Until the early 1980s, a high rate of unemployment, a markedly high rate of emigration, and very limited resources hindered the development of social service programs in Dominica. In 1976, the government established the Social Security Scheme, which covers all workers from 14 to 60 years of age, including apprentices. Under this plan, both workers and employers contribute specific amounts to a government fund, which provides pensions for workers reaching retirement age, compensation for workers who become incapacitated, and survivor benefits. There are also sickness and maternity benefits. The social security system is funded by worker contributions of 3% of earnings (7% self-employed) and a 7% employer payroll tax. Retirement is set at age 60.
Apart from the constitution, there is no specific legislation in force to protect women from sex discrimination. A hotline manned by volunteers is available for battered women, and the Welfare Department often helps them find temporary quarters. Property ownership is given to the "head of Household" which is generally male, and when a man dies without a will his wife cannot inherit the property. Many women in rural areas face considerably difficulty in meeting basic needs.
Indigenous Carib minorities face minimal discrimination, and most live on a 3,700-acre reservation set aside for them by the government in 1903. Human rights are generally respected in Dominica. However, instances of excessive police force have been reported, and prison conditions are poor.