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Czech Republic

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including of women and men, including spousal rape, as well as domestic or intimate partner violence, and provides for a penalty of two to 10 years in prison for violations, with longer sentences in aggravated circumstances.

A survey published in October found that 9 percent of women over the age of 18 and 2 percent of men reported they had been raped, and that 54 percent of women reported having encountered some form of sexual violence or harassment.

The government did not consistently enforce the law effectively and NGOs called for revising the definition of the crime of rape to focus on the victim’s lack of consent and not on the evidence of violence. Women’s advocates pointed out that rape survivors who do not resist rape out of fear for their life or safety often lack evidence that both the investigators and the courts typically required (e.g., bruises, bleeding, and other injuries).

Observers reported prosecutors and judges in rape cases sometimes lacked knowledge on the subject and cited a shortage of experienced judicial experts. Penalties were often too low, and only half of all sentences included prison time.

In June parliament amended the law on the protection of victims of crimes to include survivors of rape and domestic violence among “particularly vulnerable victims” and thereby entitle them to benefits, such as free legal representation in courts, shared burden of proof, and compensation, and shield them from “secondary or tertiary victimization.” Perpetrators of spousal rape, including brutal attacks, were frequently given inadequate sentences, including probation. Observers acknowledged that conditional sentences were more often correctly combined with restraining orders that effectively protected victims from perpetrators.

NGOs cited continued lack of funding as a constraint on their ability not only to lobby for equal opportunities for women and men, but also to provide other services to sexually abused women or survivors of domestic violence.  NGOs highlighted that, under the government-funded program providing free legal assistance to survivors, NGOs and persons providing pro bono assistance to survivors receive a much lower hourly fee than court-appointed attorneys.

Domestic violence is punishable by up to four years in prison, with longer sentences in aggravated circumstances. Police have the authority to remove violent abusers from their homes for 10 days. The law states a removal order can remain in effect for a total of up to six months, including extensions. The Ministry of Interior reported police removed 1,170 offenders from their homes in 2020, a small drop in removals despite the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. The government supported a widely used hotline for gender-based violence crimes, including domestic violence.

The government supported a widely used hotline for gender-based violence crimes, including domestic violence.

In February Charles University and the Sociological Institute conducted research into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on domestic violence. The research showed that the pandemic contributed to the frequency and intensity of domestic violence and raised the threshold for survivors reporting or seeking help from institutions. The research also showed that the most frequent types of violence were psychological forms difficult to prove. Sexual violence was present in fewer than half of the cases. NGOs reported that demand for support services increased significantly during the pandemic, in some cases by 50 percent compared to the same period in previous years, although intervention centers, police, and social departments for child protections did not record an increase in official cases.

In November 2020 IKEA’s Czech subsidiary, in cooperation with several nonprofit organizations, launched a two-year campaign to counter domestic violence. The company contributed 3.8 million crowns ($174,000) to provide domestic abuse survivors with necessary assistance and accommodation.

Sexual Harassment: The antidiscrimination law prohibits sexual harassment and treats it as a form of direct discrimination. If convicted, penalties may include fines, dismissal from work, and up to eight years in prison. Police often delayed investigations until the perpetrator committed serious crimes, such as sexual coercion, rape, or other forms of physical assault.

Survey results published in October found that 54 percent of all adult women experienced some form of sexual violence or harassment. Thirty-three percent of women reported verbal harassment, 31 percent reported unwanted or unconsented touching, 17 percent reported acts involving unwanted photographs or videos, and 12 percent reported unwanted or unconsented kissing.

Offenders convicted of stalking may receive sentences of up to three years in prison.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Transgender individuals are required to be sterilized to obtain gender altering surgery or receive legal gender recognition (see Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, below).

The government does not allow women access to artificial insemination if using the cells of an anonymous donor without the written consent of their partner, and medical providers can only use artificial insemination for opposite-sex couples. Unmarried persons, persons who do not have consent from a partner, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons are ineligible to receive treatment.

Some observers reported that Roma faced obstructions in access to health care in general, including to reproductive health care.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Women must cover the costs of emergency contraception themselves.

In July, after a decade of advocacy, the government passed legislation compensating women who were involuntarily sterilized between 1966 and 2012. Eligible women are entitled to compensation of 300,000 crowns ($14,000). According to some estimates, more than 1,000 women, primarily Romani, were sterilized without their knowledge or full and informed consent during that period.

Discrimination: The law grants men and women the same legal status and rights, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws.Women  sometimes experienced employment and wage discrimination.

In March the government approved the Strategy for Equality of Women and Men 2021-2030. Experts noted the document is more comprehensive than the previous 2014 strategy and applauded the scope and specificity in addressing electoral representation, pay gaps, availability of childcare, and security, among other issues. The government acknowledges that the country continues to significantly lag other EU member states in gender equality. Observers cited continued obstacles to achieving gender equality, including women having most household and childcare responsibilities, and professional and societal stereotypes.

There were NGO reports that allegations of hate crime, including hate speech, targeted at women based on gender are not taken seriously or handled adequately by the police and the courts. The director of a leading NGO focusing on hate crimes was unable to obtain relief in court, including the Constitutional Court, after she received more than 100 emails containing sexually explicit content and death threats from a man. The Constitutional Court reasoned that the director was a public figure and should expect and ignore such communications.

In March the Supreme Administrative Court upheld a fine for distributing an advertisement depicting an almost naked female body unrelated to the services offered by the company. The court stated that by distributing a leaflet promoting a business and completely unrelated photographs of the almost naked female body, the company discriminated against the female sex and diminished human dignity. Observers noted this decision sets an important precedent for gender discrimination efforts.

Laws prohibit discrimination and hate speech against racial and ethnic minorities. In January the ombudsman stated that Roma had problems finding housing because they “devastate housing stock” and not because of discrimination. Several NGOs asserted that such statements discourage Roma from pursuing discrimination complaints through the Public Defender of Rights office that the ombudsman heads. In February, 16 NGOs and several representatives of the government’s Roma rights councils, acting in a nonofficial capacity, signed an open letter demanding that Prime Minister Babis and other high-level political figures distance themselves from the ombudsman.

The situation of the Romani minority remained one of the country’s most pressing problems. Despite partial successes, marginalization, social exclusion, and territorial segregation of some Roma continued. Moreover, Roma faced daily prejudice, intolerance, and discrimination in education, housing, and employment.

In May the government approved a new Strategy for Roma Equality, Inclusion and Participation for 2021-2030, the drafting of which was led by Romani representatives. According to observers, the strategy required more research and data collection to address a lack of data and statistics on the Romani community. The strategy also called for the establishment of an ombudsman specializing in Romani issues.

Approximately one-third of Roma lived in socially excluded communities and continued to face difficulties obtaining both public and private housing. In August the Constitutional Court annulled a 2017 amendment to the law addressing poverty. This amendment had reduced government housing subsidies in areas that cities designated as blighted. Some municipalities used this law as a tool to push Roma and other low-income citizens into their city’s periphery. A government-funded investment program to build new public housing units and provide social services through two projects totaling 1.35 billion crowns ($61.1 million) continued.

Hate crimes against Roma and minorities continued to be a problem. An NGO reported that a man physically attacked a Romani teenage boy for having a verbal dispute with a teenage girl. The man slapped the boy, told him that he could not speak to a white girl in that manner, and damaged the boy’s hearing aid.

The government took steps to promote Romani culture and heritage. The Museum of Romani Culture received a property in Prague from the Ministry of Culture to operate as a new cultural center. The Museum confirmed that despite some COVID-19-related delays in the reconstruction process, the center should open in March 2023 as originally planned. Demolition of a Communist-era pig farm at the site of a WWII concentration camp for Roma in the town of Lety was postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic, although the projected completion date of 2023 remained unchanged. The museum reported limited success in getting information about the Romani people, their history, and their culture incorporated into the country’s general educational program.

NGOs also reported a case of discrimination against a woman from Algeria who lives and works in the country. She alleged workplace discrimination, stating that colleagues at work called her a “black parasite” and praised Israel for “bombing Arabs.”

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship from their parents and not by birth within the country’s territory. Any child with at least one citizen parent is automatically a citizen. There have been no reports of denial or lack of access to birth registration on discriminatory basis. Authorities registered births immediately.

Education: In June, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that COVID-19 pandemic emergency measures implemented by the Ministry of Health that restricted the operation of secondary and higher vocational schools and conservatories were illegal. The court stated the whole country could not be considered at risk of an outbreak at the time of closure.

NGOs reported that school children who do not speak Czech as their first language did not receive sufficient language support, and that the problem has been increasing with the rising number of foreigners residing in the country. Starting with the 2021-22 school year, NGOs reported that 200 students in elementary schools will start receiving instructions in the Czech language but noted that access should be expanded to more elementary school children and to the secondary level of education as well. In its 2020 annual report, the ombudsman’s office recommended changes to entrance examinations for high schools and universities that would accommodate students whose native language is not Czech.

School segregation of Romani children remained a problem. Following the 2007 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in D.H. and Others v. Czech Republic, the government is obliged to prevent the inappropriate placement of Roma into segregated schools and to integrate them into schools with the general population. Children who attended segregated schools were found to have lower academic attainment and fewer employment opportunities due to lower quality of education and decreased social integration. Despite legislative changes in 2016 to expand the use of inclusive education, the situation improved only slightly, and in 2020 the Council of Europe requested more details regarding obstacles to improvements. An estimated 10.5 percent of Romani pupils were still educated in segregated programs, and the share of Romani pupils in segregated programs stood at 24.2 percent (compared to 26.2 percent in 2016), which far surpassed the percentage of Roma in the general population, which was estimated by the government in 2017 at 2.2 percent.

The government provided technical support to Romani students during the pandemic so they could participate in online education. It also offered free summer tutoring camps, but only a small number of Roma participated.

Medical Care: With the exception of children under the age of two months, to whom access to public health insurance was extended during the year, children of foreigners who are long-term residents in the country but not citizens are not entitled to public health insurance.

Child Abuse: Prison sentences for persons found guilty of child abuse range from five to 12 years. The law requires citizens to report suspected cases of child abuse. The government reported that child abuse is more prevalent among socially excluded families, households suffering from poor communication and stress, households inhabited by persons addicted to substances or gambling, foreigners and ethnic minorities, children of juvenile parents, young single mothers and other disadvantages persons, and children who are homeless or disabled. Infants and toddlers are more frequently subject to abuse because of their inability to defend themselves.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs registered approximately 2,000 cases of abused or exploited children in 2020, a slight decrease from 2019. NGOs reported, however, that three times more children called crisis hotlines in 2020 than in 2019. They also reported that there were more cases of attempted suicide among children and violence against children and between children, which they attributed to isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic and more time spent on the internet.

Advocates for children reported improved collaboration among representatives from the Ministries of Education, Social Services, Health, and Interior. The Interior Ministry, in close collaboration with advocacy groups and other ministries, distributed special cards (KID cards) for early identification of endangered children to schools, police, doctors, and other specialists who working with children. The cards outline indicators of possible child abuse and recommended steps that may be taken in response.

In April police charged a social worker for failing to attempt to see a six-year-old Romani girl who was declared missing in 2017, during repeated visits to the girl’s place of residence. The social worker faces up to three years in prison. The girl’s grandmother was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2018 for severely abusing the girl and her young brother prior to the girl’s disappearance. Observers sharply criticized the placement of the children with the grandmother, who had earlier been sentenced for abuse of her own children.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. The law allows for marriage at the age of 16 with court approval; no official marriages were reported of anyone younger than 16.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children and the possession, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography, which is punishable by imprisonment for up to eight years. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15. Sexual relations with a child younger than 15 is punishable by a prison term of up to eight years, or more in the presence of aggravating circumstances. The law prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes punishments of two to 10 years in prison for violations, with longer sentences in the presence of aggravating circumstances. These laws were generally enforced.

A February 2020 documentary film, In the Net (V siti), followed online and in-person interactions between actresses posing as underage girls and real-life sexual predators, gaining significant media attention and resulting in several charges against the predators. In September, a 38-year-old foreign national was sentenced to 15 months in prison for contacting an underage girl on the internet in May and trying to arrange a personal meeting with her. The man was previously subject to probation and legally expelled from the country in February, based on activities shown in In the Net as well as separate charges of creating child pornography.

Institutionalized Children: In August the government passed legislation that will largely close so-called infant care centers by 2025. The move followed a 2020 finding by the Council of Europe’s Committee on Social Rights that the institutionalization of children, particularly Romani children and children with disabilities, was widespread and discriminatory.

The infant centers are government-funded institutions for children up to three years old. Experts had criticized the centers for a variety of reasons, including their cost, quality of care, unavailability of specialist (e.g., psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists) care, and the fact that children admitted to the centers must be separated from their parents to receive government assistance. The new legislation increases payments to foster parents and retains infant centers only for the care of abandoned or seriously disabled children. Supporters of the legislation urged the government to assist parents at home or enable parents battling substance abuse and similar problems to retain their children, including by bringing them to rehabilitation centers. Opponents of the legislation, most notably members of the Communist Party, argued that the abolition of infant centers would deprive children of government-provided housing and care and claimed the country lacked enough foster families.

The ombudsman visited psychiatric hospitals for children during the year and noted that conditions are humane but, in many cases children lacked the right to participate in the decision-making process about their placement into these facilities. Moreover, there was little standardization of these admissions processes between facilities. Consequently, in August, the Ministry of Health recommended that all psychiatric institutions introduce greater participation of children in decisions regarding their care and requested a more coordinated approach be taken by care providers.

In its 2020 annual report, the ombudsman also noted that children in institutionalized care were deprived of contact with parents and other family members due to COVID-19 restrictions.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at

There were approximately 10,000 Jews in the country; approximately 3,000 are registered members of the Federation of Jewish Communities. Public expressions of anti-Semitism were rare, but small, well-organized right-wing groups with anti-Semitic views were active. The Ministry of Interior continued to monitor the activities of such groups and cooperated with police from neighboring countries as well as the local Jewish community.

The Ministry of Interior recorded 27 criminal offenses related to anti-Semitism in 2020. The Federation of Jewish Communities reported 874 incidents with anti-Semitic motives in 2020, of which 98 percent were cases of hate speech on the internet.

In June, police charged the publisher of a book on the grounds of denying the Holocaust and justifying genocide.

In January police charged the publisher of a calendar that featured figures of the Third Reich with propagating a movement aimed at suppression of human rights and freedoms.

In June the government approved the 2021-2026 Counterextremism and Hate Crime Strategy that emphasized communication, prevention, and education to curb extremism and combat hostility of radicals. The strategy also addressed extremism and hate crimes on the internet.

See the Department of State’s Report at

Persons with disabilities face challenges accessing public buildings and public transportation on an equal basis with others. The country does not have a unified law governing access for disabled persons. Instead, specific pieces of legislation in each area (education, transport, health, construction) contain accessibility provisions linked to technical or EU-approved standards. Experts reported that only buildings built since 2009 or modifications to older buildings require compliance with the standards, so access to older buildings posed a problem. The government at times enforced these provisions effectively. Government communication is not always accessible, and the government often relies on the public television service to fill this gap. There was a general absence of videos in sign language and materials in easy-to-read format for persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities on government websites. Some progress has been made in making websites and mobile applications accessible for persons with visual impairments because of the implementation of an EU directive on accessibility of public resources.

Early in the year, the government began implementing the new National Plan for the Promotion of Equal Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities 2021-2025, the seventh such plan since 1992. As were previous plans, the new plan is structured around the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Experts viewed the approval and implementation of the plan as a positive step but noted that recommendations under previous plans were not always implemented.

The ombudsman conducted a survey in 2020 to identify shortcomings related to the rights of persons with disabilities. The survey identified restrictions on disabled persons’ legal capacity to make financial judgments and to vote as the most significant issues, calling them a “deprivation of rights.” Nearly half the persons with disabilities under guardianships had court restrictions on their voting rights. In July the Interior Ministry, in cooperation with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, issued guidelines to social service facilities regarding the ability of their clients, including persons with disabilities, to exercise the right to vote. The guidelines specifically focused on the October 8-9 parliamentary elections. The guidelines clarified, among other things, the legal right to vote, restrictions on the right to vote, and accommodations and support that must be provided to persons housed in the facilities for them to exercise their voting rights.

The ombudsman’s annual report for 2020 noted an undated case of a disabled woman who was thrown out of a taxi because she was accompanied by her service dog. The ombudsman also described shortcomings in early care for children with disabilities, the employment of persons with disabilities in public administration, equal access to prenatal and postnatal care for pregnant women, and homes for persons with disabilities.

According to law, only children with significant disabilities should attend segregated schools with specially trained teachers. Many children with disabilities were able to attend mainstream primary and secondary schools and universities, but funding for additional educational support such as teaching assistants and equipment remained insufficient. The ombudsman’s office reported that 14.2 percent of primary school students and 5.9 percent of secondary school students were persons with disabilities, they however noted that the percentages are based on the enrollment only and a significant portion of school-aged persons with disabilities may not be enrolled.

NGOs noted an increase in reports of violence against persons with disabilities, especially persons with mental disabilities.

Disability was among the most common grounds for alleged discrimination in cases submitted to the ombudsman in 2020. Of the 353 claims of discrimination filed with the ombudsman, 77 were based on alleged discrimination due to disability. In the courts, approximately 23 percent of equal treatment cases were based on claimed disability, making it the most frequently invoked grounds for claiming discrimination in 2020.

In July the Constitutional Court overturned a Prague court’s decision in the case of a rape victim with autism spectrum disorder/Asperger syndrome. The victim, who had identified as female since childhood, was repeatedly raped by one or more other patients in a boys’ psychiatry ward where she was placed pursuant to a court order at the age of 12. The Prague court awarded the victim less than one-fifth of what she sought in damages, in part because it found that the victim was unable, due to her disability, to understand the interference with her fundamental rights to inviolability and privacy. The Constitutional Court found the award amount inadequate and ruled that a victim’s compensation cannot be reduced based on the injured party’s incomplete understanding of interference with her fundamental rights.

In May a district court in Prague delivered the first-ever decision on reasonable accommodation of a public service employee. The plaintiff, a prison educator with a physical disability, sought reassignment to a work location closer to his home due to negative effects of a long, 180-mile commute on his health. The court found that the employer’s refusal to provide the accommodation amounted to discrimination on the grounds of disability and ordered the employer to cover lost wages and pay damages.

The ombudsman’s office noted problems related to restrictions on free movement and other emergency measures imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, lockdowns in residential homes for the elderly and persons with disabilities lasted for a disproportionately long period and exceeded by a month the lockdown measures for the general population.

In September parliament passed legislation that allows schools to provide additional health services. One change specifically allows an estimated 4,000 children with diabetes to receive assistance with insulin injections from health service providers at school instead of relying on their teacher’s willingness to help.

