Thailand - Social development

Since 1940, social welfare has been the responsibility of the government, and it is only in recent years that private organizations have actively engaged in social welfare programs. A 1990 law established a social security system which began paying disability and death benefits in 1991. Old age benefits (pensions) were introduced in 1998. The pension system is funded by employers, employees, and the government; each source contributed an amount equal to 1% of the employee's wages. The social security law also provides for sickness and maternity benefits, which are provided to employees of firms with 10 or more workers. Employers are required to provide workers' compensation coverage, including temporary and permanent disability benefits, and medical and survivor benefits.

Women have equal legal rights in most areas, but inequities remain in domestic areas, including divorce and child support. The 1997 constitution protects women through the inclusion of six gender-related articles pertaining to equal rights. In addition, gender-equality clauses have been included in legislation setting up new government entities mandated by the constitution. Women made up 44% of the work force, and hold professional positions. Discrimination in hiring persists, and there is a gender gap in wages. Domestic abuse and violence remain a huge problem.

Many women are trapped into prostitution through a system of debt bondage. Brothels provide a loan to parents of young women, and these women are required to work as prostitutes to pay off the loan. In many cases, this is done without the consent of the woman involved. Under the Penal Code, furthermore, prostitutes are considered criminals, but brothel owners and clients are not.

Many Thai minorities, including many of the hill tribe members, lack any type of documentation. As noncitizens, they are do not have full access to education and health care. They lack titles to their land, and may not vote in elections. The government has announced its intention to process and document these groups.

Human rights are generally well respected, but some abuses occur. Coerced confessions and the torture of suspects are occasionally reported. Overcrowding in prisons has resulted in poor conditions.

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