St. Kitts and Nevis - Social development

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Housing shortages place a continuing strain on the government's ability to establish and fund social welfare programs. Effective 1978, a social security system replaced the existing provident fund as the provider of old age, disability, survivor, sickness, and maternity benefits. The original 1977 law governing social security was amended in 1996; the same year additional regulations governing self-employment went into effect. Coverage is compulsory for employed persons, with provisions for voluntary coverage where applicable. This system is funded by 5% contributions from employers and employees. Qualifying conditions for receiving an old-age pension include an age of 62 and 500 weeks of paid contributions. Sickness and maternity benefits are also provided. Work injury provisions are funded solely by employer contributions.

Although there is no overt discrimination against women, tradition prevents women from achieving higher levels of employment. The Department of Gender Affairs was created by the government to promote women's rights and provide counseling for abused women. A special police unit works closely with the Ministry to investigate domestic violence and rape cases. There is a special training program to educate police and school guidance counselors in dealing with domestic violence, sex crimes, and child abuse. Most of the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child have been incorporated into domestic law.

Human rights are generally well respected, although prison conditions are poor. Facilities are overcrowded, and in the past has led to prison riots.

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