Persons with HIV and AIDS faced societal discrimination, although there were no reported cases of violence. HIV and AIDS were classified as a disability under the antidiscrimination law, which contributed to the stigmatization of and discrimination against HIV-positive individuals. Individuals with HIV or AIDS often preferred to keep their status confidential rather than file a complaint, which observers believed led to underreporting the problem. The Czech AIDS Help Society noted most insurance companies did not provide health insurance to persons with HIV and AIDS. NGOs reported that some physicians refused to treat HIV-positive patients.

In June President Zeman stated that he “does not understand transgender people,” that persons who undergo surgery to change their gender are “committing the criminalized act of self-harm,” and that transgender persons are “disgusting.” A leading NGO in the field viewed the comments as psychologically harmful to LGBTQI+ persons and as inciting hatred. An NGO that provides legal assistance to hate crime victims reported that it received five referrals shortly after Zeman’s statement.

An NGO reported that while attacks on Roma remained the most prevalent form of hate crime (verbal and physical), there was a significant increase in attacks on LGBTQI+ individuals during the year. The NGO noted an increase (from two to eight) in such cases reported to it between the first and the second quarters of the year.

In August a young man who identified as nonbinary, accompanied by his 74-year-old grandfather, was attacked by several men in Prague. The grandfather fell and suffered head injuries during the attack and later died in the hospital. An NGO assisting the victim reported that police were not treating the incident as an attack motivated by sexual orientation.

In June a group of eight persons attacked Jakub Stary, the editor of a gay magazine, as well as his same-sex partner and three friends in Prague because Stary and his partner were holding hands. Stary lost teeth and suffered injuries on his head and body. He reported to the media that police on the scene became dismissive of the incident when they were told the attack was provoked by Stary and his partner holding hands.

Several LGBTQI+ individuals complained to the ombudsman that their blood donations were refused on the grounds that they had unprotected sex in the previous six months, although all blood samples are tested for all sexually transmitted diseases. No similar refusals were made regarding blood donations by heterosexual persons.

Official change of gender is only available to persons who undergo gender reassignment surgery. Transgender individuals are required to be sterilized to obtain gender altering surgery or receive legal gender recognition. Gender altering surgery is allowed for single or divorced persons who have a minimum of one year of hormonal therapy and “acting” as the person of the desired gender. The Council of Europe found this practice contrary to EU member commitments on the protection of health. The ombudsman recommended that the government submit amendments to relevant laws. In May 2019 the Supreme Administrative Court ruled, contrary to the European Court for Human Rights, that the sterilization requirement was legitimate. The decision was challenged in the Constitutional Court, where the case was pending as of year’s end.

Laws prohibit discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons in housing, employment, and access to health care, and the government generally enforced such laws. The country does not have specific hate crime provisions covering sexual orientation and gender identity. Laws allow registered partnerships of same-sex couples but not marriage. The law on victims of crimes covers lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender minorities, but they are not considered “particularly vulnerable persons” and are not entitled to additional legal protections, unlike children, seniors, victims of trafficking or terrorism, and, as of July, rape and domestic violence victims.

In August a Finnish soccer player of African origin alleged that a Czech soccer player called him a “monkey” during a match, resulting in a 10-game ban for the Czech player. In another reported case, a Czech club banned fans from attending games following a racial insult and filed a criminal complaint against them. Observers note that the Czech Football League and individual clubs have been historically lukewarm and ineffective in their response to racist abuse against players at home and abroad.

NGOs actively worked to combat anti-Muslim attitudes and reported a decrease in reported incidents.

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides workers with the right to form and join independent unions of their choosing without authorization or excessive requirements. The law provides for the right to associate freely for both citizens and foreign workers. Unions are apolitical and independent of the state, and the state may not interfere in their internal affairs. The minimum number of members needed to form a union is three.

The law allows collective bargaining. It prohibits antiunion discrimination and does not recognize union activity as a valid reason for dismissal. The law requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. Workers in most occupations have the legal right to strike if mediation efforts fail, and they generally exercised this right.

Strikes can be restricted or prohibited in essential service sectors, including health and social care facilities, fire brigades, public utility services, air traffic control, nuclear energy, and the oil and natural gas sector. Members of the armed forces, prosecutors, and judges may not form or join trade unions or strike. Only trade unions may legally represent workers, including nonmembers. When planning a strike, unions are required to inform employers in writing of the number of strikers and provide a list of the members of the strike committee or contact persons for negotiation. Strikes are permitted only in negotiations over collective agreements and can only be undertaken after mandatory mediation lasting at least 20 days. Unions must announce the strike at least three days in advance.

The law protects union officials from dismissal by an employer during their term of union service and for 12 months after its completion. To dismiss a union official, an employer must seek prior consent from the employee’s unit within the union. If the union does not consent, the dismissal notice is invalid.

The government enforced applicable laws effectively and permitted unions to conduct their activities without interference. Government resources for inspections and remediation were adequate, and legal penalties in the form of fines were commensurate with those for similar violations.

The Global Rights Index 2021, a report produced by the International Trade Union Confederation, alleged that Amazon warehouses in the country were under surveillance to monitor “security risks, including labor organization and trade union presence.” Collected data included information about union protests and strikes, including the number of participants and whether leaflets were being handed out. Other surveillance activities reportedly included infiltrating Facebook groups and creating false social media profiles to investigate employees who led protests. In 2020 the Global Rights Index 2021 gave the country “Rating 2,” stating that repeated violations of workers’ rights occurred in the country.

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and the government effectively enforced these prohibitions. Resources, inspections, and remediation were adequate. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations.

Men and women from the country, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia, and Vietnam were exploited in forced labor, typically through debt-based coercion or exploitation of other vulnerabilities, in the construction, agricultural, forestry, manufacturing, food processing, and service sectors, including in domestic work. Private labor agencies often used deceptive practices to recruit workers from abroad, as well as from inside the country. For example, after arriving in the country, workers from abroad were given job offers that differed from what they had been promised prior to arrival. Their rejection of a job offer on these grounds typically meant they lost money invested in travel to the country and threatened their ability to support families and children who remained in their country of origin. In 2020 women from abroad were frequently hired through such deceptive practices to work in factories, poultry farms, or hairdressing studios.

In August amendments to the foreigners and employment acts entered into force that introduced fines for employers who allow or benefit from “disguised employment,” a system of sophisticated chains of supply contracts in which a company outsources work to an employment pseudo-agency lacking necessary permits to provide such employment activities. The pseudo-agency provides workers, often foreigners without necessary work or residence permits or even Czech employees without proper contracts, necessary insurance, and protections. This system opens a space for exploitation of workers or forced labor, since such workers are often in vulnerable positions. A fine of up to 10 million crowns ($440,000) can be imposed on employers using “disguised employment” in addition to intermediaries facilitating such employment.

Also see the Department of State’s Report at

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The minimum age for employment is 15. Employment of children between the ages of 15 and 18 was subject to strict safety standards, limitations on hours of work, and the requirement that work not interfere with education.

The law permits children younger than 15 (or who have not completed mandatory elementary education) to work only in certain areas: cultural and artistic activities; advertising; product promotion; and certain modeling and sports activities. A child younger than 15 may work only if he or she obtains a positive health assessment from a pediatrician and prior approval by the Labor Office. Work permits for children are issued for 12 months. Resources, inspections, and remediation were adequate. The State Bureau for Labor Inspections (SBLI) effectively enforced these regulations. Penalties were commensurate with those for other violations. The SBLI did not report any child labor law violations during the year.

Labor laws and regulations prohibit any kind of discrimination based on nationality, race, color, religion, political opinion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, disability, HIV or other communicable disease status, social status, or trade union membership.

According to the ombudsman’s report, discrimination at work accounted for the greatest number of complaints to the ombudsman in 2020 (approximately 27 percent). Like the previous year, most complaints in 2020 were for discrimination based on age, gender, and disability. The ombudsman’s office, for example, helped an employee after his employer refused to extend the employment contract due to his age. In this case, the ombudsman’s arguments contributed to an amicable conclusion of the court proceedings, including compensation for nonpecuniary damages.

The government effectively enforced the law. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations, and inspection and remediation were sufficient to enforce compliance. The SBLI conducted checks for unequal treatment and discrimination in 2020 and imposed penalties for violations of discrimination laws, mostly for noncompliance with the requirement to employ a specific number of persons with disabilities, discrimination due to health conditions, gender, and age, or the publication of discriminatory job advertisements.

Women’s salaries lagged those of men by approximately 20 percent. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs continued using a testing tool for employers that evaluates gender pay gaps in an organization as part of the “22 percent towards equality” project. The testing tool highlights pay gaps and sensitizes management to disparities in remuneration.

Associations supporting HIV-positive individuals reported cases of employment discrimination. HIV-positive individuals are not legally obligated to report their diagnosis to their employer unless it prevents them from executing their duties. Some employers dismissed HIV-positive employees due to the prejudices of other employees. To avoid accusations of discrimination, employers justified such dismissals on administrative grounds, such as redundancy.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs establishes and enforces minimum wage standards. The minimum wage is above the “minimum subsistence cost,” which is defined as the minimum amount needed to satisfy the basic needs of a working-age adult for a month. Inspections for compliance with the minimum wage were one of the primary objectives of SBLI inspectors.

The SBLI detected 2,610 violations of wage and hour laws in 2020 and imposed penalties of 9 million crowns ($415,000). Violations of wage, hour, and overtime laws were common in the wholesale, retail, food, hospitality, land transport, construction, and security services sectors.

While SBLI inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions, they are not responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws. Employees can seek enforcement of wage and hour laws through judicial recovery. Observers reported judicial recovery can be very lengthy and hard to get, especially for foreign worker.

The law provides for a 40-hour workweek, two days of rest per week, and a 30-minute break during the standard eight-hour workday. Employees are entitled to at least 20 days of paid annual leave. Employers may require up to eight hours per week of overtime to meet increased demand but not more than 150 hours of overtime in a calendar year. Additional overtime is subject to the employee’s consent. The labor code requires premium pay for overtime that is equal to at least 125 percent of average earnings.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government set occupational health and safety standards that were appropriate for the country’s main industries. The labor code requires employers to provide health and safety protections in the workplace, maintain a healthy and safe work environment, and prevent health and safety risks. Responsibility for identifying unsafe conditions remains with inspectors, who have the authority to make unannounced visits and initiate sanctions. Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous situations without jeopardy to their employment.

The government effectively enforced the law. Inspection and remediation were sufficient to enforce general compliance. SBLI inspectors conducted checks for labor code compliance and imposed penalties that were commensurate with those for similar violations. The SBLI’s labor inspection plan typically focused on sectors with high-risk working conditions, such as construction, agriculture, forestry, handling of hazardous chemicals, and transport.

There were 35,071 registered workplace injuries in 2020, 7,345 fewer than in 2019. There were 108 fatal accidents in 2020, compared with 95 in 2019. Most workplace injuries and deaths occurred in the agriculture, forestry, transport, construction, and processing industries. Fatal accidents were investigated. For example, when an agricultural worker died after being injured by cattle, the SBLI concluded the employer did not take adequate organizational and technical measures to prevent the fatal injury and imposed a penalty.


Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape against women and men (the statute is gender neutral), including spousal rape and domestic violence. Rape is not defined by a lack of consent, but rather by whether physical violence, threat, or coercion is involved or if the victim is found to have been unable to resist. Penalties for rape include imprisonment for up to 12 years for aggravated circumstances and up to six years for domestic violence. The government effectively prosecuted persons accused of rape.

Gender-based violence rates have increased due to COVID-19. The number of women enrolled in domestic violence shelters throughout the country in 2020 increased 3 percent compared with 2019. In January a new consent law went into effect. The law, which strengthened the country’s rape laws, criminalized sex without the explicit consent of all parties.

The police received 1,825 reports of rape or attempted rape in 2020.

Faroese law criminalizes rape with penalties of up to 12 years’ imprisonment. The law considers nonconsensual sex with a victim in a “helpless state” to be sexual abuse rather than rape. In certain instances it also reduces the penalty for rape and sexual violence within marriage.

Greenlandic law criminalizes rape. The law does not provide a minimum sentencing for persons convicted of rape but does cap sentencing at 10 years. The law is applied equally regardless of the marital relationship of the offender and the victim. The law provides that sentencing be based on the severity of the case as well as an individual evaluation of the offender. Sentencing was typically between 12 and 18 months.

In the country’s UPR, two treaty bodies of the UNHRC expressed concern that numerous women had experienced violence or had been exposed to threats thereof, and that the rates of prosecution and conviction remained low. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was concerned regarding the high incidence of sexual violence, including rape; the lack of reliable associated statistical data; the inadequacy of legal provisions relating to rape; and the very low rate of prosecution of sexual violence.

The government and NGOs operated 24-hour hotlines, counseling centers, and shelters for female survivors of violence throughout the country, including in Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

Under the law a man who is the survivor of domestic violence is not afforded the same opportunities for help as a woman. While the law provides women the right to be admitted to a women’s crisis center, men can only be admitted to shelters or male centers as “functional homeless.” These centers did not necessarily have expertise in caring for survivors of violence because they house a wider target group, such as the homeless and those suffering from drug or alcohol addictions. In Greenland there were 748 sexual crimes reported in 2020, a 33.8 percent increase from the 559 reported in 2019.

The law provides for 10 hours of taxpayer-funded psychological help for women, but not for men, in shelters. The government may extend this treatment to men in men’s shelters on trial basis in 2022-23.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides that authorities may order a perpetrator or an employer who allowed or failed to prevent an incident of harassment to pay monetary compensation to victims. The law considers sexual harassment an unsafe working condition and gives labor unions or the Equal Treatment Board the responsibility to resolve it. The government enforced the law effectively.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, labor, religious, personal status and nationality, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning and managing businesses and property laws. Little discrimination was reported in employment, ownership and management of businesses, or access to credit, education, or housing.

COVID-19 vaccination rates among residents in the country’s so-called parallel societies (previously called “ghettos”) were considerably lower than other areas of the country. As of August, 40 percent of those older than age 12 who were invited to get vaccinated in the largest areas, including Vollsmose, Gellerup, and Tingbjerg, did not book a time to get vaccinated. This compared with 15 percent of the rest of the general population. Health experts attributed the low rates of vaccine uptake among certain minority and immigrant groups to insufficiently robust outreach and engagement efforts.

In a report from a study conducted between 2015 and 2018 and released in September 2020, the DIHR found that patients with non-Western backgrounds had a 40 percent higher risk of being subjected to coercion in psychiatric institutions.

The Finance Act of 2021 included a four-year grant to fund the country’s first crisis center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons with ethnic minority backgrounds. The crisis center will emphasize specialized counseling and guidance efforts and aims to promote security, well-being, and equal opportunities for LGBTQI+ persons with a minority background.

The Ministry of the Interior and Housing continued to implement the government’s action plan for the elimination of parallel societies by 2030. The government defines a parallel society as a neighborhood with more than 1,000 residents where more than half of the residents are of “non-Western” origin and meet certain socioeconomic criteria. Media widely interpreted “non-Western” to mean Muslim-majority communities. The law requires parents from parallel societies to send toddlers older than the age of one to government-funded daycare to be taught “Danish values,” including Christmas and Easter traditions. Authorities withheld quarterly benefits of up to DKK 4,560 ($711) from noncompliant parents. The law also requires neighborhoods that have been classified as “parallel societies” for four consecutive years to reduce the amount of public housing in the area by 40 percent through demolition, sale, or privatization of public housing. The government is responsible for re-housing evicted individuals.

Indigenous Peoples

The law protects the rights of the indigenous Inuit inhabitants of Greenland, who are Danish citizens and whose legal system seeks to accommodate their traditions. Through their elected internally autonomous government, they participated in decisions affecting their lands, culture, traditions, and the exploitation of energy, minerals, and other natural resources. Greenlanders also vote in national elections.

In the UPR, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stated that the 2003 Supreme Court ruling that Greenland’s Thule tribe was not a distinct group of the area’s Inuit population breached the right to self-identification.

Birth Registration: Most children acquire citizenship from their parents. Stateless persons and certain persons born in the country to noncitizens may acquire citizenship by naturalization, provided, in most cases, that they apply for citizenship before their 21st birthday. The law requires medical practitioners to register promptly the births of children they deliver, and they generally did so.

Child Abuse: Child abuse, including corporal punishment, is illegal and punishable by up to two years in prison. The National Police and Public Prosecutor’s Office actively investigated child abuse cases. According to police statistics, approximately 17 percent of total sexual offenses in Greenland were crimes of “sexual relations with individuals below the age of 15.”

During the UPR the Committee on the Rights of the Child raised concerns that many children, especially children with disabilities, who could not stay with their families continued to be placed in alternative care institutions.

The 2020-23 joint Denmark-Greenland project to strengthen the work for vulnerable children and young persons in Greenland established 16 targeted initiatives to ensure early support for vulnerable children and young persons, who were survivors of abuse or sexual assault. The national government allocated DKK 80 million ($12 million) to help implement the recommendations and initiatives. Previously, the Greenlandic government reported that every third child in Greenland experienced neglect, that one in five children born after 1995 experienced sexual abuse, and that the suicide rate among youth was high.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18.

A report released in October by Ethnic Consultant Team, a department of the municipality of Copenhagen, showed an increase in the number of persons who have contacted Copenhagen and Aarhus municipalities because of threats of so-called honor killings. An estimated 100 persons, mostly women, contacted the municipalities over the past three years. The municipality of Copenhagen received 90 inquires related to “honor killings” between 2018 and 2020, of which 80 were directly related to threats of “honor killings,” and the remaining 10 to anxiety related to “honor killings.” Spokesperson for the Council for Ethnic Minorities, Halima El Abassi, called the numbers “extreme,” adding that the country has issues surrounding honor, and the big cultural differences in some environments.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. Penalties for the distribution of child pornography include up to a six-year prison sentence. The government generally enforced these laws. The minimum age for consensual sexual activity is 15. Prostitution is not criminalized, but the purchase of sexual services from a person younger than 18 is illegal. Penalties for inciting child prostitution include up to a four-year prison sentence.

The law in Greenland prohibits sexual relations with children younger than age 15; the Greenlandic Police determine the penalties for perpetrators.

Displaced Children: The government considered unaccompanied minor refugees and migrants to be vulnerable, and the law includes special rules regarding them. If a child younger than 18 enters the country without parents or any other family and applies for asylum, the child is termed an unaccompanied minor asylum seeker. As such, the child has special rights including to receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance and be accorded the same protection as any other child permanently or temporarily deprived of his or her family environment for any reason, as well as other rights described in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. A personal representative is appointed for all unaccompanied children who sought asylum or who stayed in the country without permission.

