Officially, Israel’s unemployment rate is about 8%. But that doesn’t include Israeli citizens who are not trying to find work, either because they feel disenfranchised, such as many Arab Israelis, or because they’ve chosen a life of state-subsidized religious study, such as many ultra-Orthodox Jews.
Nearly 27% of Arab men and 65% of ultra-Orthodox Jews don’t work, government figures show. The non-employment rate for ultra-Orthodox men has tripled since 1970, Ben-David said.
“We support a lifestyle of nonworking that is pretty unparalleled in the Western world,” said Ben-David, who is also a Tel Aviv University professor. “On the one hand, we have this state-of-the-art part of the economy. Then there is the rest of the country that is like a huge drag.”
What worries Ben-David most is that the nonproductive part of Israel’s population, which survives largely on welfare, is also the fastest growing.