In an effort to better compete against low labor costs in upcoming Asian rivals such as China and India, the Israeli diamond industry has turned to the recruitment of polishers and cutters from the ultra-Orthodox community. VOA reports that the Israel Diamond Manufacturers Association believes ultra-Orthodox Jews are highly suited to the diamond cutting and polishing professions because the flexibility it affords is highly compatible with the demands of their pious lifestyle.
"The profession is fitting," said Burni Traub, president of the Israel Diamond Manufacturers Association. "You deal with the rock, and if you need to go pray, no one will bother you."
Diamond cutting and polishing is a profession on the wane in Israeli, with foreign workers in India and China picking up market share via lower labor costs. The number of cutters and polishers in Israeli has dropped from 20,000 in the eighties to 2,000 at present.
While Israel imported $4.4 billion in rough diamonds and exported $7.2 billion in polished diamonds in 2011, only $1.5 billion of the stones were cut and polished locally.
The Israeli government is highly supportive of the diamond industry's plan, hoping to get as many ultra-Orthodox Jews to join the work force as possible. The Haredi, who comprise around 10% of the Israeli population, occupy a distinct niche within society and are often at odds with the nation's secular mainstream. Ultra-orthodox Jews are exempt from military service and less than half of men in the community are formally employed.