Israeli students in math, science, and reading is lower than that of all developed countries. The government should considerably upgrade the Israeli education system as a whole, including the haredi education system. To enable integration into the job market, children need to receive an education that enables this, and adults need to receive incentives to do so."
Today's letter follows a warning last week on the same issue of haredi education by three senior Ministry of Finance officials: budget department head Yogev Gradus, chief economist Shira Greenberg and legal advisor Asi Messing.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on May 21, 2023.
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