Nicaragua's basic social welfare system was established during the Somoza period. A social insurance law enacted in 1956 provides for national compulsory coverage of employees against risks of maternity, sickness, employment injury, occupational disease, unemployment, old age, and death. These programs are financed by contributions from employers, employees and the government, and provides coverage for all paid employees except domestic workers and members of the armed forces. Family allowance legislation provides benefits for the children of employees under the age of 15, but are provided on an earningstested basis.
There is no official discrimination against women, and a number of women hold government positions. However, women continue to suffer de facto sex discrimination in many segments of society. They tend to hold traditionally low-paid jobs in the health, education, and textile sectors while occupying few management positions in the private sector. Domestic and sexual violence are common, and the perpetrators are seldom prosecuted. Dire economic circumstances force many children to work to contribute to household income. Labor laws prohibit children under the age of 12 from working, and limit children aged 12–16 to working six hours a day. Many children work for low wages on banana or coffee plantations, while in urban areas, children often work as vendors in the streets. The Child and Family Act bars juveniles from being held in adult correction facilities and extended other types of protection to minors.
Human rights abuses have been on the decline but there are continued reports of the mistreatment of detainees, although torture is punishable by law.