Kuwait has a widespread system of social welfare on a paternalistic basis, financed by government oil revenues. It offers welfare services for the poor, provides free medical service and education to all Kuwaiti citizens, and spends heavily for waterworks, public gardens, and other public facilities. Social insurance legislation enacted in 1976 provides for old age, disability, and survivor pensions, for which the worker pays 5% of earnings and the employer pays 10% of payroll. In 1999, retirement benefits ranged from 65% to 95% of earnings, depending upon the length of employment. Large subsidies for electricity, gasoline, and rice hold prices below market rates but contribute to the government's annual deficit.
Women are denied equal rights and legal protection under Kuwaiti law, and their testimony in a court of law is not considered to be equal to that of men. Women must first obtain their husband's permission before applying for a passport. Kuwaiti women married to foreign men suffer legal discrimination, are not entitled to government housing subsidies and are required to pay a residency fee. Female political parties are banned, and women are not allowed to vote or seek national elective office. However, 33% of women of working age are employed, and some occupy professional positions. The government is actively working to segregate all classrooms by gender. Women (including foreign women) who wear Western clothing are often subject to harassment. Domestic abuse is common. Rape and abuse of foreign domestic workers is widespread.
Bedouin minorities face considerable legal discrimination. They are not entitled to citizenship, and are unable to work or enroll their children in schools.