The National Insurance Act of 1956, as amended in 1987, provides benefits for sickness, unemployment, old age, widowhood, orphanhood, disability, and industrial injuries. Coverage includes all residents aged 16 and over, and excludes full time students and unemployed married women. Pensions are funded by contributions from employers, employees, and the government. These benefits are supplemented by social assistance under the National Assistance Act of 1956. Legislation establishing family allowances was enacted in 1974, and maternity benefits were mandated in 1981. As of 1999, employers were required to provide 13 weeks of maternity leave with pay set at a flat weekly rate.
Women make up a growing portion of the labor force due to changing social patterns and economic necessity. However, they are often channeled into traditionally female occupations or work in family-owned businesses, and remain underrepresented at the management level. Working women generally earn less than men. Domestic violence against women remains a problem but is addressed by the government through specialized police units, legal assistance, shelters, and legislation. Women have equality in matters of family law, although divorce is not legal.
The law mandates protection of all groups against economic, social, and political discrimination. The government is committed to protecting human rights, and human rights organizations are free to operate in Malta.