Social security programs were originally introduced in 1924. After independence from the Soviet Union, new social insurance systems were introduced between 1991 and 1994. Current pension systems are funded by contributions from employers and the government. Retirement is set at age 63 for men and 58 for women, and is set to increase to age 63 for both men and women by 2003. Other social welfare programs include worker's compensation, unemployment assistance, survivorship payments, maternity and sickness benefits, and family allowances. Medical care is free for children.
Women constitute slightly more than half the work force, and in theory are entitled to equal pay. Although women on average achieve higher educational levels than men, their average pay was lower. Sexual harassment is not official reported. Domestic violence is a widespread problem and is grossly underreported; Spousal abuse is not a criminal offense. Public attention is focused increasingly on the welfare of children in the wake of family crises caused by economic dislocation. Several safe havens for children have been established.
Ethnic Russians sometimes face discrimination in housing and employment. Estonian language requirements make it difficult for many of them to find public sector employment. Citizenship has not automatically been extended to ethnic Russians living in Estonia, and a significant proportion of the population remain noncitizens. Discrimination based on race, sex, nationality, or religion is illegal under the constitution. Prison conditions remain poor, and police brutality is commonly reported.