Bulgaria - Social development

The code for compulsory social insurance was revised in 2000. It provides for dual coverage by a social insurance system and mandatory private insurance. The program covers all employees, self-employed persons, farmers, artists, and craftsman. Old age benefits begin at age 61 and 6 months for men and 56 and 6 months for women; these will be increased incrementally until 2009 when retirement age will be 63 for men and 60 for women. Survivors' and disability pensions are also provided, as well as work injury and unemployment benefits. Maternity benefits amount to 90% of earnings for 135 days. The government provides family allowance benefits based on the age and number of children.

Although women have equal rights under the constitution, they have not had the same employment opportunities as men. Although many women attend university, they have a higher rate of unemployment, and are likely to work in low paid jobs. Violence against women remains a serious problem, and domestic violence is considered a family problem and not a criminal matter. There exists societal stigma against rape victims, and no laws prohibit sexual harassment.

The two largest ethnic minority groups in Bulgaria are the Turks and Roma. Discrimination against Romani peoples in the workplace are common. Ethnic tensions and attacks against Romani communities have been reported in 1999. In response the government continued its program of introducing Romani language textbooks into the school systems to improve the educational standing of Romani children. There have also been reports of police brutality against Roma. The current government has increased the rights of the minority Turks to practice their language and culture. The use of the Turkish language had been banned until 1989 by the Zhivkov government in order to either forcibly assimilate the Turks, or force them to emigrate. In 1999, government reforms to increase police accountability increased control over security forces, but it still remained inadequate and excessive force was still used in some cases.

Although freedom of speech is provided for by the constitution, the government maintains influence over the media and libel is a criminal offense. The government and public have limited tolerance for religious freedom.

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