Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why is Charedi poverty in Israel getting worse? Part 2 - Updated

Yesterday I wrote about the "third generation effect" as a big reason for Charedi poverty. Today, I would like to discuss another important reason.

In the last 20 years, Western economies (I am including Israel for this discussion), have shifted from manufacturing economies to service/knowledge economies. This has had profound effects on workers with little education. In my parents generation, blue collar workers could make a decent middle class wage and could provide for their family. The 85% of Charedi men who worked in 1979 worked mainly in blue collar jobs and were able to support their families. Those types of jobs are gone today. Manufacturing jobs have moved to low wage countries like China, Vietnam, etc. and automation has eliminated thousands of jobs. On Chanuka, we took the kids on a tour of the Nesher cement factory in Ramle. The factory is huge (it is so big it has it's own power plant) and produces all of Israel's cement. We had to take a bus on the grounds to get around on the tour. And yet, this huge factory only employs some 250 people, many of them highly educated professionals. 50 years ago a plant like that would have provided thousands of jobs to blue collar workers. 

Unfortunately, this trend has negative ramifications for Charedim as well. Charedim in Israel receive little to no secular education and therefore even if/when they want to go out into the working world they aren't qualified to get a job that can support a large family. While learning Gemara may sharpen the mind in some ways, it is no substitute for math and science and computers and English. Without these it is very difficult to find a good job. 

The bottom line is that in today's economy there are very few good jobs remaining that don't require a lot of secular education, something that the Charedi leadership refuses to allow it's children to get. No education = no good jobs = poverty.

Here is a fascinating article about a Charedi girl who would not give up her dream of becoming a doctor and what she had to to do to fulfil it. It shows the sad reality of Charedi society and higher education.


bluke said...

I'm not sure how crucial math and science are for MOST jobs - I work in software development, and I don't recall ever using trigonometry or calculus; likewise physics (and certainly not chemistry or biology). English is, of course, crucial.

bluke said...

Because you work in software development and don't use trigonometry or calculus doesn't mean that a charedi kid down the road won't want to launch a career in engineering or physics...

Math and science (broadly speaking) occupy vitally important places in any curriculum, so as to lay the groundwork for broader career choice.

Problem is "Science" (again broadly speaking) is viewed as a threat by the Charedi world to their 'way of life', as it could lead one down the garden path to heresy. I don't agree that that's a good tack to take vis a vis education, but I can see where they would be coming from.

Math on the other hand... c'mon. Math?? Threatening? This one I can't fathom.

bluke said...

"Multiplication and division? Everyone knows that"

Don't be so sure. It may be taught - once, loosely, as an aside, but not hammered home, as in a real, quality educational system.

bluke said...

Also, "foundations of math" doesn't necessarily have to mean addition and subtraction. Understanding how numbers fit together, basic algebraic concepts, understanding what points on a graph represent and how they relate to the x- and y- axes, that's important in nearly any service/knowledge field.

bluke said...

Of course, but my point was that it might be more helpful to focus at the beginning on those fields which have less prerequisites. Better that all of the charedi kids can become programmers for the time being, rather than insisting on every possible field and accomplishing nothing.

bluke said...

Sorry, but that's a bit narcissistic and worse - myopic. Lord knows that the Charedi world suffers from enough myopia already. What if say 50% of the kids in the hypothetical brand new million-shekel "programmer track" are bored to tears? Then what?
Why would giving children a firm grounding in mathematics and science be "accomplishing nothing"?

As for programming - see here for a more nuanced discussion of mathematics and programming:

bluke said...

You're also conflating "entry" and "future success". While maths may not be "essential" for entry into the programming world, the type of thinking and manipulation that exposure to mathematics can instill can help a young programmer succeed and stand out in his/her career.

bluke said...

I think it's about having a broad secular curriculum (e.g. English, Hebrew, science, maths, sport, history etc) alongside the Torah study and I still can't grasp why that and army service is so bitterly resisted.
It would give Haredi a choice in life and whilst some may end up being supermarket assistants, others might well go onto more fulfilling careers and contribute to society, such as doctors, teachers, academia, entrepreneurs, electricians, plumbers or indeed a full time career in the IDF.

bluke said...

Read the article that I just linked to and it will give you some idea.

bluke said...

re: basic math, see AY Lawrence's answer.

Re: ideas - I was not just referring to tech startups. If you work in healthcare, in transportation, in government, in management, in energy, in [insert field here], and you want to rise above entry level, you must be adding value to production, marketing, management, and sales, not just your localized task. For that, yes, you need to know if your idea is worth pursuing, and for that you need exposure to other ideas/methods/people/companies/case studies. As any barista can tell you, a liberal arts education does not prepare you for a career. But as any low wage service worker without one can tell you, it is typically a necessary prerequisite to broader success.

bluke said...

I once participated in a meeting between a group of former CEO's from the secular business world and some representatives of a very very frum neighborhood. The point of the meeting was supposed to be to find a way that the CEO's could teach the haredi poor some business skills to start their own businesses.

Sadly, and this is where it's relevant to your post, the Haredi leadership just wanted the CEO's to find ways to teach their haredi public the most basic of skills so that they could get the type of blue-collar (or more modern equivalent - low-skill, not much education needed) jobs that would easily earn a basic but low income. They absolutely were not interested in helping the haredim in their community acquire the broader types of skills needed to succeed in the modern workplace. It was a tragic mis-match. People came to help left feeling that the leadership and the public just wasn't interested in being productive members of society - that they just wanted to do the minimum to get by. And the Haredim in the room didn't understand at all why the CEO's weren't particularly interested in helping their community get jobs at working at call-centers, or other low-level positions.

I couldn't agree more. I'm terrified that if Bibi and the Haredi parties get in then they will turn back the clock on the progress that has been made in recent years. That would be bad for the country, bad for the Haredi public and unfair to the rest of us. The coming elections are crucial for the direction that Israel takes in the next few years in this area specifically.