In the UPR, the Committee on the Rights of the Child noted that: asylum-seeking families with children might be detained awaiting deportation; efforts to identify children in vulnerable situations or girls at risk of female genital mutilation were insufficient; and the best interests of the child were not adequately considered in immigration cases. The committee and UNHCR were also concerned that children aged 15 or older did not have an automatic right to family reunification.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child was concerned that unaccompanied children might be placed in detention when awaiting deportation and, as of age 17, were placed in centers for adults and could be separated from unaccompanied siblings. The committee was also concerned that unaccompanied children missing from asylum centers could have become sex trafficking victims and that unaccompanied children not found mature enough to undergo the asylum procedure did not have their applications processed until they were considered sufficiently mature.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at

The organization the Jewish Community in Denmark (Det Jodiske Samfund i Danmark) estimated between 6,000 and 8,000 Jews lived in the country, mostly in the Copenhagen area.

In April the Jewish cemetery in Aalborg was vandalized. Two dolls were placed near a grave, and paint was poured over the dolls and the wall surrounding the cemetery. In addition, anti-Semitic flyers referring to a website for the right-wing radical movement Nordic Resistance Movement were found near the dolls. A 29-year-old man was charged with vandalism and hate speech. In June the man was sentenced to one year in prison. He appealed the verdict and was released from prison on November 1, because the court deemed that there was a risk that the expected sentence from the High Court of Western Denmark would not exceed the time the man had already served.

On April 6, a 28-year-old man was sentenced to nine months in prison for racism, violation of the peace of a graveyard, and gross vandalism against a grave in a Jewish cemetery in Randers in 2019.

Representatives of the Jewish community remained concerned regarding proposals to ban nonmedical circumcision of boys younger than age 18 could reemerge in parliamentary debates.

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

The law prohibits discrimination against and harassment of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. It also mandates access by persons with disabilities to government buildings, education, employment, information, and communications. The government enforced these provisions.

The law provides for the right of free education for all children. The law provides that most children with disabilities be able to attend mainstream classes with nondisabled peers through secondary school. On April 20, parliament voted unanimously for a bill to include on the list of hate crime offenses criminal acts motivated by prejudice against a victim’s disability. Previously, only crimes motivated by prejudice against a victims’ ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or similar, counted as hate crimes. The new law took effect on May 1.

On January 1, the law prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of disability was amended to provide reasonable accommodations for children with disabilities in day care, primary school, independent schools, and private primary schools (free primary schools). At the same time, the right to appeal was introduced to the Equal Treatment Board, which makes it possible to be awarded compensation. The purpose of the amended law is to avoid discrimination of children and young persons with disabilities in day care and at school and achieve the same opportunities for participation as other children and teenagers.

The right of persons with disabilities to vote or participate in civic affairs was generally not restricted, but some persons with disabilities reported problems in connection with elections, including ballots that were not accessible to blind persons or persons with mental disabilities. The country maintained a system of guardianship for persons considered incapable of managing their own affairs due to psychosocial or mental disabilities. Persons under guardianship who do not possess legal capacity have the right to vote in local and regional elections as well as in elections to the European Parliament, but not in national elections.

Greenland employed a spokesperson to promote the rights and interests of persons with disabilities. According to media reports, persons with disabilities in Greenland continued to lack adequate access to physical aids, counselling, educated professionals, and appropriate housing. Many Greenlanders with disabilities had to be relocated to Denmark because of lack of support resources in Greenland.

Police and other government agents did not incite, perpetrate, condone, or tolerate violence against LGBTQI+ individuals, or those reporting on such abuse.

Danish law prohibits discrimination by state and nonstate actors against LGBTQI+ persons, and the government enforced such laws.

The law affords individuals legal gender recognition, but government guidelines require that individuals undergoing transition receive hormone treatment at one of two designated government-run clinics; private physicians are not permitted to establish this course of treatment.

In May the protest movement Live and Let Live (Lev og Lad Leve) published a book detailing 1,000 examples of hate crimes committed against members of the LGBTQI+ community in the country since 2020. The release of the book was accompanied by a demonstration at parliament where 1,000 chairs were placed in front of the castle, one to represent each story in the book. The organizers and authors of the book delivered copies of the book to politicians in parliament, among them Minister for Equal Opportunities Peter Hummelgaard. Several smaller demonstrations were held throughout the country where books were given to local politicians. Intersex Denmark and other LGBTQI+ organizations called on the country to end surgery on intersex children.

Representatives of the Muslim and Jewish communities remained concerned regarding proposals to ban nonmedical circumcision of boys younger than age 18 and its regular reemergence in parliamentary debates.

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law states all workers may form or join independent unions. The law provides for the right to collective bargaining and to legal strikes but does not provide nonresident foreign workers on Danish ships the right to participate in the country’s collective bargaining agreements. It allows unions to conduct their activities without interference, prohibits antiunion discrimination, and provides for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

The government effectively enforced the law. Resources, inspections, and remediation including supporting regulations were adequate. Penalties were commensurate with similar violations. Breaches of collective agreement are typically referred to industrial arbitration tribunals to decide whether there was a breach. If the parties agree, the Labor Court may deal with cases that would otherwise be subject to industrial arbitration. The court determines penalties on the facts of the case and with due regard to the degree that the breach of agreement was excusable.

Employers and the government generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Annual collective bargaining agreements covered members of the workforce associated with unions and indirectly affected the wages and working conditions of nonunion employees.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, including by children, and the government effectively enforced this prohibition. The law prescribes penalties that were generally commensurate with those for similar crimes.

An annual report from the National Board of Social Services noted that victims of both human trafficking and forced labor had been affected more negatively due to COVID-19. Male victims were generally trafficked for criminal actions and forced labor. Children and young persons were often exploited for criminal acts. The report underscored human trafficking increasingly took place digitally, with use of technological tools for recruitment, monitoring, retention, and exploitation of victims. The National Board of Social Services also identified cases of trafficking to slavery-like conditions. In all cases the victims had been physically deprived of their liberty.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor, and the government effectively enforced the law. The minimum legal age for full-time employment is 15. The law sets a minimum age of 13 for part-time employment and limits school-age children to less strenuous tasks. The law limits work hours and sets occupational health and safety restrictions for children, and the government effectively enforced these laws. Minors may not operate heavy machinery or handle toxic substances, including harsh detergents. Minors may only carry out “light work” that is the equivalent of lifting no more than 26.4 pounds from the ground and 52.8 pounds from waist height. For minors working in jobs where there is a higher risk of robbery, such as a snack bar, kiosk, bakery, or gas station, a coworker older than 18 must always be present between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. on weekdays and 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. on weekends.

The law prohibits employment discrimination, and the government generally enforced these laws effectively. The law prohibits discrimination and harassment based on race, skin color, or ethnic origin; gender; religion or faith; sexual orientation; national or social origin; political views; age; and disability. The law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on HIV, AIDS, or refugee status. Penalties for violations include fines and imprisonment and were generally commensurate with those for similar violations.

The UNHRC expressed concerned regarding the persistent gender wage gap, mostly affecting women with immigration backgrounds, and obstacles faced by women in accessing full-time employment.

Danish gender equality law does not apply to Greenland, but Greenland’s own law prohibits gender discrimination. Greenland has no antidiscrimination laws in employment, and Danish antidiscrimination laws do not apply to Greenland.

Greenlandic law prohibits gender‐based discrimination in the labor market and has set up an Equality Council. The council’s mandate is restricted to gender equality, and the council “is not obliged to work at the request of citizens but can assess whether an issue requires its attention.” Greenlandic citizens cannot complain to an independent appeals board but must bring their case to court. If a complaint concerns discrimination by a public authority, citizens can complain to the parliamentary ombudsman.

In July the Employment and Integration Administration in Copenhagen released findings showing that nearly a quarter of the 3,433 young persons between the ages of 18 and 29 surveyed experienced discrimination within the past year. Of the respondents, 42 percent indicated that discrimination occurred in their workplace, up from 34 percent in 2019. The survey reported that those of younger age with an ethnic background other than Danish had a greater risk of having unpleasant experiences at work.

In May the labor union Lederne published a survey showing the extent of discrimination in Danish workplaces. According to the results, many workers with non-Western ethnic backgrounds experienced racist or discriminatory actions from customers or other employees.

In 2019 the Ministry of Equality published findings from a study regarding the situation of LGBTQI+ persons in the labor market. The study found that approximately 30 percent of LGBTQI+ workers experienced discrimination in the workplace. Following the release of this report during the year, the Ministry of Equality announced a new campaign to increase job satisfaction as well as prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law does not mandate a national minimum wage. Unions and employer associations negotiate minimum wages in collective bargaining agreements that were more than the estimate for the poverty income level. The law requires equal pay for equal work; migrant workers are entitled to the same minimum wages and working conditions as other workers.

Workers generally worked a 37.5-hour week established by contract rather than law. Workers received premium pay for overtime, and there was no compulsory overtime. Working hours are set by collective bargaining agreements and adhere to the EU directive that average workweeks not exceed 48 hours.

The Danish Working Environment Authority (DWEA) under the Ministry of Employment is responsible for the enforcement of wage and hour laws. The number of inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance, and inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. The government effectively enforced wage and hour laws, and penalties for violations were commensurate with those for similar crimes. Vulnerable groups generally included migrant and seasonal laborers, as well as young workers. These groups often worked in the agricultural and service sectors.

There were growing concerns regarding the state of working conditions in the country’s platform economy (also known as gig economy). Employees at, an online grocery delivery service, were threatened with being fired or having reduced working hours if they could not work within the allotted timeframe of packing customers’ orders. Drivers were also expected to work for 15 hours a day and experienced enormous physical pressure to fulfill deliveries to avoid fines up to approximately DKK 2,000 ($310). The labor union 3F entered an agreement with regarding the work pace in a warehouse located in Broendby. In March, 3F stated in a briefing note that made progress during the COVID-19 pandemic but that employees continued to be treated poorly.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law prescribes conditions of work, including appropriate safety and health standards, and authorities effectively enforced compliance with labor regulations. The same inspectors with authority over minimum wage and hours conducted occupational safety and health inspections. Standards were enforced effectively for wage, hours and occupational safety and health in all sectors, including the informal economy. Penalties for safety and health violations, for both employees and employers, were commensurate with those for similar violations. The DWEA under the Ministry of Employment may settle cases subject only to fines without trial.

The Ministry of Employment is responsible for the framework and rules regarding working conditions, health and safety, industrial injuries, financial support, and disability allowances. The DWEA is responsible for enforcing health and safety rules and regulations. This is carried out through inspection visits as well as guidance to companies and their internal safety organizations. DWEA’s scope applies to all industrial sectors except for work carried out in the employer’s private household, exclusively by members of the employer’s family, and by military personnel. The Danish Energy Agency is responsible for supervision of offshore energy installations, the Maritime Authority is responsible for supervision of shipping, and the Civil Aviation Administration is responsible for supervision in the aviation sector.

The DWEA has authority to report violations to police or the courts if an employer fails to make required improvements by the deadline set by the DWEA. Court decisions regarding violations were released to the public and show past fines imposed against noncompliant companies or court-ordered reinstatement of employment. Greenland and the Faroe Islands have similar work conditions, except in both cases collective bargaining agreements set the standard workweek at 40 hours.

Workers can remove themselves from situations they believe endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in these situations. The same laws protect legal immigrants and foreign workers and apply equally to both categories of workers.

The DWEA registered 25 workplace fatalities in the period from January to May. An annual report from the DWEA showed that in 2020 a total of 46,391 occupational accidents were reported (a number that is the highest registered number of occupational accidents in the period from 2015-20). According to the report, the most frequent injury was ankle sprains and other muscle injuries which made up 37 percent of all reported occupational accidents in 2020.


Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of both women and men, including spousal rape, and the government enforced the law effectively. Rape is punishable by up to six years’ imprisonment. If the offender used violence, the offense is considered aggravated, and the penalty may be up to 10 years. All sexual offenses against adults, except sexual harassment, are subject to public prosecution. Sexual offenses against a defenseless person (such as because of unconsciousness, intoxication, or a disability) are considered as severe as rape.

Authorities may prosecute domestic abuse under various criminal laws, including as rape, assault and battery, harassment, and disturbing the peace. The penalty for physical domestic violence ranges from a minimum of six months to a maximum of 10 years in prison.

The legal definition of rape emphasizes intentional violence, which civil society organizations alleged leads courts to find assailants not guilty in cases where coercion was less explicit. In addition police must inquire about a party’s willingness to participate in reconciliation, which is usually engaged in before the case proceeds to the prosecutor. Reconciliation may be grounds for the prosecutor not to press charges, but even reconciliation where a mutual agreement has been reached does not prevent the prosecutor from pressing charges.

Gender-based violence, including domestic and intimate partner violence, continued to be a problem. The Finnish branch of Amnesty International estimated that more than 100,000 persons experienced violence annually in the country and that 76 percent of the victims were women. According to Amnesty International, only 10 percent of these incidents were reported to authorities and most of those reported did not lead to prosecution. While police are obligated to investigate domestic violence cases, many of the cases are referred to a mediator after which police do not closely track the cases. According to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), 36.3 percent of intimate partner violence cases were directed to mediation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, cases of intimate-partner violence reported to police increased by 6 percent, and utilization of the online services of the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters grew by 11 percent over the same period. A government-funded provider of telephone support services for victims of violence against women and domestic violence also reported a 31 percent increase in individuals seeking assistance in 2020. From January through July, 160 cases of rape were reported to police or border guards, a 24 percent increase over the same period in 2020. The ombudsman for equality at the Ministry of Justice highlighted problems with access to domestic violence shelters in remote rural areas.

The government funded shelters specifically for victims of domestic violence. There were 29 shelters for victims of domestic violence, and the number of places available in shelters throughout the country increased to 231 from 179 in 2018. The Finnish branch of Amnesty International stated that 550 places were needed to support the number of victims properly and that some rural areas had very few shelters and insufficient space in those shelters. The Human Rights Center acknowledged the problem. A survey of shelter services published by the THL during the year found a decrease in the number of shelter clients since 2019. The use of social welfare and health care services that refer clients decreased during COVID-19 lockdowns, which contributed to a decrease in the use of shelters. The THL estimated that the total required number of family places in shelters varied between 262 and 367. The ombudsman for equality at the Ministry of Justice highlighted problems with access to domestic violence shelters in remote rural areas. Funding of support services for survivors of violence were predominantly provided from the revenue of a state-owned company operating slot machines and gambling.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is treated as aggravated assault under the law and may be punished with imprisonment or deportation. Taking a girl living in the country abroad for FGM/C is also considered a crime. The government generally enforced the law. A school health survey released by the THL in June 2020, the most recent data available, found that 0.2 percent of girls attending high school or vocational school had undergone FGM/C and that at least 10 girls who answered the questionnaire were mutilated in Finland. The population that most reported having undergone FGM/C were Somali-born residents.

Sexual Harassment: The law defines sexual harassment as a specific, punishable offense with penalties ranging from fines to up to six months’ imprisonment. Employers who fail to protect employees from workplace harassment are subject to the same penalties. The prosecutor general is responsible for investigating sexual harassment complaints. The government generally enforced the law.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

In 2019 a group of parents, midwives, and doulas (nonmedical professionals who provide comfort and support to women during pregnancy and childbirth) organized a public campaign against alleged obstetric violence based on reports of episiotomies being performed during birth without informing or obtaining the consent of the mother and medical personnel pressuring pregnant women to consent to interventions and performing “violent internal examinations” on female patients.

The law requires that a transgender person present a medical certificate of infertility before the government may legally recognize their gender identity (see Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, below, for additional information.)

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, and emergency contraception was available as part of the clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The government enforced the law effectively. Pregnant women experienced difficulties in finding a job, returning from leave, and renewing fixed-term contracts. The equality ombudsman estimated that half of all calls relating to workplace discrimination concerned discrimination based on pregnancy or issues involving return from parental leave (see also section 7.d.).

The law specifically prohibits discrimination based on origin and nationality.

The public broadcaster Yle reported in July that the Helsinki Police Department fired two officers, including the chief of staff, for engaging in racist communications with far-right hate groups. Text messages revealed discussion of an upcoming “civil war,” with language particularly targeting the country’s Muslim, Somali, and Romani populations. The report indicated that an additional five police officers and one guard with ties to far-right groups were under investigation.

In June the chief inspector of the ombudsman for equality confirmed that security officials, including police, were observed profiling and discriminating against individuals based on their ethnicity. The statement confirmed the key finding of a 2018 study that found police officers, security guards, border agents, and customs officers targeted minorities due to their ethnic background or skin color.

Roma continued to face discrimination in all social sectors and were often targeted by law enforcement and security officials. An investigation by Yle in May indicated that internal guidelines issued by the Helsinki Police Department to record the movements of the Finnish Romani populations meant that the police were collecting personal information and detaining Roma without legal grounds beginning in 2013. Police representatives stated they had stopped recording the movements of the Finnish Romani populations in 2017. According to the Fundamental Rights Barometer survey, 53 percent of Finnish respondents would be uncomfortable with a Romani neighbor. Housing discrimination acutely affected Romani populations, but instances of housing discrimination for Roma were likely underreported. Between January and June, the Office of the Equality Ombudsman received 753 reports of housing discrimination.

In June 2020, the latest year for which statistics from the National Crime Victim Survey were available, the nondiscrimination ombudsman reported that 80 percent of respondents with an African background experienced discrimination because of their skin color, 67 percent encountered discrimination or harassment in education, 60 percent encountered discrimination in the workplace, and 27 percent also experienced physical violence. More than one-half of the respondents said they had not reported the discrimination to authorities because they believed reporting harassment would not accomplish anything. According to statistics from the Fundamental Rights Barometer Survey, 36 percent of Arabic-speaking respondents and 31 percent of Russian-speaking respondents experienced discrimination during employment or while searching for a job.

According to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, having an immigrant background disproportionally influenced educational results for students: 45 percent of immigrant students were in the bottom quarter of the PISA index of economic, social, and cultural status, compared with 24 percent of nonimmigrant students.

According to a university researcher, students were often placed in Finnish-as-a-second-language classes regardless of their Finnish proficiency if their native language on record was something other than Finnish or if they had a “non-Finnish” name.

The nondiscrimination ombudsman is responsible for responding to complaints of discrimination and regularly mediated between business owners, government agencies, and public service providers regrading treatment of customers and clients. The Ministry of Justice also responds to complaints of discrimination.

The government strongly encouraged tolerance and respect for minority groups, sought to address racial discrimination, and assisted victims.

In January Helsingin Sanomat reported that the banned Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) continued to operate out of public sight and without a clear name. In June prosecutors charged nine NRM members with engaging in illegal association for continuing NRM activities under the organization of the group Toward Freedom! (Kohti Vapautta! in Finnish) and leading a demonstration at Tampere Central Market in October 2020. The NGOs Save the Children and Hope Not Hate both reported that far-right youth groups such as the National Partisan Movement had used pandemic lockdowns to recruit minors online. The Finnish Intelligence Service highlighted that racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism in online platforms was a significant source of radicalization in the country. Leaders in both the Jewish and the Muslim minority communities stated that, while extremist websites were not a new phenomenon, the types of websites and forums targeting citizens expanded over the previous year.

