The Haredi Workers' Group convened for the first time Tuesday night, in a historic meeting where representatives were chosen to officially represent haredi workers' needs to different political parties before the March 2015 elections.
During the meeting it was made clear by the participants that this is not a political conference but will translate into a social activity to promote the development of the economy of the haredi population, and to promote the recognition of the value of working in the haredi community. 15 representatives were chosen to present these goals to political parties – including two women.
The Workers' Group will meet with Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri and Ha'am Itanu Chairman Eli Yishai and consider supporting their parties in the upcoming elections for the 20th Knesset.
In return, the group will ask for politicians to help enact laws which would provide assistance to haredi yeshiva [Torah academy] and academic students, integrate haredi men and women in workplaces, and create a campaign throughout the haredi community at large to encourage men and women to work.
Sources close to Deri stated that the group had sent him "a document of goals and principles" to promote work within the haredi community, enumerated each one, and requested that a specific representative from the Knesset list be chosen to lobby for those principles in the future Knesset.
Deri reportedly promised to issue a formal response to the letter.
According to a March 2014 survey, the employment rate for haredi Israelis is 44.5%, far lower than the 67% average for the country overall. Much of that unemployment has to do with the tendency among haredi men to shun higher education, national service and employment in favor of full-time Torah studies, placing those who eventually wish to enter the workforce at a distinct disadvantage to other candidates.
A different survey held that month, commissioned by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). revealed prejudices against employing haredi workers, as well; 30% of respondents expressed reluctance to work with a haredi man and over a third of employers (37%) expressed a reluctance to employ haredi men.