Religious drain on economy

 Ultra Orthodox Jews and their youth Pictures, Images and Photos

Participating at a frequent level in an organized religion can sometimes make you well connected and able to succeed in business. Many Priests and Rabbis have fairly large organizations and do quite well for themselves. However, as an economy, this can also be a big money loser. There is no better example of this than in the Holy Land itself. Israel has a certain segment of the population that is ultra-Orthodox Jewish. Currently, it is about 8.5% of the total Israeli population.

These people are exempt from serving in the Israeli army, which is otherwise mandatory. They instead go to a special religious school for many years called a Yeshiva. This is nothing like your ordinary high school and University type education. All they really learn in this Yeshiva is religion. You don’t get many lessons on how to build a renewable energy source or how to develop effective business strategies there. Many of these people are not equipped to compete in the labour market with the rest of the population and thus, depend on government help to survive. Needless to say, their average household income is near the bottom of the chart.

This is a big burden on the Israeli economy and its potential. Right now it is not hurting the economy too bad because it’s still a small minority of people living like this. However, Israeli government projections are that in less than 20 years the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel will be about 17.5%. At that point, it will be almost a fifth of the population and the economy will not be able to handle it like it is currently. For the Israeli economy to continue on its course of being a technology hub of the world and an economy that is inching closer and closer to providing people a standard of living we see in Western Europe or North America, something has to change.

That is essentially what Bank of Israel Governor and world renowned economist, Stanley Fischer said recently. The fact is that in this case, religion is lowering the ceiling for the Israeli economy’s potential for growth. I am not saying that being religious is a bad thing and should be abandoned, that is up to the individual to decide on their own. However, the rule about not obtaining a good education and not working like the rest of society needs to change. What would they do if the government decided one day that it will not support them financially anymore? They would obviously protest and riot at first, but then they would realize that they need to put food on the table and go to work. Since they have no actual education to speak of, they would have to do physical labour at first and then realize that an education will allow them to obtain better jobs and wages.

Instead of forcing the government to do this in 20 years, they should get a head start on it and avoid the bad blood that will brew from this in the future. If they change course now then in 20 years we will see ultra-Orthodox high-tech companies being bought out by Berkshire Hathaway and Microsoft just like they do with other Israeli start-ups. They need to take their future in their own hands and start making something of themselves.