In September the Ministry of Justice and the nondiscrimination ombudsman launched the “I am Antiracist” campaign to encourage individuals to act antiracist in their daily lives and consider the effects of racism more broadly in society. The campaign was part of the Ministry of Justice’s “Together for Equality” project, which received funding from the EU’s Fundamental Rights, Equality, and Citizenship Program.

Indigenous Peoples

The constitution provides for the protection of the Sami language and culture, and the government financially supported these efforts. The Sami, who constituted less than 0.1 percent of the population, have full political and civil rights as citizens as well as a measure of autonomy in their civil and administrative affairs. A 21-member Sami parliament (Samediggi), popularly elected by the Sami, is responsible for the group’s language, culture, and matters concerning their status as an indigenous people. It may adopt legally binding resolutions, propose initiatives, and provide policy guidance.

Reports issued by the Sami parliament in February and December 2020 found that the linguistic rights of the Sami were not realized in the way intended by the constitution and the Sami Language Law. Shortcomings involved the number of Sami language personnel, the accessibility of services, and the fact that, contrary to provisions of the Sami Language Law, Sami people must still separately invoke their linguistic rights for them to be recognized. Speakers of Inari Sami and Skolt Sami were in the most vulnerable positions, according to the report. The number of students in all Sami languages decreased by 3.5 percent to 710 pupils nationwide from 2020. In addition, as services were moved online and to centralized service telephone lines, authorities did not take into consideration the possibility of accessing these services in the Sami languages. Funds appropriated for Sami language social and health care have not been indexed to inflation since 2004, and there were fears that social and health-care reforms could further deplete services. There was also poor availability of Sami language prekindergarten personnel, and the funding of Sami language prekindergarten programs was inadequate.

The ombudsman for gender equality stated that Sami victims of domestic violence were at a disadvantage in accessing public shelters due to the long distances between population centers in the northern part of the country.

In May the Regional Council of Lapland agreed to rewrite its draft provincial plan for the period until 2040 to exclude the Arctic railway line from Helsinki to the northern border. Sami objected to plans for the railway, citing the railway’s potential impact on natural resources critical for their livelihoods, including reindeer-herding land and Arctic nature tourism.

Birth Registration: A child generally acquires citizenship at birth through one or both parents. A child may also acquire citizenship at birth if the child is born in the country and meets certain other criteria, such as if the parents have refugee status in the country or if the child is not eligible for any other country’s citizenship. A local registration office records all births immediately.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse, defining children as individuals younger than 16. Child neglect and physical or psychological violence carry penalties of up to six months in prison and up to two years in prison, respectively. Sexual abuse of a child carries a minimum penalty of four months’ imprisonment and a maximum of six years. The law defines rape of a minor (younger than 18) as aggravated rape. Rape of a child carries a minimum penalty of two years’ and a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment. Aggravated rape of a child carries a minimum penalty of four years’ and a maximum of 12 years’ imprisonment. In October a man was sentenced to four months in prison for physically assaulting his six-year-old son during a summer vacation. The boy’s older brother was a witness to the assault. The man had two previous convictions for assaulting the mother of the child. The prison sentence was converted to 120 hours of community service.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 18; the law disallows marriage of individuals under that age. In the first half of the year, the National Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking reported 19 new cases of forced marriage. In 2020 the system assisted 45 women and girls, a slight decrease from 2019, considered to have been subjected to forced marriage. Many of these marriages occurred when the victim was underage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The country prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, including child pornography and the sale, offering, or procuring of children for commercial sex. The law prohibits purchase of sexual services from minors and covers “grooming” (enticement of a child), including in a virtual environment or through mobile telephone contacts. Authorities enforced the law effectively.

The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The law regards a person whose age cannot be determined, but who may reasonably be assumed to be younger than 18, as a child.

From January to June, there were 993 reported cases of child exploitation, compared with 838 cases reported during the same period in 2020. In June police passed to prosecutors a case involving a man suspected of multiple counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, aggravated child rape, and the possession and dissemination of indecent images of children. As of September all of the more than 30 victims identified were girls between the ages of eight and 14.

In June a man was sentenced to four years and six months in prison for aggravated child sexual abuse, rape, and attempted rape committed against two minors, ages seven and nine, in 2019 and 2020. The perpetrator’s self-reporting the crimes and cooperating with the prosecution reduced the sentence by six months.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at

Government statistics and Jewish leaders place the size of the Jewish population between 1,500 and 2,500 individuals, most living in the Helsinki area.

Stickers and posters with anti-Semitic images and messages were placed on the synagogue of Helsinki’s Jewish congregation, in neighborhoods with significant Jewish populations, and on public property throughout the year. The vandalism ranged from targeted to apparently random, and similar incidents had occurred numerous times over the previous three years. Some of the anti-Semitic graffiti and stickers claimed to be from the banned NRM. Stickers specifically targeted Jewish community members at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) pride events. Representatives of the Jewish community reported that, despite available video and photographic evidence of the perpetrators, police made no arrests in the incidents.

Debates on religious practices of animal slaughter with respect to kosher products and on nonmedical male circumcision often used direct or veiled anti-Semitic language (see Other Societal Violence or Discrimination, below).

The government provided funding for the security of the Helsinki synagogue, but the Central Council of Finnish Jewish Communities reported that funding had recently been cut in half. Representatives of the Jewish community reported feeling under threat and specifically targeted due to their beliefs.

On August 30, the Helsinki District Court ruled that the men who carried swastika flags in the 2018 Independence Day demonstrations of the Finnish neo-Nazi organization Toward Freedom! were not guilty of ethnic agitation. The court found that the defendants had not directly threatened or insulted a specific ethnic group.

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

During the year a report on the results of the Fundamental Rights Barometer survey published by the Ministry of Justice found that 40 to 60 percent of persons with disabilities disagreed or strongly disagreed that public administration and local authorities adequately facilitated access to information depending on the specific issue, and 29 percent of persons with disabilities stated they had been treated disrespectfully by public administrations. The Ministry of Interior noted that only two police officers in the country were able to communicate in sign language and that access to services for persons with disabilities continued to be a problem. There were no existing comprehensive assessments of the state of accessibility of public buildings. An estimate from 2019, the most recent data available, suggested that 15 percent of residential buildings were accessible. Municipalities must organize reasonable transport services for persons with disabilities if they are needed to manage daily life functions. Municipalities reported problems in the availability and quality of transport services, particularly during major events, on-call times, and evenings and weekends. The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in all fields, including the provision of government services.

According to the Finnish Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (FAIDD), most children with disabilities were included in early childhood education in the same classes as other children. In primary schools there were fewer opportunities for children with disabilities to attend classes or participate in organized hobby groups with peers. According to statistics, 114 children with intellectual disabilities lived in institutional settings. The resources available varied across different municipalities. According to FAIDD, reforms to vocational education reduced the opportunities for young persons with disabilities to receive necessary professional training and find employment. The nondiscrimination ombudsman highlighted that inclusion in education was a complicated matter because, while some groups advocated for more inclusion, other advocacy groups noted that increased inclusion was not in the best interest of some persons in their community.

The law requires an authority, education provider, employer, or provider of goods to ensure equal opportunities for persons with disabilities to deal with the authorities, gain access to education, and work through reasonable accommodations. The parliamentary ombudsman’s annual report published in June saw an increase in complaints (from 281 in 2019 to 306 in 2020) regarding the rights of persons with disabilities. During the same period, a total of 80 complaints related to the COVID-19 pandemic concerned persons with disabilities, mainly regarding social and health-care administrative matters.

Wheelchair-accessible voting became more common, in part in response to a call for greater accessibility at polling sites by the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The parliamentary ombudsman noted there was still room for improvement (see also Section 3, Recent Elections). Persons with disabilities, including blindness, may use a personal assistant of their choice or the assistance of an election official when voting. A report by the Human Rights Center noted that dependence of the blind on assistants to mark their ballots did not sufficiently recognize the needs of persons with disabilities. The Association of the Deaf stated that the deaf community did not receive enough information in sign language about political and public affairs, which, in practice if not by law, limited participation in politics.

According to civil society groups, municipalities routinely did not budget enough money to provide such services and provided only the minimum services required by law regardless of the actual need for services. Sometimes services were denied, and the person with a disability was instructed to appeal the decision, since an appeal lengthens the process of granting services.

An expert from a civil society group asserted that legislation and practices surrounding labor and daily activities of persons with mental disabilities needed comprehensive reform. Gaps in the law created conditions where businesses could employ persons with disabilities for so-called rehabilitative work without pay. The system does not take into consideration that individuals with intellectual disabilities are often capable of full- or part-time wage-labor on the same basis as others. Social welfare legislation defines labor activities as maintaining and improving capabilities, and a municipality may grant tax-free pay of between zero and 12 euros ($13.80) an hour for such activities. If the work requires guidance, it is seen as a daily activity rather than labor, meaning an employee may not receive even food in exchange for hours of work. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health acknowledged that too many persons with intellectual disabilities were not paid for their work.

The law requires that a transgender person present a medical statement affirming the individual’s gender identity and a certificate of infertility before the government may legally recognize their gender identity. To obtain the medical statement that includes an affirmation of gender, transgender persons must first undergo a psychiatric monitoring process and receive a psychiatric diagnosis, a process that organizations, activists, and transgender persons criticized as causing significant harm, distress, and humiliation. Access to specialized treatment services is only available after a diagnosis of “gender dysphoria,” which lasts for at least two years, thereby creating barriers to gender affirming procedures.

In addition to the requirement that an individual submit to sterilization, activists criticized the duration of the legal process, stating it could take up to three years to obtain identity documents with the new gender markers. In April a citizens’ initiative to reform laws for obtaining legal gender recognition, to extend legal redress opportunities to juvenile minors, and the abolition of a centralized database on past gender transitions garnered 50,000 signatures. Trafficking authorities and civil society stated they had no specialized services for transgender victims of trafficking in persons and were unaware of their status among the trafficking-victim population.

While the law prohibits “conversion therapy” in medical settings, it continued to be practiced privately, most commonly in religious associations. According to local activists, children in the Pentecostal Church community continued to be provided material that encourages sexual orientation conversion.

The law prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services, and the government enforced the law. Stickers for the banned NRM targeted LGBTQI+ pride events, inter alia.

On March 11, the Central Finland District Court dismissed the charges against a man with links to far-right groups of the attempted murder of the Finns Party’s election manager for Central Finland, Pekka Kataja. Kataja was attacked at his home in July 2020 and suffered a fractured skull, cerebral hemorrhage, and broken ribs and fingers. The district court ruled that the crime was a political act, but the charges brought against the defendant were based on circumstantial evidence.

In May the Pirkanmaa District Court convicted and fined for libel, aggravated libel, and ethnic agitation a former leader of the Finnish People First Party, Marco de Wit. During the 2019 campaign, de Wit published and disseminated election advertisements claiming all Muslims were sex offenders and published articles online threatening Jews, refugees, and asylum seekers. He was also found guilty of aggravated libel for accusing the police force of child sexualization after some police participated in Helsinki LGBTQI+ pride activities in uniform. De Wit had previously been sentenced to parole for violence against an official.

Religious community leaders stated that debates on religious practices of animal slaughter with respect to kosher and halal products and on nonmedical male circumcision used direct or veiled anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim language. Materials produced by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health called nonmedical male circumcision a violation of child bodily integrity and self-determination.

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

The government effectively enforced all applicable laws regarding the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Workers without permanent residence may not be eligible to join voluntary unemployment insurance funds. Employers who violate the rights of employees to organize and retain employee representatives may face administrative measures, legal proceedings, and fines. The penalties were generally commensurate with those for similar crimes. Authorities and employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, and there were no reports of violations. All workers, regardless of sector union membership or nationality, are entitled to the same wages negotiated between employers and trade unions via generally applicable collective agreements.

The law does not permit public-sector employees who provide “essential services,” including police officers, firefighters, medical professionals, and border guards, to strike. An official dispute board may make nonbinding recommendations to the cabinet on ending or limiting the duration of strikes when they threaten national security. Employees prohibited from striking may use arbitration to provide for due process in the resolution of their concerns.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government effectively enforced the law. Penalties for forced or compulsory labor depend on the severity of the crime and were generally commensurate with those for similar crimes. Despite strong penalties for violations, some cases of persons subjected to conditions of forced labor in the country were reported.

Men and women working in the restaurant, cleaning, construction, and agriculture industries were the most likely to face conditions of forced labor. The sexual services sector, legal in certain circumstances, also saw incidences of sex trafficking and forced labor. From January 1 through June 30, Victim Support Finland, an NGO, supported 545 clients, including 98 new clients, who had been the victims of human trafficking, labor exploitation, or related crimes.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

The law prohibits all of the worst forms of child labor but allows persons between the ages of 15 and 18 to enter into a valid employment contract as long as the work does not interrupt compulsory education. It provides that workers between the ages of 15 and 18 may not work after 10 p.m. or under conditions that risk their health and safety, which the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health defined as working with mechanical, chemical, physical, or biological hazards or bodily strain that may result from lifting heavy loads.

Penalties for violations of child labor regulations are commensurate with those for other similar crimes. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment effectively enforced child labor regulations. There were no reports of children engaged in work outside the parameters established by law.

The law broadly prohibits employment discrimination. Penalties for violations are commensurate with those for other similar crimes. The government effectively enforced applicable laws against employment discrimination.

The Occupational Safety Administration (OSHA) received 600 reports of workplace discrimination in 2020. Of the 140 reports that resulted in further inspection, 28 percent concerned ethnicity, nationality, language, or religion, 14 percent concerned age discrimination, and 5 percent concerned disability. OSHA highlighted that age was one of the most common reasons for workplace discrimination.

According to the Human Rights Center and the nondiscrimination ombudsman’s office, discrimination in job recruitment was a significant problem, especially in cases where applicants had “non-Finnish” names. In October, Helsingin Sanomat reported that the University of Helsinki was under investigation for suspicions of discrimination. Three students stated that interviews for a position to teach Islam at a school in southern Finland were restricted to students who had a Finnish surname. The Faculty of Theology acknowledged and apologized for the incident on Twitter, and the dean of the faculty said an internal investigation was underway.

In June the government adopted a four-year gender equality action plan, which is designed to advance women’s rights and empowerment by reducing the gender pay gap, promoting female entrepreneurship, raising gender equality awareness in schools, and reducing segregation in education and the labor market (see also section 6, Women).

A report from the equality ombudsman’s office published in June detailed a case where a painter’s fixed-term contract had been extended continuously until she revealed her pregnancy to her employer. The equality ombudsman found that the woman’s occupational safety was not an acceptable reason for not extending her fixed-term contract, and the employer’s actions were in violation of the law.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wages and Hour Laws: While there is no national minimum wage law, the law requires all employers, including nonunionized employers, to pay the minimum wages stipulated in collective bargaining agreements. Authorities adequately enforced wage laws.

The standard workweek established by law is no more than 40 hours of work per week with eight hours work per day. Because the law does not include a provision regarding a five-day workweek, regular work hours may, at least in principle, span six days. The regular weekly work hours may also be arranged so that the average is 40 hours during a period of no more than 52 weeks. Persons in certain occupations, such as seamen, household workers, road transport workers, and workers in bakeries, are subject to separate workweek regulations. The law entitles employees working shifts or during the weekend to one 24-hour rest period per week. The law limits a worker to 250 hours of overtime per year and 138 overtime hours in any four-month period.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is responsible for labor policy and implementation, drafting labor legislation, improving the viability of working life and its quality, and promoting employment. Authorities adequately enforced wage and overtime laws.

According to a service and restaurant industry trade union, there were 800 cases of wage and hour disagreements between employees and employers in 2020, and 35 percent of these cases were from the service, restaurant, and leisure industry.

Occupational Safety and Health: The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is responsible for enforcement of labor laws and regulations. In addition, OSHA enforces appropriate safety and health standards and conducts inspections at workplaces. Individuals who commit work safety or working hours’ offenses are subject to penalties commensurate with similar crimes. The center informs employers of inspections in advance unless a surprise inspection is necessary for enforcement purposes. A subsequent inspection report gives employers written advice on how to remedy minor defects. In the case of serious violations, the inspector issues an improvement notice and monitors the employer’s compliance. When necessary, OSHA may issue a binding decision and impose a fine. If a hazardous situation involves a risk to life, an inspector can halt work on the site or issue a prohibition notice concerning the source of risk. Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. The law requires employees to report any hazards or risks they discover in working conditions, including in machinery, equipment, or work methods. The law also requires employees, where possible, to correct dangerous conditions that come to their attention. Such corrective measures must be reported to the employer.

Foreign seasonal berry pickers do not always have the same legal employment protections as other workers. In some cases berry pickers and wild produce pickers were classified as entrepreneurs, not employees. They can also be charged for training and recruitment services and face difficult work conditions. During the summer, COVID-19 outbreaks disproportionately impacted seasonal berry pickers, most of whom were from Thailand. In Rovaniemi, 180 of 262 foreign seasonal berry pickers were diagnosed with COVID-19.

Government resources, inspections, and penalties were adequate to deter most violations.


Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women, including spousal rape, and the government generally enforced the law. The penalty for rape is up to 21 years in prison, depending on the severity of the assault, the age of the victim, and the circumstances in which the crime occurred. Most cases resulted in sentences of three years and four months in prison.

The law provides penalties of up to six years in prison for domestic violence and up to 21 years for aggravated rape. Gender-based violence, including intimate partner violence, was a problem. In 2020 the government reported that during the previous three years, partner killings accounted for one in four killings in the country. The government generally enforced the law, although Amnesty International Norway criticized police for not allocating sufficient resources to investigations and asserted that the indictment and conviction rates for rapes were too low.

The government had programs to prevent rape and domestic violence, and offices within the police districts offered counseling and support to victims. All police districts had a domestic violence coordinator. The government continued to implement its three-year Action Plan against Rape that focuses on prevention, improvements of care and services to victims, and improvements to the judicial system. The National Police Directorate oversees the implementation of the national action plan and submits annual reports on the trends in the prosecution of rapes and sexual violence. In August the government launched a four-year action plan against domestic violence, Freedom from Violence. The plan is an interministerial product which includes measures such as prevention, victim assistance, protection and prosecution, and international cooperation. The plan also contains a separate chapter on preventing and combating domestic violence in the Sami community.

Public and private organizations operated 47 government-funded shelters and managed five 24-hour crisis hotlines. Victims of domestic violence have a right to consult a lawyer free of charge before deciding whether to make a formal complaint. If the government initiates criminal proceedings, the victim is entitled to free assistance from a victim’s advocate. Victims may also qualify for a one-time payment from a government-sponsored fund.

