Despite low per capita income, Sri Lankans have enjoyed a relatively high standard of living because of generous social welfare programs. Through a provident fund system, the government pays monthly allotments to the aged, sick, and disabled, to destitute widows, and to wives of imprisoned or disabled men. The program is financed by 8% employee contributions and 12% employer contributions. Old age benefits are paid as a lump sum grant equal to total contributions plus interest. Medical care is available free of charge in government hospitals and clinics. The law provides for a system of family allowances, paid by the government, for families earning less than 1,000 rupees per month.
To stimulate private efforts, the government makes grants to supplement the funds of volunteer agencies engaged in various welfare activities, particularly orphanages, homes for the aged, and institutions for the mentally and physically handicapped.
Although women have equal rights under law, their rights in family matters, including marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance, are often dictated by their ethnic or religious group. Recent legislative changes have strengthened the rights of women. New laws address sexual harassment in the workplace. However, discrimination against women in hiring, promotion and salary practices remains. Changes to the Penal code make the burden of proof more equitable in rape cases. Sexual assault and spousal abuse continue to be serious problems.
Sri Lanka's Tamil population, numbering 1 million, are not entitled to either Indian or Sri Lankan citizenship, and face systemic discrimination. Human rights abuses are committed by both the government and Tamil separatist forces as part of ongoing hostilities between the two sides. These included poor prison conditions, torture, and arbitrary arrests, including mass arrests.