Jewish unemployment doubles during pandemic

Members of the Charedi community have been particularly badly hit, the Institute for Jewish Policy Research finds


unemployment concept, job search on internet, man at home looking for good career

The unemployment rate among Jews almost doubled in the first few months of the pandemic and rose more sharply than in the general UK population, according to a new report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR). 

Among the economically active Jewish population, 3.4 per cent were unemployed in February last year compared to 4 per cent in the UK as a whole. 

But by July 2020, Jewish unemployment had risen to 6.6 per cent compared with the national rate of 4.5 per cent. The national rate climbed to 5.1 per cent by December but there is no updated figure for the Jewish community. 

Members of the Charedi community, Jews in single households and those in lower income brackets – earning under £30,000 a year – have been the worst hit in terms of loss of work or reduced hours, JPR has found in the fifth of a series of reports based on a survey of nearly 7,000 UK Jews in the first half of last year. 

Jewish women were more likely to have been made redundant or placed on furlough than Jewish men – although the overall employment rate among Jewish women actually rose slightly during the period. 

But the report cautions against concluding that British Jewry was worse hit in terms of loss of jobs or reduced hours than the UK population as a whole. 

Some factors may “distort the figures”, it warns. 

British Jews tend to enter the workforce at a later stage than the UK as a whole because they study in higher education – although they tend to keep working more beyond retirement age. 

In addition, JPR notes, “one aspect of the difference in Jewish employment patterns is that Jews are much more likely than average to be self-employed.  

“It is possible that the furlough scheme masks the ‘true’ level of unemployment in the general population.” 

Jews were less likely to have been put on furlough – 5.2 per cent at most in mid-July compared with 9.5 per cent of the UK population. 

Almost a quarter (just over 24 per cent) of the adult Jewish population reported a negative work experience – “being made redundant, being furloughed, having their pay reduced, having their hours reduced”. 

Fifty-six per cent of those earning between £20,000 to £30,000 were “severely impacted”. 

Strictly Orthodox Jews were most likely to have had their hours reduced (27 per cent), to have been furloughed (21 per cent) or to have been made redundant (6 per cent). 

JPR concluded that “while many Jews have experienced serious work impacts, and many among the high proportions of self-employed Jews have lost income without having the same access to government financial support as the employed, it seems unlikely that the Jewish population as a whole has suffered disproportionately,” JPR concluded. 

But it said that “considerable numbers of Jewish people may well need support in terms of finding new work, retraining, or building and rebuilding their own businesses so that they are able to support themselves and their families.” 

It noted that the community relied on high employment rates to fund communal services. “Reductions in household income due to work disruption or job insecurity will inevitably mean that some are no longer able to afford to continue to give to community organisations, synagogues and Jewish schools, all of which rely, to varying degrees, on regular membership payments or donations.” 

A follow-up survey is planned to examine how the picture has changed since July. 



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