Panama - Social development

The Social Security Fund, established by the government in 1941, provides medical service and hospitalization, maternity care, pensions for disability or old age, and funeral benefits. Retirement is set at age 62 for men, or age 57 for women. This program is financed by an alcohol tax, in addition to employee and employer contributions. Employed women receive 14 weeks of maternity leave at 100% pay. Compulsory workers' compensation legislation covers employees in the public and private sectors. This program is funded entirely by employer contributions.

Despite constitutional equality, women generally do not enjoy the same opportunities as men. While Panama has a relatively high rate of female enrollment in higher education, many female graduates are still forced to take low-paying jobs. Women's wages are, on average, 20% lower than those of men. Until 1995, communal assets were not recognized in marriage, and many divorced women were left economically destitute. Women also face sexual harassment in the workplace, although it is prohibited by the Labor Code. Domestic violence remains a widespread problem. In 1998 the Ministry of Women, Youth, Family, and Childhood was established, helping focus national attention on social issues affecting women and families.

Indigenous peoples in Panama are increasingly demanding more participation in decisions that affect their land. Semiautonomous status has been given to some tribal groups. Despite these provisions, many indigenous groups feel that existing reserves are too small.

Human rights abuses include prolonged pretrial detention, poor prison conditions, and internal prison violence.

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