Iceland - Social development
The national health insurance scheme, initiated in 1936 and revised and enlarged in 1947, includes insurance against sickness, accident, and unemployment; pensions for the aged and disabled; and a health service that provides protection and treatment and care of the sick. Benefits in all three categories were increased in 1963, and the administration of the whole scheme was unified under the supervision of the State Social Insurance Institution. Universal pensions covering all residents are paid by employer and government contributions, while the cost of employment pensions is shared by employees and employers. Both fathers and mothers are entitled to three month of paid maternity leave.
The number of women in the work force is high, partially due to a comprehensive subsidized day care program. Women are given a preference in areas where they are underrepresented in the workplace. Equal pay for equal work is required by law although men continue to earn 30% more than women. The government takes serious measures to protect women against violence and sexual abuse, though many cases remain unreported.
The constitution provides for the freedom of speech and press, assembly and association, and religion. These rights are generally respected by the government. There is very little discrimination based on race, gender, religion, disability, language, or social status.