Finland - Social development

Social welfare legislation in Finland is patterned largely on Scandinavian models. The system has evolved gradually in response to social needs. Major benefits include employees' accident insurance, old age and disability pensions, unemployment insurance, sickness insurance, compensation for war invalids, and family and child allowances. Family allowance payments are based on number of children and marital status of the parents. There are also birth grants, and child home care allowances for parents who stay home to care for a child under age three. A universal pension system currently covers all Finnish citizens who have lived in the country for at least three years and foreign nationals with at least five years' residence. Payments begin at age 65.

Women have a high level of education and hold a large number of elective political posts. Finland has a comprehensive equal rights law. However, women seldom hold high-paying management positions in the private sector, and it was estimated in 2002 that women earn on average only 82 cents for every dollar that a male earns. Although there is a violence against women, the government takes actions to combat it. There are strict criminal penalties for violence against women, and there are many shelters and programs to assist victims.

Indigenous Sami (Lapps) receive government subsidies which enable them to maintain their traditional reindeer herding lifestyle. Minorities' rights and culture are traditionally protected by law. However, increasing hostility toward immigrants in recent years prompted the passage of a new law designed to facilitate the integration of immigrants into Finnish society and the granting of political asylum.

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