Social organization is based on the maternal kin group, or clan. Villages ideally consist of ten clans, with the leader of the highest ranking clan serving as village chief. Rapid socioeconomic change has given rise to a range of social problems for communities and social groups, particularly youth. Most social development activities in the areas of health and education are funded by US government programs.
A system of old age, disability and survivor's pensions was first introduced in 1967. This program covers all gainfully employed persons, and provides old age pensions after the age of 60. It is financed by 4% of employee earnings, matched by an equal contribution from employers.
In the traditional social structure, rank and inheritance are matrilineal. Women are accorded considerable respect within the clan system. However, weakening extended family ties and the rise of alcohol abuse are leading to an increase in domestic violence and abuse of women. In urban areas, women face minimal gender based discrimination in employment.
Foreigners residing in Palau are barred from owning land or obtaining citizenship. Some foreigners complain of discrimination in access to housing, education and employment.
Human rights are well respected in Palau, and nongovernmental organizations operate without government interference.