Venezuela - Social development

The social security system was originally implemented in 1940, and was revised and amended by law in 1966, 1989, and 1991. The system covers medical care, maternity benefits, incapacity and invalidity, retirement and survivors' pensions, burial costs, and a marriage bonus. These programs exclude temporary and casual workers; self-employed; and domestic workers. The employer is assessed about 5% on average of each employee's salary, with the worker paying about 2%. Old age pensions are provided at age 60 for men and age 55 for women, with early retirement permitted for those in arduous occupations. Medical coverage is financed by an additional contribution of about 2% from employees and about 3.5% by employers. Unemployment benefits are paid for a period of 26 weeks. Maternity coverage is for 67% of earnings for up to six months. A new private system is being enacted to replace this program. Unemployment and health programs will also be overhauled.

The constitution provides for sexual equality but women are still underrepresented in political and economic life. Women are protected by legislation that prohibits discrimination in pay or working conditions, but these are not always observed in practice. Women make up approximately half of university students and pursue professions traditionally dominated by men.

The National Institute for Women provides assistance in the economic advancement for women. Domestic abuse and violence against women has been aggravated by the nation's economic difficulties. Police are hesitant to intervene in domestic situations, and rape remains difficult to prove under current law.

Approximately 25 indigenous ethnic groups exist in Venezuela. They have limited decision-making power on issues that directly affect their land. Few have been granted legal title to their lands. The human rights situation is poor, with reports of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, and the abuse of detainees. Human rights organizations operate openly. Prisons are regularly the sites of murderous violence.

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