Sexual Harassment: The law provides that “employees shall not be subjected to harassment or other unseemly behavior,” and the government effectively enforced this provision. The law applies to employers with as few as 20 employees and requires most companies to include in their annual reports information on their work environment and gender equality. Employers who violate the law are subject to fines or prison sentences of up to two years, depending on the seriousness of the offense. The Antidiscrimination Tribunal has the authority to impose penalties in sexual harassment cases more in line with other cases of discrimination and harassment and puts an onus on public authorities to work actively for gender equality and the prevention of harassment, sexual harassment, and gender-based violence. The costs and resources needed to bring such cases to court have been barriers to victims seeking redress in all but the most egregious cases.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The government provides access to sexual and reproductive health services for sexual violence survivors.

Discrimination: Under the law public and private authorities must advance gender equality in all areas of society. The law mandates that 40 percent of the members of boards of directors of publicly listed companies be women; this applies to employers with as few as 20 employees. Companies largely complied with the law.

Although women have the same legal status as men, they experienced discrimination in terms of gaining employment as well as discrimination in the workplace itself (see section 7.d.). As of September the LDO received 61 complaints of gender discrimination as well as 13 complaints related to parental leave.

Racial profiling is against the law, but authorities did not keep records relating to the stop and search of members of vulnerable groups. NGOs such as the Center against Racism and Black History Month Norway continued to report complaints of police profiling of members of ethnic and racial minority groups, particularly young men. To end the practice of stigmatizing minority youth in particular, the Oslo city government applied for permission from the national government to introduce a pilot program for a system in which anyone checked and cleared by police would receive a receipt stating why the person was stopped and that the person had been cleared. A goal of the system was to raise awareness among police regarding unconscious bias. The pilot program had support from Black History Month Norway and the LDO. The Ministry of Justice and Public Security and the local police were less enthusiastic, stating that “ethnic [and racial] profiling is not a method of approach within the Norwegian Police.” As of September, the Antidiscrimination Tribunal received 64 reports of ethnic discrimination.

Discrimination against immigrants, including asylum seekers and irregular migrants, and ethnic minorities remained a problem. Ethnic discrimination occurred in employment and housing.

According to NGOs and research institutes, including the Center against Racism, hate speech on the internet against ethnic minorities, remained a problem. The government continued to implement the national strategy against hate speech released in 2016 and implemented a new three-year Action Plan against Racism and Discrimination on the Basis of Ethnicity and Religion.

In addition to the Sami, five ethnically non-Norwegian groups with a long-standing attachment to the country have a special protected status under the law: Kvens/Norwegian Finns, Jews, Forest Finns, Roma, and Romani/Tater people (a distinct group of travelers who emigrated to Norway and Sweden in the 1500s).

Romani groups noted concerns of a disproportionate number of Romani children taken into custody by the Directorate for Children, Youth, and Family Affairs. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), an independent human rights monitoring body of the Council of Europe, noted that, according to civil society, Romani children were also among the victims of bullying.

During its 2020 visit to the country, ECRI’s delegation received complaints from both parents with a migration background and Roma and Romani people/Tater representatives, about Child Welfare Services (CWS). The ECRI report stated that approximately 40 children belonging to the Romani and Tater minorities were in foster care with very limited access to the Romani culture. In ECRI’s opinion, the CWS’s practices of removing a higher percentage of children from these backgrounds from the home, placing them in foster care, and restricting parental visitation had led to fear and distrust in those communities. In certain instances ECRI found that the CWS had limited parental visits to once a year for a couple of hours, as well as deprivation of parents’ custody, and adoption against the will of the parents. Parents reported feeling it was not possible to challenge their decisions successfully. In one case cited in the report, five children were taken from a Romanian-Norwegian family and placed in three separate foster homes around the country. However, the law provides for nationwide implementation of a mediation process involving direct communication between the CWS and parents that reduced court cases by two-thirds in the five pilot counties.

Indigenous Peoples

There is no official registry of Sami in the country. As of 2018 government statistics showed that 55,544 persons lived in the areas defined as “Sami” in the northern part of the country. In addition to participating freely in the national political process, the Sami elect their own parliament, the Samediggi, which exercises certain administrative and financial powers according to the law. In 2021 a total of 20,005 persons registered for the Sami parliamentary elections. Members of the Sami parliament also represent their constituents in international fora and organizations such as the Arctic Council and the United Nations. Elections for the Sami parliament follow the national election schedule and last took place on September 13.

The constitution provides a right for the Sami to safeguard and develop their language, culture, and community. NGOs and Sami officials continued to express concern over Sami children’s lack of access to Sami language education due to a lack of qualified teachers.

In response to concerns about high levels of domestic violence within Sami communities, the government devoted a separate chapter in its new action plan against domestic violence, Freedom from Violence, to the subject.

The Sami have a right under the law to consultation on the use of unpopulated lands traditionally used for reindeer husbandry. Under the law three of the six members of the council to determine the proper usage of the land must be Sami. As the government moved to develop greater wind-power capabilities, the Sami raised concerns about the use of their land. Reindeer avoid the wind turbines, which leads to limited grazing areas and increased density in remaining areas. The government stated it takes the reindeer industry and the Sami parliament into account when considering proposals for new wind-power projects. In October the Supreme Court ruled that the government violated the rights of the Sami people by permitting the construction of wind farms on Sami land.

The Sami Council, with delegates from nine member organizations in Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia, held a hearing in February on a possible new railway to the Arctic Ocean via Oulu and Rovaniemi in Finland to Kirkenes. During the hearing Sami reindeer herders from Finland and Norway said they would veto such a railway project. Aili Keskitalo, then president of the Norwegian Sami parliament, pointed to areas in northern Sweden and Norway where trains kill hundreds of reindeer annually.

ECRI reported that more than half of the persons with a strong and visible Sami identity experienced discrimination, most often during their schooling, and such discrimination negatively affected their health.

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents; children born in the country do not automatically become citizens. All birth clinics in the country reported births to a central birth register and provided the parents with a birth certificate. The birth register does not register on birth certificates the father of nonresidents born in the country. The birth certificate does not confer citizenship.

Child Abuse: The law criminalizes child abuse, and the government generally enforced the law. In 2020 the Department of Children, Youth, and Family Affairs initiated 45,464 investigations of alleged child abuse and completed 45,578 investigations. By the end of 2020, the CWS assisted 22,621 children, of whom 20,655 received in-home assistance, while 1,966 were removed from their family home.

Between January and October, the ECHR found against the government twice for separating children from their parents. The ECHR had 20 pending cases against the CWS.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage in the country is 18 for both women and men.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Commercial sexual exploitation of children younger than 18 is illegal, both in the country and abroad when committed by a citizen of the country. In both cases the punishment is either a fine or a prison sentence of up to two years. Child pornography is also illegal and punishable by a fine or a prison sentence of up to three years. The government generally enforced the law. In 2020 the government reported 3,308 sexual offenses involving children. In August the government launched a national strategy against online abuse of children containing 30 measures to prevent and combat abuse in digital forums. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at

At least 1,500 Jews lived in the country, 761 of whom belonged to Jewish congregations, according to Statistics Norway. The government does not keep statistics that require citizens to report their religion.

Jewish community leaders reported the public and government generally supported the community, although they acknowledged incidents of anti-Semitism. ECRI noted that, according to civil society, Jewish children were also among the victims of bullying. According to NGOs and research institutes, including the University of Oslo, the Institute for Social Research, and the Jewish community, hate speech on the internet against ethnic minorities and religious groups continued to be a problem. The government continued to implement measures from its Action Plan against Anti-Semitism 2016-2020 and provided funding through the government budget. The action plan provided programmatic support and coordination towards integrating anti-Semitism education into all schools, supporting Jewish museums and cultural institutions, funding research on anti-Semitism and Jewish life, and public advocacy programs to combat anti-Semitism.

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with disabilities can access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities and the government provided information and communications in accessible formats. The government effectively enforced and implemented these provisions. The law mandates access to public buildings, information, and communications for persons with disabilities. All children up to the age of 15 have the right to attend the school closest to their home. The government provides a right to education supports upon the completion of a needs assessment. Two out of three children with disabilities who need additional educational supports receive additional instruction outside their classroom.

According to the Antidiscrimination Tribunal, as of September it received 86 complaints of discrimination based on disability.

The government continued to implement its 10-year strategy to reduce discrimination and increase access and opportunities to housing, transportation, employment, and health care as well as participation in cultural and social activities for persons with disabilities.

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, citizenship law, and access to government services such as health care. While violence motivated by discriminatory attitudes towards transgender persons is not considered a hate crime, crimes based on discriminatory attitudes towards sexual orientation can be treated as aggravating circumstances.

According to NGOs and research institutes, including the Institute for Social Research, and the Organization for Sexual and Gender Diversity, hate speech on the internet against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons (LGBTQI+) continued to be a problem. ECRI noted a survey among LGBTQI+ pupils, in which 37 percent of the respondents stated they had been bullied by other pupils and 24 percent by teachers. Youths who were harassed with anti-LGBTQI+ bullying had higher rates of depression.

ECRI stated civil society believed that implementation of Safety, Diversity, Openness, the latest national action plan on LGBTQI+ issues, which launched in 2016, was slow and that there have been only a few concrete initiatives with little funding.

In 2020 the number of hate crimes decreased to 744 from 761 in 2019, according to the Ministry of Justice and Public Security. Media and the Norwegian Center against Racism reported continued anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment in society. Stop the Islamization of Norway (SIAN) held multiple protests that were faced by larger groups of counterdemonstrators. The Center against Racism, other NGOs, and politicians urged individuals not to give SIAN the attention it was seeking.

In his annual circular to the police districts, the director of public prosecutions listed hate crimes as a priority area for investigation and prosecution in 2021. The director noted hate crimes towards politicians, public intellectuals, and representatives from minority communities were a particularly worrying and increasing societal problem. Anonymous online racist attacks against former deputy mayor of Oslo Lan Marie Berg, who is of Vietnamese heritage and a newly elected leader member of parliament, drew renewed media attention.

According to NGOs and research institutes, including the Center against Racism, hate speech on the internet against religious groups continued to be a problem. ECRI reported that the Police Security Service (PST) specifically mentioned the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM), which has become more organized and more publicly visible. The NRM was anti-Semitic and homophobic and aimed to fight for what it calls the “pure Nordic race.”

The government continued its implementation of measures in the Action Plan against Discrimination of and Hate against Muslims, launched in September 2020. The plan contained 18 measures focusing on research and education, dialogue across religious communities and police initiatives such as registration of hate crimes towards Muslims as a separate category in the crime statistics.

As a result of a severe increase in reported hate crimes between 2016 and 2019, Bergen Municipality, the country’s third-largest city, launched its own action plan against hate and hate against Muslims in September. Hate crime statistics from 2019 showed that all religiously motivated hate crimes reported in Bergen targeted the Muslim population. The chair of the board of the Bergen Mosque told broadcaster NRK that the mosque regularly received letters containing hateful messages, including statements such as “Islamic fascism is just as merciless as Nazism” and “Islam is right-wing extremism at its worst.” The chairman said female members of the mosque had also been spat on, pushed, and had their hijabs forcibly removed. ECRI noted that, according to civil society, Muslim children were also among the victims of bullying.

The Agder Appellate Court overturned a 2019 hate crime conviction made by the Kristiansand District Court against three members of the NRM due to a lack of a specifically targeted minority population group. In 2018 the three NRM members hung the NRM flag and banners decorated with the swastika and the text “We’re Back!” at several locations in Kristiansand, including a peace and human rights center. The appellate court agreed with the district court that the banners were offensive but held that they did not qualify as hate crimes because the banners were not directed at a specific group or persons.

In September the government announced that the controversial nonprofit organization Human Rights Service (HRS) will not receive funding from the 2022 national budget. Although the HRS describes itself as merely critical of Islam, its publications and statements have been perceived as anti-Islamic. The HRS has received funding from the national budget since 2002.

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers, including migrant workers (those who have a work permit in the country), to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

The right to strike excludes members of the military and senior civil servants. With the approval of parliament, the government may compel arbitration in any industrial sector if it determines that a strike threatens public safety.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws. The penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and the government effectively enforced laws against it. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous crimes, such as kidnapping. A maximum sentence of up to six years’ imprisonment for offenses involving adult victims and up to 10 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving child victims were commensurate with analogous crimes.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

The law prohibits all worst forms of child labor. Children between the ages of 13 and 15 may be employed up to 12 hours per week in light work that does not adversely affect their health, development, or schooling. Examples of light work include assistant work in offices or stores. Children younger than 15 need parental permission to work, and those older than 15 can work as part of vocational training, if they are supervised. Between ages 15 and 18, children not in school may work up to 40 hours per week and a maximum eight hours per day. The law limits work by children who remain in school to only those hours “not affecting schooling” without specific limits, but less than 40 hours per week. Child welfare laws explicitly protect children from exploitive labor practices. The government effectively enforced these laws, and both civil and criminal penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

While employers generally observed minimum age rules, there were reports that children were trafficked for forced labor. Children were subjected to forced begging and criminal activity, particularly drug smuggling and theft. Commercial sexual exploitation of children also occurred. There were also reports of children forced to work as unpaid domestic help.

The law prohibits discrimination in respect of employment and occupation, based on race, religion, national origin, color, sex (including pregnancy), ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity. HIV or AIDS status, and refugee or stateless status are not covered by the law. The government effectively enforced the law and invoked penalties when violations were discovered. Penalties were commensurate with laws related to civil rights, such as election interference.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender and ethnicity. The law provides that women and men engaged in the same activity shall receive equal wages for work of equal value. In 2020 women earned on average 12.5 percent less than men monthly, according to Statistics Norway, which also reported that part-time work increased to 46 percent of women and 24 percent of men in 2020, partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There was no prohibition against gender-based discrimination in access to credit. Equally qualified immigrants sometimes had more difficulty finding employment than nonimmigrants. As of January the unemployment rate among immigrants was 9.2 percent, compared with 2.7 percent among nonimmigrants, according to Statistics Norway. African immigrants had the highest unemployment rate at 13.7 percent, followed by Asians at 10.3 percent, South and Central Americans at 9.6 percent, and immigrants from eastern EU countries at 9.4 percent.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law does not mandate an official minimum wage. Instead, minimum wages were set in collective bargaining agreements. Statistics Norway used 60 percent of the median household income after tax for the relative poverty limit. In 2017, the most recent year for which data were available, 11.2 percent of the population had an income below the poverty limit.

The law provides for premium pay of 40 percent of salary for overtime and prohibits compulsory overtime in excess of 10 hours per week. The government effectively enforced the laws, and penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud. The law provides the same benefits for citizens and foreign workers with residency permits but forbids the employment of foreign workers who do not have residency permits.

The Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority (NLIA) is responsible for enforcing wage and hour laws and effectively enforced laws and standards in the formal sector. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance. Inspectors could conduct unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. In 2020 police received 412 reports of violations of the labor law and other related laws, and no reports of forced labor from the NLIA.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law provides for safe and physically acceptable working conditions for all employed persons. The NLIA, in consultation with nongovernment experts, sets occupational safety and health standards. These standards are appropriate across all sectors of the industry in the country. The law requires enterprises with 50 or more workers to establish environment committees composed of management, workers, and health-care personnel. Enterprises with 10 or more workers must have safety delegates elected by their employees. Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment; authorities effectively protected employees in this situation.

The NLIA is also responsible for occupational safety and health laws. The NLIA may close an enterprise immediately if the life or health of employees is in imminent danger and may report enterprises to police for serious breaches of the law. A serious violation may result in fines or, in the worst case, imprisonment. The government effectively enforced occupational safety and health laws and penalties for violations were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as negligence.

In June parliament passed the Transparency Act compelling companies to respect fundamental human rights and decent working conditions in connection with the production of goods and services, and to ensure the public has access to information on how companies handle negative consequences on fundamental human rights and decent working conditions. Companies covered by the new law must perform due diligence assessments to obtain an overview of the consequences their businesses, supply chains, and business partners have on fundamental human rights and labor conditions.


Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal and punishable by up to 12 years in prison. While domestic violence is illegal and courts may sentence a person convicted of domestic violence to a maximum of five years in prison, most of those found guilty received suspended sentences. The law permits authorities to place restraining orders without prior approval from a court on spouses to protect against abuse.

On September 16, the Council of Europe’s Expert Group on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence published its first evaluation report on the implementation of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (so-called Istanbul Convention). The report praised a November 2020 law that introduced an immediate restraining order that may be issued by police who respond to a domestic dispute. Under the new law, the perpetrator must immediately leave the location where the violence took place. The Women’s Rights Center noted that during the first six months since the law’s entry into force, police used the new mechanism in only a small fraction of documented instances of domestic violence. According to the foundation, this may indicate police were not properly trained in the use of the new mechanism. The Women’s Rights Center reported that police were occasionally reluctant to intervene in domestic violence incidents, sometimes arguing there was no need for police intervention. The law requires every municipality in the country to set up an interagency team of experts to deal with domestic violence.

Centers for survivors of domestic violence operated throughout the country. The centers provided social, medical, psychological, and legal assistance to survivors; training for personnel who worked with survivors; and “corrective education” programs for abusers.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, and violations carry penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment. According to the Women’s Rights Center, sexual harassment continued to be a serious and underreported problem.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The law obliges both central and local governments to provide citizens with unrestricted access to methods and means serving “conscious procreation,” implemented by the government as gynecological counseling for women and girls and access to contraception. While there were no legal restrictions on the right to obtain contraceptives, a patient’s ability to obtain them was limited, according to NGOs. The Federation for Women and Family Planning noted the government excluded almost all prescription contraceptives from its list of subsidized medicines, making them less affordable, especially for poor women in rural areas. The law also provides that doctors may refrain from performing health services inconsistent with their conscience. According to a 2020 report by the Central and Eastern European Network for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, doctors regularly used the conscience clause to refuse to write prescriptions for contraceptives. The report also noted that some pharmacies did not stock or sell contraceptives.

The law does not permit voluntary sterilization. Although women have the right to comprehensive medical services before, during, and after childbirth, home birth, while legal, is not subsidized by the National Health Fund. Women had access to emergency health care, including services for the management of complications arising from abortion. According to the Childbirth with Dignity Foundation, standards for perinatal and postnatal care written into the laws are adequate, but the government failed to enforce them effectively. A 2018 report by the Supreme Audit Office indicated women living in rural areas had limited access to medical services related to childbirth due to an insufficient number of gynecological and obstetric clinics in smaller towns and villages.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for sexual violence survivors, including emergency contraception for survivors of rape. According to women’s rights NGOs, access was limited due to survivors’ fear of social stigma, some legal constraints, and the use of the conscience clause by medical doctors who refused to provide such services. According to a September report by the Council of Europe Expert Group on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, the country lacked rape crisis and sexual violence centers offering medical care, high-quality forensic examination, and immediate short- and long-term trauma support delivered by trained professionals.

