Czech Republic - Social development

Social welfare programs in the former Czechoslovakia dated back to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Work injury laws were first introduced in 1887 and sickness benefits in 1888. During the First Republic (1918–39), social insurance was improved and extended. After World War II, new social legislation made sickness, accident, disability, and old age insurance compulsory. The trade unions administered health insurance and family allowances. The government's Bureau of Pension Insurance administered the pension insurance program, which was funded by the government and employers. In 1960, social welfare committees were established within the regional and district national committees to exercise closer control.

Current programs include old age pensions, disability, survivor benefits, sickness and maternity, work injury, unemployment and family allowances. Employers are required to contribute 19.5% of payroll, while employees contribute 6.5% to the pensions program.

In recent years, women have played an increasingly greater role in Czech society and now account for about half of the labor force. Although the principle of equal pay for equal work is generally followed, women hold a disproportionate share of lower-paying positions. The unemployment rate for women is greater than for men, and only a small number of women hold senior positions in the work force. Rape and domestic violence is underreported, although societal attitudes are slowly improving to help victims seek assistance from authorities. Crisis centers exists to help victims of sexual abuse and violence. Sexual harassment is prohibited by law.

The Roma minority, officially estimated to number 200,000 to 250,000, face discrimination in housing, employment and often are subject to harassment. Many have been denied citizenship and the rights accorded to citizens. Those without citizenship are not entitled to vote, or receive social security benefits. Racially motivated crime is on the increase. Religious freedom is generally tolerated. The Czech Republic's human rights record is generally good, although judicial backlogs result in extended pretrial detention in some cases and sporadic police violence has been reported.

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