Germany - Social development
The social security system of the FRG remained in place following unification with the German Democratic Republic. However, the GDR system continued to apply on an interim basis within the former GDR territory. The two systems were merged effective 2 January 1992. The social insurance system provides for sickness and maternity, workers' compensation, disability, unemployment, and old age; the program is financed by compulsory employee and employer contributions. Old age pensions begin at age 65 after five years of contribution. Worker's medical coverage is comprehensive, including dental care. Unemployment coverage includes all workers, trainees, apprentices, and at home workers in varying degrees. The government funds a family allowance to parents with one or more children.
A program entitled "Women and Occupation" continued it application in 2002. It promotes the equality of women in the work force through training, grants, and projects. There is also an initiative to increase the number of females in information technology and in media careers. Equal pay for equal work is mandated by law but women continue to earn less than men. All military jobs, including combat roles, are now available to women. Although violence against women exists, the law and government provides protection. Victims of violence can receive police protection, legal help, shelter and counseling. Children's rights are strongly protected.
Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Basic Law in Germany, although there have been reports of some discrimination against minority religions. Extremist rightwing groups continue to commit violent acts against immigrants and Jews although the government is committed to preventing such acts. The Basic Law also provides for the freedom of association, assembly, and expression.