Discrimination: The constitution provides for the same legal status and rights for men and women and prohibits discrimination against women, although few laws exist to implement the provision. The constitution requires equal pay for equal work, but discrimination against women in employment existed (see section 7.d.).

The constitution prohibits discrimination in political, social, and economic life “for any reason whatsoever.” The law on discrimination in employment covers nationality, ethnic origin, and race. The law also bans discrimination of members of national and ethnic minorities and penalize incitement to hatred, public insult, and violence against others on the grounds of national, ethnic, and racial differences.

Romani leaders complained of discrimination in employment, housing, banking, the justice system, media, and education. In December 2020 the government adopted a new 10-year program on social and civic integration of Roma people, with particular focus on education and living conditions of the Romani community. During the year the government allocated 11.7 million zloty ($2.9 million) for programs to support Romani communities, including for educational programs. The Ministry of Education helped finance school supplies for Romani children. The Ministry of Interior and Administration provided school grants for Romani high school and university students, postgraduate studies on Romani culture and history in Krakow, and Romani-related cultural events.

The country’s Ukrainian and Belarusian minorities continued to experience harassment and discrimination. On January 21, the Torun District Court began a trial of three men charged with using violence and making threats against others on the grounds of their national identity. The trial concerns a February 2020 incident in which several men verbally and physically attacked a group of five foreigners from Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia in the city center of Torun.

On May 31, a man approached three Belarusian nationals speaking their native language as they walked down the street in Krakow. He asked where they were from, and when they answered, he threatened them with a knife and used pepper spray against them. On July 9, police detained the perpetrator.

During the year there were incidents of xenophobic attacks targeting persons of African descent.

In March the Krakow district prosecutor’s office indicted two men who in July 2020 allegedly attacked and shouted racist insults at a man of African descent at a bus stop in the town of Wieliczka. The two men also allegedly attacked a bystander who had defended the victim.

On June 27, police detained a man who verbally abused and threatened four men from the Republic of the Congo and Rwanda at a lake area in Krakow. The man was charged with public insult of a group on racial grounds.

Birth Registration: A child acquires citizenship at birth if at least one parent is a citizen, regardless of where the birth took place. Children born or found in the country whose parents were unknown or stateless are also citizens. The government has a system of universal birth registration immediately after birth.

Child Abuse: The law bans all forms of violence against children and requires the ombudsperson for children’s rights to undertake actions aimed at protecting children from violence, cruelty, exploitation, demoralization, neglect, or other ill treatment. The ombudsperson’s office also operated a 24-hour free hotline for abused children.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18, although courts may grant permission for girls as young as 16 to marry under certain circumstances.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits sexual intercourse with children younger than 15. The penalty for statutory rape ranges from two to 12 years’ imprisonment.

Child pornography is illegal. The production, possession, storage, or importation of child pornography involving children younger than 15 is punishable by three months’ to 10 years’ imprisonment. During the year police conducted several operations against child pornography and alleged pedophiles.

According to the government and the La Strada Foundation, a leading NGO assisting trafficking victims, trafficking of children for sexual exploitation remained a problem.

Institutionalized Children: On September 2, media reported on the systematic use of physical and psychological violence at the Youth Educational Center in Renice, a correctional education facility for boys between ages 12 and 18. Media reported students in the facility were subjected to abuse, including severe beatings, by other students and by educators. Following the reports, the government decided to close the facility. The Szczecin district prosecutor’s office was appointed to investigate the allegations and scrutinize earlier prosecutorial activities regarding cases of abuse at the facility.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at

The Union of Jewish Communities estimated the Jewish population at 20,000, while other estimates, including by Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich, put the number as high as 40,000. Anti-Semitic incidents continued to occur, often involving desecration of significant property, including a synagogue and Jewish cemeteries, and sometimes involving anti-Semitic comments on television and social media. Some Jewish organizations expressed concern regarding the physical safety and security of their members. During the year there were several attacks on Jewish properties and houses of worship.

On April 20, a member of the lower house of parliament from a small opposition party, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, referred to Adolf Hitler in a video posted online as “a great, in fact the greatest, European socialist” and argued there was no evidence Hitler was aware of the Holocaust.

On January 12, police detained three men who painted neo-Nazi symbols on the outer wall of the Jewish cemetery in Oswiecim (the town adjacent to the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau). On January 13, the local prosecutor’s office charged two of the men with public promotion of fascism and the third with destruction of a monument (the cemetery wall is registered as a provincial monument). At year’s end, the men were not in pretrial detention and their trial had not been scheduled.

On June 26, three teenagers vandalized 67 tombstones in the Jewish cemetery in the town of Bielsko-Biala. Some tombstones were broken and others were tipped over. On June 28, police identified the perpetrators and handed the case over to the family court.

On October 5, anti-Semitic graffiti were found on nine wooden barracks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau former concentration camp. The graffiti included statements in English and German and two references to Old Testament sayings frequently used by anti-Semites. Police were searching for perpetrators at year’s end.

On November 11, an anti-Semitic demonstration occurred in the city of Kalisz. Participants burned a book symbolizing the Statute of Kalisz, a 13th-century document that regulated the legal status of Jews in Poland and granted them special protections. Some march participants also chanted “Death to Jews.” On November 14, President Duda responded on his Twitter account, writing: “I strongly condemn all acts of anti-Semitism. The barbarism perpetrated by a group of hooligans in Kalisz contradicts the values on which the Republic of Poland is based. And in view of the situation on the border and propaganda campaigns against Poland, it is even an act of treason.” On November 15, Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski announced police had detained three men for allegedly organizing the march. The men were charged with public incitement to hatred, public insult on national grounds, and public incitement to commit crimes against persons based on their national and religious identity. They spent two weeks in pretrial detention and then were released on bail.

According to the Never Again Association, anti-Semitic discourse appeared in the public sphere and on social media, in particular during the legislative process of revisions to the Code of Administrative Procedure, which affected the restitution process. For example, on July 10, former anti-Communist oppositionist Andrzej Michalowski participated as a guest in a debate on state-run public radio and said the Jewish lobby was trying to interfere with legislation affecting heirless property. A trial of six persons accused of publicly promoting Nazism in 2017 by organizing a celebration of Hitler’s birthday in a forest, donning Wehrmacht uniforms, and burning a swastika continued at year’s end. The incident was secretly filmed and later broadcast by undercover television journalists. The main organizer of the event, a member of the neo-Nazi Pride and Modernity Association, pleaded not guilty, claiming the event was private. In 2019 in a separate case, the Gliwice regional court decided to dissolve Pride and Modernity, stating that the event was tantamount to approval or even affirmation of Hitler and Nazism.

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with disabilities could not access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The law states that buildings should be accessible for persons with disabilities, but many buildings remained inaccessible. Public buildings and transportation generally were accessible, although older trains and vehicles were often less so, and many train stations were not fully accessible. A 2018 report by the Supreme Audit Chamber, the latest report available, noted there are still many technical barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from freely accessing museums, libraries, or cultural centers. The report also noted regulations regarding access to public buildings were imprecise and not properly enforced.

The 2019 accessibility law requires all public institutions to provide access for persons with special needs, including persons with disabilities, in three main areas: access to buildings, digital services, and information and communication services. During the year the government continued implementing the “Accessibility Plus” program for the years 2018-25, whose main goal is to ensure unlimited access to goods and services and to create the possibility of full participation in social and public life for individuals with special needs. According to the 2020 report on implementation of the program, during the year, the government continued to implement programs aimed at improving access to schools, universities, public health institutions, and door-to-door transportation services. The government plenipotentiary for persons with disabilities, who also serves as deputy minister in the Ministry of Family and Social Policy, monitors the implementation of the government’s policy regarding vocational and social inclusion and employment of persons with disabilities.

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. The government did not effectively enforce these provisions, and there were reports of societal discrimination against persons with disabilities. The government restricted the right of persons with certain mental disabilities to vote or participate in civic affairs.

On April 9, a well-known YouTube user posted a video showing himself and two acquaintances abusing a man with an intellectual disability by ordering him to perform degrading and humiliating tasks. On April 19, police arrested the man. Prosecutors charged the three individuals with mentally abusing a person with disabilities. On September 10, the trial against the man and his two acquaintances began.

The law states that education is obligatory for all children, including those with disabilities. Children with disabilities may attend schools where they are integrated with children without disabilities, or parents may choose to send them to segregated schools, depending on the significance of the disability.

While the constitution does not prohibit discrimination on the specific grounds of sexual orientation, it prohibits discrimination “for any reason whatsoever.” The laws on discrimination in employment cover sexual orientation and gender identity but hate crime and incitement laws do not. The government plenipotentiary for equal treatment is charged with monitoring discrimination against LGBTQI+ individuals and groups. LGBTQI+ advocacy groups, however, criticized the plenipotentiary office for a lack of interest and engagement in LGBTQI+ questions. The ombudsperson also continued to work on LGBTQI+ human rights cases.

During the year some government officials made anti-LGBTQI+ or homophobic public statements. On June 23, Education and Science Minister Przemyslaw Czarnek criticized participants in LGBTQI+ pride parades for causing “public demoralization” and promoting “deviancy.” He said that those who participated in such parades “do not have the same public rights” as “a person behaving in accordance with standards and norms, who does not demoralize.” On June 28, Czarnek said the country should adopt a law that prohibits schools from using materials seen as promoting homosexuality.

During the year there were several physical and verbal attacks against members of the LGBTQI+ community. On February 17, a man approached a gay couple holding hands in Warsaw and stabbed one of the men. Police published a sketch of the suspect, but no arrests had been made as of November.

On March 17, several members of an LGBTQI+ sports group were attacked during an outdoor training session in the city of Gdansk. Several men disrupted the training, shouted homophobic slurs, and physically attacked two men in the sports group who were later taken to the hospital for medical evaluation. In July the Gdansk district prosecutor’s office discontinued its investigation into the incident. On May 26, an unknown perpetrator physically attacked a man in Wroclaw because he appeared to be gay, according to the victim. Police published a photograph of the suspect from surveillance cameras, but no arrests were made as of November. On February 25, the Czestochowa regional court convicted a night club security guard for physically attacking a woman who was wearing clothing with a rainbow-colored heart. The court imposed a three-year ban on working as a security guard and a three-year restraining order to protect the victim. The court also ordered the perpetrator to pay a fine and compensation to the victim. On May 9, the Poznan regional court sentenced a man to 18 months of community service for attacking an LGBTQI+ couple in Poznan in December 2020. The couple was walking along the street in the city center when a man verbally abused them and threatened them with a knife.

On July 14, the European Commission initiated an infringement procedure against the country for failure to fully and appropriately respond to the Commission’s inquiry regarding the nature and impact of what LGBTQI+ activists and critics call “LGBT-free zone” resolutions adopted by dozens of local governments across the country in 2019 and 2020. These resolutions did not explicitly call for “LGBT-free” zones but focused in varying degrees on preventing “LGBT ideology” in schools, called for protection of children against moral corruption, and declared marriage as a union between a woman and a man only.

The commission expressed concerns the declarations may violate EU law regarding nondiscrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. On September 3, the European Commission sent a letter to five provinces that adopted the resolutions, urging them to abandon the declarations and notifying them the commission had suspended discussions on payment of several billion euros in EU funds because of the adoption of the declarations. On September 15, the country’s deputy minister for funds and regional policy sent a letter to all local governments to review declarations to ensure the texts did not contain any discriminatory elements. By the end of September, all five provinces as well as several lower local government units had either repealed or revised the declarations to attempt to satisfy commission concerns. As of October 18, the commission had not commented if the changes were sufficient to restore funding.

On July 2 and September 24, the Supreme Administrative Court returned four legal challenges by the ombudsperson against anti-LGBTQI+ resolutions to provincial administrative courts for another review regarding the municipalities of Lipinki and Niebylec, and the counties of Tarnow and Ryki. Earlier in 2020 and in February of 2021, provincial courts had rejected the complaints, arguing that the declarations could not be reviewed by administrative courts.

As a result of a complaint filed by the human rights ombudsperson in 2019, in July 2020 the Gliwice Provincial Administrative Court struck down a declaration adopted by the Istebna municipality. The court ruled the anti-LGBTQI+ declaration violated administrative law and the constitution, in particular the ban against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Minister of Justice and Prosecutor General Zbigniew Ziobro sent appeals against the ruling and a similar one regarding a declaration in the Klwow municipality to the Supreme Administrative Court in September 2020, but the court had not issued a ruling as of December 6.

On January 12, the human rights ombudsperson announced the Supreme Administrative Court ruled in December 2020 that a transgender person who underwent gender reassignment procedure abroad had the right to receive a passport with her new legal identity. Authorities initially refused to update the citizen’s documents to reflect the change.

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the rights of workers to form and join independent trade unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides legal measures under which workers fired for union activity may demand reinstatement. Individuals who are self-employed or in an employment relationship based on a civil law contract are permitted to form a union.

Government workers, including police officers, border guards, prison guards, and employees of the Supreme Audit Office, are limited to a single union. Workers in services deemed essential, such as security forces, the Supreme Audit Office, police, border guards, and fire brigades, do not have the right to strike. These workers have the right to protest and to seek resolution of their grievances through mediation and the court system.

Trade unions are registered when at least 10 eligible persons adopt a resolution to form a trade union. Newly established trade unions must appoint a founding committee consisting of three to seven persons. A new trade union must register with the National Court Registry within 30 days of the resolution. The court may remove a trade union from the registry only if a trade union adopts a resolution to dissolve; is no longer able to operate due to the bankruptcy, liquidation, or reorganization of the company in which the trade union operated; or if a trade union has fewer than 10 members for more than three months.

Legal strike ballots require the support of a majority of union voters. To allow for mandatory mediation, a strike may not be called fewer than 14 days after workers present their demands to an employer. The law obligates employers to report workplace group disputes to the district inspection office in their region. Cumbersome procedures made it difficult for workers to meet all of the technical requirements for a legal strike. What constitutes a strike under the law is limited to strikes regarding wages and working conditions, social benefits, trade union rights, and worker freedoms. The law prohibits collective bargaining for key civil servants, appointed or elected employees of state and municipal bodies, court judges, and prosecutors.

According to trade unions, existing legal provisions regarding freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are adequate but there are concerns with enforcement. The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws. The penalties for obstructing trade union activity range from fines to community service. They were not commensurate with the penalties for other laws related to the denial of civil rights. Resources, inspections, and remediation efforts were not adequate, and according to trade unions, the penalties allowed by law were too small to deter future violations. Administrative and judicial procedures were subjected to lengthy delays and appeals.

Trade union representatives stated that violations of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining occurred. While many workers exercised the right to organize and join unions, several large international companies discriminated against those who attempted to organize. Union discrimination typically took the forms of intimidation, attempts to challenge the legality of trade union activity, or termination of work contracts without notice or without a justified reason. For example, media reported banking company mBank fired Mariusz Lawnik on November 17 for allegedly “harassing employees” after Lawnik posted a message regarding a newly established trade union on the company’s intranet.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Nevertheless, forced labor occurred.

The government effectively enforced the law. Penalties for forced labor violations were commensurate with those of other serious crimes. In 2020, the most recent year for which statistics were available, the government assisted in removing 70 victims from forced labor.

There were reports that foreign and Polish men and women were subjected to forced labor in agriculture, restaurants, construction, domestic work, and the garment and fish processing industries, and that children were subjected to forced begging (see section 7.c.).

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. The law prohibits the employment of children younger than 16, with exceptions in the cultural, artistic, sporting, and advertising fields when parents or guardians and the local labor inspector give their permission. The labor inspector issues a permit on the basis of psychological and medical examinations. Child labor is not allowed if the work may pose any threat to life, health, or physical and mental development of the child, or may conflict with the child’s education. The government effectively enforced applicable law prohibiting employment of children younger than 16, and penalties were commensurate with those of other serious crimes.

Some children younger than 18 engaged in hazardous work in agriculture, primarily on private family farms. Romani children, primarily from Romania, were subjected to forced begging. Commercial sexual exploitation of children also occurred (see section 6, Children).

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment or occupation in any way, directly or indirectly, on all grounds, in particular on the grounds of race, sex, color, religion, political opinion, national origin, ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, age, or trade union membership, and regardless of whether the person is hired for definite or indefinite contracts, or for full- or part-time work. The law does not specifically prohibit such discrimination based on language, HIV-positive status, gender identity, or social status. According to the Polish Society for Antidiscrimination Law, by law the accused must prove that discrimination did not take place. In the case of labor contracts that are protected by law, antidiscrimination measures are adequate, and judges know how to apply them.

Civil contracts are protected under antidiscrimination law, which prohibits unequal treatment in employment on the basis of gender, race, ethnic origin, nationality, religion, belief, viewpoint, disability, age, or sexual orientation. According to the society, it is relatively straightforward for claimants to assert discrimination occurred during court proceedings; however, very few employees come forward and report discrimination at the workplace. The government enforced applicable law, but penalties for violations were not commensurate with those of similar laws related to civil rights.

At year’s end the Krakow District Court continued a criminal trial against a human resources manager at an IKEA store for dismissing an employee after the employee posted quotes from the Bible on the company’s intranet website to imply gay persons deserved death. Prosecutors argued the manager violated the employee’s religious rights. In a separate proceeding, a labor branch of the Krakow court continued a labor dispute case against IKEA that was initiated by the fired employee. The employee demanded compensation and the right to return to work. The court had not issued a ruling at year’s end.

According to trade union representatives, discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, age, and trade union membership. According to NGOs, sexual harassment at the workplace was an underreported problem, and police statistics showed a low number of identified offenses (83 in 2020, the latest statistics available). Discrimination against Romani workers also occurred (see section 6, Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The national monthly minimum wage and the minimum wage for formal work agreements met the social minimum monthly income level.

The constitution provides every employee the right to statutorily specified days free from work as well as annual paid holidays.

The National Labor Inspectorate (NLI) is responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws. Labor inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. According to trade union representatives, the NLI is committed to eliminating violations of wage and hour laws, but due to an insufficient number of labor inspectors and limitation of resources to conduct inspections, the NLI is not able to ensure compliance with existing laws.

The government did not effectively enforce minimum wage and overtime laws, but the penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes. According to trade union representatives, the most common labor rights violations concerned failure to pay wages, delayed payment of wages, and failure to formally register and pay for overtime work. According to the NLI’s 2020 report, most wage payment violations occurred in trade and repair services as well as in industrial processing industries. Seasonal and migrant workers were particularly vulnerable to such violations. The NLI’s report did not cover domestic workers because inspectors could only conduct inspections in businesses, not private homes.

