The ultra-Orthodox public's political power is interfering with their integration in the job market, said Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer Tuesday after presenting the annual Ono Report on the integration of haredim, Arabs and people with disabilities in the workforce.
"I can sit here and lecture about how important it is to integrate (the haredim) until further notice, and I believe wholeheartedly that they want to be integrated – but as long as they hold such political power nothing will help," he said.
According to Ben-Eliezer, "There aren't even 2,000 haredim that are willing to undergo vocational training. As soon as there are enough, I promise they will receive the training."
When asked about the contradiction between his statement and the findings of the report, which suggest that the ultra-Orthodox public suffers from discrimination, the minister told Ynet: "Many haredim want to work but have cultural impediments. They need to be forcefully pushed to work and this can be done. The problem is that their own political power is standing in the way.
"When you look at a home in Bnei Brak that houses 10 family members and water is leaking into it, you realize the horrific poverty conditions in which they live. This cannot be resolved by saying 'God willing.' God only helps those who help themselves, and the haredi public has a growing understanding of the need to go out and make a living," Ben-Eliezer noted.
In an untypical move, the minister noted that there is no budgetary limitation to reinforcing the integration of these populations in the job market. "I can get as much money as I want," Ben-Eliezer exclaimed.
When asked why he opposed the government decision to continue financing the haredi yeshiva students, the minister said, "The government decision conflicts with all my efforts to integrate them into the workforce. It is a decision that stems from political motivations."
In reference to the Arab sector, the minister noted, "There are over 100,000 Arab college and university graduates. How many of them work in their field? Only a few, despite having so much to contribute.
"I am currently promoting many projects to encourage the employment of Arabs in the high-tech industry. One of the solutions we are promoting is the establishment of industrial zones in Arab areas. We will continue to promote and reinforce Arab employment with all the measures we have at our disposal," Ben-Eliezer concluded.
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