During September 20-24, the NLI participated in the “action week” of the EU-wide information campaign “Rights for all seasons,” which focused on employment of seasonal and migrant workers. The campaign included training, distribution of educational materials, and press publications devoted to this matter. As part of the campaign, the NLI provided free legal counselling services by telephone in Polish, Ukrainian, and Russian on various aspects of legal employment, focusing specifically on seasonal and migrant workers.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law defines strict and extensive minimum conditions to protect worker health and safety. Inspections for occupational safety and health were conducted by the same inspectors under the same authorities as for wages and hours. Resources were inadequate and the government did not effectively enforce occupational health and safety in the formal or informal sectors. Penalties for violations were commensurate with those of similar laws.

During the year the NLI continued a three-year information and education campaign which began in 2019 to improve work-related health and safety standards in meat-processing companies and continued in programs targeting construction companies, professional drivers, forestry companies, small businesses, and agricultural employers.

Employers routinely exceeded exposure standards for limits on chemicals, dust, and noise. According to the Central Statistical Office’s 2020 report, the majority of work-related accidents occurred in mining and quarrying, water supply, sewage and waste management, and ecological reclamation. According to the NLI’s 2020 report, which investigated 1,775 work-related accidents that happened in 2020, most accidents occurred in industrial companies and at construction sites. The report noted some of the leading causes of workplace accidents were poor organization of work processes, inadequate supervision of employees, inadequate training of employees in work-related health and safety standards, and inadequate measures by employers to prevent accidents. The Central Statistical Office reported 62,740 victims of workplace accidents, including 189 fatal accidents, during 2020.

Informal Sector: The Main Statistical Office’s definition of the informal economy included unregistered employment performed without a formal contract or agreement and where wages do not count as contributions to social security or have income taxes deducted. There is no minimum wage for informal work agreements. There were reports of employers withholding wages or underpaying laborers under informal work agreements, particularly Ukrainian migrant workers in the construction and agriculture industries. Workers in the informal sector are not covered by wage, hour, and occupational safety and health laws and inspections. While the NLI’s powers are limited to the formal economy, one of its responsibilities is to inspect legality of employment, which can contribute to limiting work in the informal economy and ensuring employees who are hired in the informal economy are provided with appropriate occupational health and safety conditions. According to the Central Statistical Office, in 2017 (the latest year for which data were available) 5.4 percent of the workforce (880,000 persons) worked in the informal economy. According to trade union representatives, many migrant workers from Ukraine work in informal economy.


Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, of both women and men, is illegal. The law provides for five to 10 years’ imprisonment for rape and two to seven years’ imprisonment for sexual assault. If there are no aggravating circumstances and the attack did not lead to death, police and prosecutors may not pursue a case on their own, but they require a survivor’s complaint, even if there is independent physical evidence. In some cases the government did not enforce the law on rape and domestic violence.

Several human rights activists reported that some police officers tried to dissuade survivors of rape or domestic violence from pressing charges against their aggressors and, in some cases, refused to register criminal complaints submitted by victims. In some instances, police delayed action against sexual abusers. According to media reports, after being notified regarding cases of domestic violence, some members of police ignored the problem or tried to mediate between the victims and their aggressors.

The law classifies family violence as a separate offense and stipulates that when murder, battery, or other serious violence is committed against a family member, the penalty is increased. The law also states that, if the parties reconcile, criminal liability is removed. The law on equal opportunities for men and women includes cyberviolence among the forms of domestic violence and defines it as the occurrence of online harassment, online messages that incite hate based on gender criteria, or the nonconsensual publication of private graphic content that aims to humiliate, scare, threaten, or reduce victims to silence. The FILIA Center for Gender Studies and Curriculum Development – an NGO that aims to promote gender equality – stated that there were no regulations to implement these amendments.

Gender-based violence, including domestic violence, continued to be a serious problem that the government did not effectively address. The law provides for the issuance of provisional restraining orders by police for a maximum of five days and restraining orders by a court for a maximum of six months upon the survivor’s request or at the request of a prosecutor, the state representative in charge of protecting survivors of family violence, or, if the survivor agrees, a social service provider. Violation of a restraining order is punishable by imprisonment for six months to five years, but the Center for Gender Studies and Curriculum Development stated that some judges may issue lesser sentences because of overlapping legislation. The court may also order an abuser to undergo psychological counseling. The center stated that police lacked procedures for the implementation and monitoring of restraining orders. A law that entered into force in May established an electronic monitoring system for individuals under a restraining order. The law directs police and the National Administration for Penitentiaries to procure the necessary hardware and make the monitoring system operational by March 2022.

Courts prosecuted very few cases of domestic violence. Many cases were resolved before or during trial when the alleged survivors dropped their charges or reconciled with the alleged abuser.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: According to reports by media and NGOs, bride kidnapping occurred in some communities and was underreported. On August 22, Buzau County police started a criminal investigation for illegal deprivation of liberty against several persons who kidnapped a 14-year-old girl with the intention of forcing her to marry a 19-year-old man. On July 2, the Constanta Court issued a nonfinal ruling sentencing three persons to three and four years’ imprisonment for illegal deprivation of liberty after they attempted to kidnap a 16-year-old girl to force her into marriage. According to media reports, the girl’s family had promised to arrange a marriage between her and one of the kidnappers’ sons, but the girl refused the arrangement.

Sexual Harassment: Criminal law prohibits sexual harassment, which it defines as repeatedly asking for sexual favors in a work or similar relationship. A victim’s complaint is necessary to initiate a criminal investigation. Penalties range from fines to imprisonment of three months to one year. The law on equal opportunities for women and men defines sexual harassment as the occurrence of unwanted behavior with a sexual connotation, which can be expressed physically, verbally, or nonverbally and has the effect or result of damaging a person’s dignity and, in particular the creation of a hostile, intimidating, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment. The government did not enforce the law effectively. According to reports by NGOs, police often mocked victims of sexual harassment or tried to discourage them from pressing charges.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

According to several NGOs and observers, there were infrastructure and information barriers to an individual’s ability to maintain his or her reproductive health, including the lack of community health care and age-appropriate sex education for adolescents. Some women, especially those from poor, rural, or Romani communities, had difficulty accessing reproductive health services due to a lack of information, ethnic discrimination, and poverty. According to the NGO Mothers for Mothers, 25 percent of pregnant women consulted a physician for the first time only after the onset of labor.

Access to government-funded contraception and family planning services was limited because of insufficient funding and training for health professionals. According to the World Health Organization, as of 2020, 71.8 percent of women of reproductive age had their need for family planning satisfied by modern methods of contraception. According to a report released by Save the Children Romania in February, of the 199,720 births in 2019, 17,933 occurred among mothers between the ages of 15 and 19, while 749 occurred among mothers younger than 15. NGOs, health professionals, and social workers identified underreported child sex abuse and limited access to information regarding reproductive health and contraception as the leading factors contributing to high teenage pregnancy rates. Several NGOs reported that the school curriculum lacked sufficient lessons on reproductive health. Parent and religious associations regularly thwarted attempts to introduce such lessons into the curriculum.

Observers reported that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, some maternity hospitals were open only for patients infected with COVID-19, making access to reproductive and prenatal care more difficult. Although home birth is not prohibited by law, regulations forbid health professionals from providing home birth services. According to UNICEF, skilled health personnel attended 94.8 percent of deliveries in 2018.

The government provided access to some sexual and reproductive health services to survivors of sexual violence, but some women had difficulties accessing these services. Emergency contraceptives were available in pharmacies without a prescription, but according to the Center for Gender Studies and Curriculum Development, they were not affordable for all women.

Discrimination: Under the law women and men have equal rights. The government did not enforce the law effectively. Women experienced discrimination in marriage, divorce, child custody, employment, credit, pay, owning or managing businesses or property, education, the judicial process, and housing. Segregation by profession existed, with women overrepresented in lower-paying jobs. There were reports of discrimination in employment. Women experienced discrimination in access to pension benefits and retirement (see section 7.d.).

Under the law discrimination and harassment based on ethnic or racial criteria is punishable by a civil fine unless criminal legal provisions are applicable. According to the criminal code, public incitement to hatred or discrimination against a category of persons is punishable by imprisonment or a criminal fine. Special laws criminalize the spread of anti-Semitic or anti-Roma ideas and symbols, as well as ideas and symbols related to fascist, racist, and xenophobic ideologies. Committing any crime on basis of the victim’s ethnicity or race represents an aggravating circumstance, which carries a higher penalty. Prosecutions based on discrimination and violence against racial or ethnic minorities were rare.

Romani groups complained that there were instances of police harassment and brutality, including beatings. On May 3, according to the RomaJust Association of Roma Lawyers, police detained two Romani persons and took them to the police precinct in Baia village, Tulcea County. At the precinct, police officers severely beat and humiliated the two Roma for hours and used racial slurs against them. According to RomaJust, the victims suffered multiple injuries that took two months to heal. RomaJust reported that prosecutors started an investigation against police, which revealed that police officers from the area had a habit of beating Roma suspected of committing crimes.

Discrimination against Roma continued to be a problem. NGOs reported Roma were denied access to, or refused service in, some public places. Roma also experienced poor access to government services, a shortage of employment opportunities, high rates of school attrition, and inadequate health care. According to a report released by the ADHR-HC in December 2020, Roma faced discrimination in the criminal justice system. Some lawyers refused to defend Romani persons, while police, prosecutors, and judges held negative stereotypes of Roma.

A lack of identity documents excluded many Roma from participating in elections, receiving social benefits, accessing health insurance, securing property documents, and participating in the labor market. According to the Ministry of Interior, as of October, 63,777 persons older than 14 residing in the country did not have valid identity documents. Romani rights activists reported that most of these persons were Roma who could not acquire legal identity documents because they resided in informal settlements and housing. Roma had a higher unemployment rate and a lower life expectancy than non-Roma. Negative stereotypes and discriminatory language regarding Roma were widespread.

Despite an order by the Ministry of Education forbidding segregation of Romani students, several NGOs, including the Center for Advocacy and Human Rights, continued to report that segregation along ethnic lines persisted in schools. The Center for Legal Resources reported that some teachers used discriminatory language against Romani students. Media and NGOs reported that on June 3, a sixth-grade student of Romani ethnicity threw himself out of a second-floor window of his school following repeated discrimination by his teacher and classmates.

Researchers and activists reported a significant number of the remaining Romani Holocaust survivors who applied for a pension were denied because of unreasonable administrative barriers raised by the pension offices, problematic standards, lack of knowledge regarding the Holocaust and Roma, and burdensome requirements. According to researchers, despite historical evidence, in hundreds of cases, authorities considered that Roma were resettled and not deported, and consequently granted them smaller pensions.

Ethnic Hungarians continued to report discrimination related mainly to the use of the Hungarian language. Ethnic Hungarians reported that the government did not enforce the law that states that ethnic minorities are entitled to interact with local governments in their native language in localities where a minority constitutes at least 20 percent of the population. There were continued reports that local authorities did not enforce the law requiring localities with at least a 20 percent minority population to have bilingual road signs. On July 19, media reported that a doctor in the Satu Mare County Emergency Hospital berated an elderly ethnic-Hungarian woman for speaking Hungarian while at the hospital. The patient, who spoke poor Romanian, was struggling to explain her symptoms to the doctor. According to the results of the most recent census, 37.6 percent of the population in Satu Mare County was ethnic Hungarian. The management of the Satu Mare County Emergency Hospital initiated disciplinary proceedings against the doctor.

In February unknown persons vandalized the Hungarian writing on a welcome sign located in the city of Cluj-Napoca and painted the Romanian flag on the Monument of Szekler Martyrs in the city of Targu Mures that commemorates several Hungarian revolutionaries. During a rally on March 29 in the city of Pitesti by the Alliance for the Unity of Romania Party, several hundred participants chanted, “Hungarians out of the country!” The Miko Imre Association for Minority Rights stated that government authorities have not provided forms and information related to the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Hungarian.

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth from at least one citizen parent. Although birth registration is mandatory by law, it was not universal, and authorities denied some children public services as a result. Most unregistered children had access to schools, and authorities assisted in obtaining birth documents for unregistered children, but the education of unregistered children depended on the decision of school authorities. The law provides simplified birth registration for children whose mothers do not have proper documentation to register their children.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits violence against children, but this has not been interpreted as prohibiting all corporal punishment. Child abuse, including emotional, physical, and psychological violence and neglect, continued to be serious problems. Media outlets reported several severe cases of abuse or neglect in family homes, foster care, and child-welfare institutions. In January media outlets carried a video recording showing an educator employed by a residential center for minors in Rosiorii de Vede, Teleorman County, humiliating, hitting, and inappropriately touching several institutionalized children. According to a report by the NGO Save the Children Romania, parents widely use corporal punishment to discipline children. The government has not established a mechanism to identify and treat abused and neglected children and their families.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18 for both men and women, but the law permits minors as young as 16 to marry under certain circumstances. Illegal child marriage was reportedly common in certain social groups, particularly among some Romani communities. NGOs reported cases of Roma girls as young as 11 being sold into marriage by their families. Child protection authorities and police did not always intervene in such cases. There were no public policies to discourage child marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides one- to 12-year prison sentences for persons convicted of sexual acts with minors, depending on the circumstances and the child’s age. Sexual intercourse with a minor who is 14 to 16 years of age is punishable by a one- to five-year prison sentence. Sexual intercourse with a person younger than 14 is punishable by a two- to nine-year prison sentence and deprivation of some rights. The law also criminalizes sexual corruption of minors (which includes subjecting minors to sexual acts other than intercourse or forcing minors to perform such acts), luring minors for sexual purposes or commercial sex, and trafficking of minors. Pimping and pandering that involve minors is an aggravated circumstance and increases sentences by 50 percent. The law allows authorities to maintain a registry of individuals who committed sexual offenses against or exploited adults and children. Child pornography is a separate offense and carries a sentence, depending on the circumstances, of up to seven years’ imprisonment. The maximum sentence is increased to nine years if the perpetrator was a family member or guardian or if the child’s life was endangered.

In July the Judicial Inspectorate, an autonomous disciplinary unit within the Superior Council of Magistrates, released a report on the way the justice system handled cases of child sex abuse. According to the findings, prosecutorial offices and courts had different opinions on the age of consent, and consequently, in some cases, sexual intercourse with minors as young as 12 was treated as the lesser crime of sexual acts with minors instead of rape. Child-protection NGOs noted that some judges lacked awareness of the issue and showed bias against victims, who often come from socially disadvantaged groups. Investigators found it hard to prove sexual coercion of minors because of a lack of infrastructure, such as child-friendly interview rooms and the use of widely recognized methodologies developed by child psychologists to conduct forensic interviews with underage victims.

Institutionalized Children: During the year there were several media reports of abuses in centers for institutionalized children, including sexual abuse, physical violence and degrading treatment by colleagues or staff, and trafficking in persons. Numerous reports noted a lack of adequate food, clothing, medical treatment, and counselling services. Lack of hygiene, inadequate living conditions, insufficient food, and lack of physical therapy was a problem in many residential centers for children with disabilities.

On January 5, the president of the National Authority for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Children, and Adoption (ANDPDCA) released a video showing employees of a placement center in the town of Voluntari physically abusing a child and threatening him with psychiatric detention. The ANDPDCA president stated that staff in centers for residential institutions frequently threatened children with calling an ambulance to take them to psychiatric facilities where they would receive psychotropic drugs. According to several NGOs, including the Center for Legal Resources, psychiatrists administered psychotropic drugs to thousands of children in residential institutions or in foster care, including to those with disruptive behavior and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

By law unaccompanied migrant children are held in placement centers, where they have access to education and benefits other children receive. The detention of families with children is allowed by law, with preservation of family unity used as justification. Several such cases were recorded during the year.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at

According to the 2011 census, the Jewish population numbered 3,271. Representatives of the Jewish community stated that the Jewish population numbered approximately 7,000. Acts of anti-Semitism occurred during the year.

On September 12, media outlets reported that unknown persons vandalized a memorial located in the northern city of Bistrita, dedicated to the Jews who were deported to Auschwitz and Birkenau. Several of the victims’ names written on the memorial were covered with paint or scratched.

On March 3, National Liberal Party member of parliament Daniel Gheorghe delivered remarks in parliament glorifying Mircea Vulcanescu. Mircea Vulcanescu was a convicted war criminal who, according to the Wiesel Institute, supported anti-Semitic policies as a cabinet member in the government of WWII leader Ion Antonescu. During a March 8 Senate session, Alliance for the Unity of Romanians senator Sorin Lavric made anti-Semitic statements referring to a conspiracy theory that Jews initiated and promoted communism. Lavric’s statements were made in response to Jewish member of parliament Silviu Vexler’s criticism of statements made by some members of parliament, including Lavric, that glorified Holocaust-era war criminals and members of the Legionnaire movement. The Alliance for the Unity of Romanians posted Lavric’s speech on its official Facebook page and described it as part of the fight for the country’s history and the nation’s soul.

On March 18, the director of the Jewish State Theater, Maia Morgenstern, stated on social media that during a meeting with representatives of public theaters and cultural institutions, one of the participants used anti-Semitic slurs. On March 27, Morgenstern received via email a letter that included anti-Semitic slurs and death threats against her children, as well as threats to set fire to the Jewish State Theater. On March 29, police announced that they had identified the author of the threats, placed him under judicial supervision, and initiated a criminal investigation. In a declaration adopted on March 31, the parliament stated that anti-Semitic incidents were on the rise and condemned attempts to glorify Holocaust-era war criminals and the threats received by Morgenstern.

Streets, organizations, schools, or libraries continued to be named after persons convicted for war crimes or crimes against humanity, according to the Elie Wiesel Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania. For example, Radu Gyr was a commander and anti-Semitic ideologist of the fascist Legionnaire movement convicted of war crimes. The Wiesel Institute requested the renaming of Radu Gyr Street in Cluj-Napoca. As of October the local government had not changed the name of the street.

Material promoting anti-Semitic views and glorifying the Legionnaire movement appeared on the internet. According to a study released by the Wiesel Institute in April, several articles published online claimed that Jews or the state of Israel were profiting from the COVID-19 health crisis and manufacturing harmful vaccines. According to the same study, most anti-Semitic hate speech on social media included Jewish conspiracy theories.

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. Laws and regulations mandate that buildings and public transportation be accessible for persons with disabilities. The government did not fully implement the law, and discrimination against persons with disabilities remained a problem. Persons with disabilities could not access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. Streets, buildings, and public transportation remained largely inaccessible to persons with disabilities.

Discrimination against children with disabilities in education was a widespread problem due to lack of adequate teacher training on inclusion of children with disabilities and lack of investment to make schools accessible. According to official data, 40 percent of children with disabilities were either placed in segregated schools or not placed in school at all. According to a report drafted by the World Bank for the National Authority for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Children, and Adoption, which was released in December 2020, only 21 percent of middle schools had appropriate access ramps, while 64 percent of schools needed an elevator to ensure access for students with locomotive disabilities.

Limited access to justice for persons with disabilities continued to be a problem. According to a World Bank report released in December 2020, persons with disabilities faced several obstacles in the justice system, including inaccessible buildings, lack of access to information or communication, bias by employees of the justice system, legal procedures that were not adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities, and higher fees and costs related to legal services. In 2020 the Constitutional Court deemed legislation that allowed conservatorship unconstitutional because it did not include safeguards to ensure respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, had no possibility of periodic review, and did not differentiate the degree of incapacitation. Persons with disabilities placed under conservatorship did not have the right to liberty or the rights to work, vote, or consent to medical procedures. The NGO Center for Legal Resources reported that despite the Constitutional Court’s decision, as of October conservatorship for persons with disabilities had not been lifted.

The Center for Legal Resources identified a series of problems in centers for persons with disabilities or psychiatric hospitals, including verbal and physical abuse of children and adults, sedation, excessive use of physical restraints, lack of hygiene, inadequate living conditions, and lack of adequate medical care. According to media and Center for Legal Resources reports, on August 1, an employee of a government-managed center for persons with disabilities in Calinesti, Prahova County, gathered approximately 30 residents in the institution’s courtyard to discipline them. The employee then hit two of the residents several times. On August 4, the center’s medical staff called an ambulance to take one of the assaulted residents to the hospital. On August 5, the resident died after being released from the hospital. The Center for Legal Resources investigated the incident and found that residents did not have access to means of communication to notify authorities of the physical punishments and abuses. According to the center, between August 1 and August 4, its employees did not notify authorities regarding the violent episode and did not request a medical examination for the injured resident. Authorities arrested the suspect, and as of November a criminal investigation was ongoing.

In February 2020 the Center for Legal Resources released the conclusions of a visit made at a residential center for persons with disabilities located in the city of Husi, Vaslui County. There were reasonable suspicions that the residents of the center were subjected to physical punishment and verbal abuse. The NGO also discovered unsanitary living conditions, overcrowding, and lack of basic personal hygiene products. As of November the prosecutor’s office attached to the Huși First Instance Court was conducting a criminal investigation for illegal deprivation of liberty.

The National Authority for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Children, and Adoptions under the Labor Ministry coordinated services for persons with disabilities and drafted policies, strategies, and standards in the field of disabilities rights.

Discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS impeded their access to routine medical and dental care because in some cases medical staff refused to treat persons with HIV or AIDS.

The LGBTQI+ rights NGO ACCEPT reported that as of October a criminal investigation was pending against several police officers who allegedly abused a transgender woman. According to ACCEPT, in December 2020 several members of the Bucharest police forcefully removed the woman from a bus following a verbal argument she had with passengers who harassed her. Police restrained her, threw her on the ground, handcuffed her, and forced her into their car. The victim stated that while in custody, police made transphobic and homophobic remarks, used physical violence, threatened to intern her in a psychiatric hospital, and took pictures while humiliating her.

According to ACCEPT, hate crimes were severely underreported and authorities have not initiated prosecution in any reported LGBTQI+ hate crime case since 2006.

A survey of LGBTQI+ persons carried out by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency in 2020 revealed that 15 percent of respondents had experienced a physical or sexual attack motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity during the previous five years. Of the respondents who described the most recent physical or sexual attacks, only 4 percent reported the incidents to authorities due to fear of discrimination. As many as 28 percent of respondents indicated fear of a homophobic reaction, transphobic reaction, or both from police as the reason for not reporting a physical or sexual attack.

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. NGOs reported that societal discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons was common but severely underreported. The legal provisions governing legal gender recognition for transgender persons were vague and incomplete. In some cases authorities refused legal gender recognition unless an individual had first undergone sex reassignment surgery.

In January the ECHR ruled on a case involving two transgender persons who, between 2013 and 2017, requested the courts to recognize their gender identity. The ECHR noted that the government’s refusal to legally recognize the applicants’ gender reassignment in the absence of sex reassignment surgery amounted to unjustified interference with their right to respect for their private life.

Access to adequate psychological and health services was also limited because some psychologists refused to accept transgender patients and medical staff discriminated against them. Intersex individuals faced several challenges, including extreme social stigma and frequent distrust of doctors, that deterred them from seeking medical treatment. In September the mayor of the city of Iasi tried to cancel a pride march organized by the LGBTQI+ rights NGOs ACCEPT and Rise Out by withholding final approval of the event and citing religious reasons and public opposition. Eventually, the march took place on October 1, as planned by the organizers.

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the rights of workers to form and join independent labor unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. Unions can affiliate with regional, national, or EU union federations, but they may affiliate with only one national organization. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and allows workers fired for union activity to challenge their dismissal in court for reinstatement. The law provides for protection of freedom of association and collective bargaining, but unions complained there was little enforcement to protect against violations of these rights.

Civil servants generally have the right to establish and join unions. Employees of the Ministry of National Defense, certain categories of civilian employees of the Ministries of Interior and Justice, judges, prosecutors, intelligence personnel, and senior public servants, including the president, parliamentarians, mayors, prime minister, ministers, employees involved in security-related activities, and the president of the Supreme Court, however, do not have the right to unionize. Unions complained regarding the requirement to submit lists of union members with their registration application. Since employers also had access to the list, union officials feared this could lead to reprisals against individual unionized employees, particularly dismissals, and hinder the formation of new unions.

The law requires employers with more than 21 employees to negotiate a collective labor agreement but provides no basis for national collective labor agreements. Employers refusing to initiate negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement can receive fines. The law permits, but does not impose, collective labor agreements for groups of employers or sectors of activity. The law requires employers to consult with unions on such topics as imposing leave without pay or reducing the workweek due to economic reasons.

Unions may strike only if they give employers 48 hours’ notice, and employers may challenge the right in court, effectively suspending a strike for months. Although not compulsory, unions and employers may seek arbitration and mediation from the Labor Ministry’s Office for Mediation and Arbitration. Unions criticized the Labor Ministry for failing to intervene effectively in cases involving arbitration and mediation efforts.

Companies may claim damages from strike organizers if a court deems a strike illegal. The law permits strikes only in defense of workers’ economic, social, and professional interests and not for the modification or change of a law. As a result workers may not challenge any condition of work established by law, such as salaries for public servants, limiting the effectiveness of unions in the public sector.

Unions complained that the legal requirement for representativeness, which states that the right to collective bargaining and to strike can be asserted only by a union that represents 50 percent plus one of the workers in an enterprise, was overly burdensome and limited the rights of workers to participate in collective bargaining and to strike. In the absence of this clear majority, an employer may appoint a worker representative of its choosing to negotiate agreements. It is common for companies to create separate legal entities to which they then transfer employees, thereby preventing them from reaching the necessary threshold for representation.

Unions complained regarding the government’s general prohibition on union engagement in political activities, intended to prevent unofficial agreements to support political parties, due to past abuses by union officials.

Official reports of incidents of antiunion discrimination remained minimal. It is difficult to prove legally that employers laid off employees in retaliation for union activities. The government did not effectively enforce the law; however, penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations when enforcement was successful. The National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD) fines employers for antiunion discrimination, although it lacks the power to order reinstatement or other penalties, and employees usually must seek a court order to obtain reinstatement. The law prohibits public authorities, employers, or organizations from interfering, limiting, or preventing unions from organizing, developing internal regulations, and selecting representatives.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Nevertheless, there were reports that such practices continued to occur, often involving Romani, persons with disabilities, and children. The government did not effectively enforce the law and took limited measures to prevent forced or compulsory labor. The law criminalizes forced labor, and penalties for violations were commensurate with those of other serious crimes, such as kidnapping, but were not evenly applied in all sectors.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 16 percent of human-trafficking victims officially identified in 2020 were exploited specifically for labor purposes. In 2019 organized-crime investigators detained five individuals on charges of modern slavery. The individuals were accused of having kidnapped and detained several persons with a vulnerable background or mental-health problems; the victims were used for agricultural work without pay, starved, and forced to live in inadequate farm annexes. This case remained pending as of December.

Men, women, and children were subjected to labor trafficking in agriculture, construction, domestic service, hotels, and manufacturing. Organized rings, often involving family members, forced persons, including significant numbers of Romani women and children, to engage in begging and petty theft (see section 7.c.).

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. The minimum age for most forms of employment is 16. Children may work with the consent of parents or guardians at the age of 15 if the activities do not endanger their health, morality, or safety. The law prohibits persons younger than 18 from working in hazardous conditions, includes a list of dangerous jobs, and specifies penalties for offenders. Some examples of hazardous jobs for children include those posing a high risk of accident or damage to health, exposure to psychological or sexual risk, night shifts, exposure to harmful temperatures, and those requiring use of hazardous equipment. Parents whose children carry out hazardous activities are required to attend parental education programs or counseling and may be fined if they fail to do so.

Minors who work have the right to continue their education, and the law obliges employers to assist in this regard. Minors between the ages of 15 and 18 may work a maximum of six hours per day and no more than 30 hours per week, provided their school attendance is not affected. Businesses that impose tasks incommensurate with minors’ physical abilities or fail to respect restrictions on minors’ working hours can face fines. Many minors reportedly did not attend school while working. Minors have the right to an additional three days of annual leave.

The law requires schools to notify social services immediately if children miss class to work, but schools often did not comply. Social welfare services have the responsibility to reintegrate such children into the educational system.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection may impose fines and close businesses where it finds exploitation of child labor. The National Authority for the Protection of the Rights of the Child and Adoption (ANDPDCA) in the Labor Ministry has responsibility for investigating reports of child labor abuse, but enforcement of child labor laws tended to be lax, especially in rural areas with many agricultural households and where social welfare services lacked personnel and capacity to address child labor violations. The ANDPDCA is responsible for monitoring and coordinating all programs for the prevention and elimination of child labor.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Resources were inadequate, but penalties were commensurate with those for other serious crimes like kidnapping. Government efforts focused on reacting to reported cases, and ANPDCA dedicated limited resources to prevention programs. According to ANPDCA, 220 children were subject to child labor in 2020, and 35 children were subject to child labor between January and March.

Incidents of child labor were widely believed to be much higher than official statistics. Child labor, including begging, selling trinkets on the street, and washing windshields, remained widespread in Romani communities, especially in urban areas. Children as young as five frequently engaged in such activities, but instances were frequently underreported because official statistics were limited to cases documented by police. Children whose parents worked abroad remained vulnerable to neglect and abuse. During the year the Labor Inspectorate identified four employers who exploited seasonally employed minors in the hospitality industry along the Black Sea coast, although media reports indicated additional, unreported cases. Of the 220 documented cases of child labor in 2020, authorities prosecuted alleged perpetrators in 13 cases, while an additional 103 cases remained under investigation at the end of 2020. Between January and March, 35 child labor abuse cases were investigated; of these, three were closed, 32 were still in progress, and no new criminal investigations were opened.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at .

Labor laws and regulations prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation because of race, sex, gender, age, religion, disability, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV-positive or other communicable disease status, social status, or refugee or stateless status. The government did not enforce these laws effectively, reacting to claims of discrimination rather than adequately engaging in programs to prevent discrimination. Penalties for violations were in general commensurate with those for other types of discrimination, but they were insufficient to deter violations.

Discrimination in employment or occupation occurred with respect to gender, disability, and HIV status. Discrimination against Romani and migrant workers also occurred. The CNCD investigated employment discrimination cases in both the public and private sectors. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, media reported several cases of medical staff being discriminated against by neighbors and denied access to local shops. Following media reports, there was a wave of public support for the medical staff in question.

The law mandates equal remuneration for work of equal value. Eurostat reports the pay gap between men and women in the country was 3.3 percent in 2019. While the law provides female employees reentering the workforce after maternity leave the right to return to their previous or a similar job, pregnant women and other women of childbearing age still suffered unacknowledged discrimination in the labor market.

There was no systemic integration of persons with disabilities into the workforce, and public bias against persons with disabilities persisted. While NGOs worked to change attitudes and assist persons with disabilities in gaining skills and employment, the government lacked adequate programs to prevent discrimination. The law requires companies or institutions with more than 50 employees to employ workers with disabilities for at least 4 percent of their workforce or pay a fine for lack of compliance, which many companies chose to do. In November 2020 the government re-established “sheltered” or “protected units,” enterprises that employ at least three persons with disabilities who represent at least 30 percent of the overall staff and contribute at least 50 percent of the cumulated full-time work hours. Local labor offices had limited success in facilitating employment for persons with disabilities.

NGOs reported that patients suffering from cancer and tuberculosis faced discrimination in the workplace. In 2019 almost one-third of employees with cancer reported they postponed informing their employer of their illness until after treatment, and 17 percent reported a substantial reduction in job duties and responsibilities upon returning to work. The law supports tuberculosis patients by providing monthly food allowances, medical leave, and psychological support but does not contain measures to protect patients from workplace discrimination.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a national minimum wage that is greater than the official estimate for the poverty income level and has nearly tripled in nominal terms since 2012. Approximately one in three employees earned the minimum wage according to the labor ministry. Despite minimum wage increases, 14.9 percent of employed Romanians remained at risk of poverty. During the year the country’s courts ruled in favor of female clothing-factory workers who reported unjustified 50 percent wage cuts during the COVID-19 pandemic. After receiving public pressure to investigate the allegations, officials confirmed inaccurate shift reporting, unpaid mandatory social insurance contributions, unpaid overtime wages, and worker harassment and intimidation.

The law provides for a standard workweek of 40 hours or five days. Workers are entitled to overtime pay for weekend or holiday work or work of more than 40 hours. An employee’s workweek may not exceed 48 hours per week on average over a four-month reference period, although exceptions are allowed for certain sectors or professions. The law requires a 48-hour rest period in the workweek, although most workers received two days off per week. During reductions in workplace activity for economic or technical reasons, the law allows employers to shorten an employee’s workweek and reduce the associated salary.

In response to COVID-19 restrictions, the government extended the category of eligible furlough (technical unemployment) benefits to independently registered businesspersons, lawyers, and individuals with income deriving from copyright and sports activities. The government adopted a flexible work plan modeled after Germany’s Kurzarbeit (flexible work) program with the aim of retaining employees on payrolls with joint government and employer contributions. The plan required employers to cover half of full-time wages and the Romanian government to pay 75 percent of the difference between the gross wage and the basic wage paid to the employee, based on the number of hours worked. Kurzarbeit and technical unemployment support was extended in July and was expected to remain in effect through the pandemic state of emergency.

Excessive overtime may lead to fines for employers if workers file a complaint, but complaints were rare. The law prohibits compulsory overtime. Starting during the year, the law allows for one of two caretakers of children to receive paid days off for periods when schools are closed; the income is capped at maximum 75 percent of the average economy wage.

In July, 13 members of the Cartel Alfa trade union led a protest caravan from Bucharest to Brussels regarding low wages and poor working conditions in Romania. The protest highlighted the concerns of more than four million Romanians seeking work in other EU countries due to limited opportunities in Romania who were often vulnerable to labor exploitation as migrant workers.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, through the Labor Inspectorate, is responsible for enforcing the law on working conditions, hours, and minimum wage rates, but it did not effectively enforce all aspects consistently. Penalties for violations of these laws were commensurate with those for other similar crimes but were not consistently applied. Labor inspectors have the authority to make unannounced visits and initiate sanctions, but the number of inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance in all sectors.

According to trade union reports, many employers paid supplemental salaries under the table to reduce tax burdens for employees and employers alike. Additionally, the Labor Inspectorate collaborated with the National Authority for Fiscal Administration to conduct joint operations to check employers in sectors prone to underreported labor, including the textile, construction, security, cleaning, food-preparation, transportation, and storage industries. These investigations often focused on underpayment of taxes rather than workers’ rights.

The government did not effectively enforce overtime standards. Union leaders complained that overtime violations were the main problem facing their members, since employers often required employees to work longer than the legal maximum without receiving mandatory overtime compensation. This practice was especially prevalent in the textile, banking and finance, and construction sectors.

Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational safety and health standards were appropriate for the main industries, but compliance and enforcement remained weak. Workers can remove themselves from situations they deemed dangerous to their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. The labor inspectorate also had authority over occupational safety and health laws; however, not all workplace accidents were investigated by labor inspectors. Companies investigated minor incidents, while labor inspectors investigated more severe ones, typically those that resulted in fatalities or serious injuries. If appropriate, incidents may be referred for criminal investigation. Union leaders often claimed labor inspectors only superficially investigated workplace accidents, including ones involving fatalities, and that inspectors often wrongly concluded that the victims were at fault in most fatal accidents. In 2019 the country reported three deaths per 100,000 employees resulting from accidents at work.

The construction, agriculture, and small manufacturers sectors were particularly problematic sectors for both labor underreporting and neglecting health and safety standards. The government did not effectively enforce occupational safety and health laws. Penalties for violations of these laws were commensurate with those for other similar crimes but were not consistently applied. In November 2021, four persons died at the Babeni Mechanical Factory after explosive products were handled poorly. In August 2021, two workers died and four were hurt on a construction site in Bucharest city center, after a deep ditch collapsed.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, additional risk bonuses were awarded to healthcare staff caring for COVID-19 patients or for those involved in pandemic response. Peaks in the number of critical cases of COVID-19 added pressure on hospital infrastructure, particularly in intensive care units. Medical staff and patients were hurt and killed in several hospital fire incidents over the year.

Informal Sector: Informal employment continued to affect employees in the agriculture, retail, hospitality, and construction sectors. In 2013 undeclared work represented 18.9 percent of total labor output in the private sector. In 2019 some 25 percent of Romanians admitted they had engaged in undeclared work and 44 percent knew someone who had engaged in undeclared labor.

The prevalence of the minimum wage, a tight labor market, and labor taxation exemptions for vulnerable sectors have made undeclared work less attractive. As a result of a mass outflow of unskilled and skilled labor, the country has experienced a tight labor market. Over the past decade, some 2.7 million Romanians of working age (20 to 64) have moved to other EU countries seeking employment. The construction sector has a higher minimum gross wage (3,000 lei or $728) and is exempt from income tax and health and pension mandatory contributions.

The law provides for temporary and seasonal work and sets penalties for undeclared labor. In accordance with EU regulations, the maximum duration of a temporary contract is 36 months. Workers in the informal sector were not covered by wage, hour, and occupational safety and health laws, and inspections.


Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape and sexual violence, which carry a penalty of five to 25 years in prison. The law does not specifically define spousal rape, but the criminal code covers spousal rape and spousal sexual violence under the crime of rape and sexual violence. NGOs and rape victims criticized police for sometimes failing to enforce the law effectively and for often failing to communicate appropriately with rape victims. Rape and domestic violence victims had access to shelters and counseling offered by NGOs and government-funded programs. NGO service providers complained that authorities provided only a small portion of necessary funding, forcing many centers to close or raise additional resources from private and international donors.

Domestic violence against women is punishable by three to eight years’ imprisonment. Domestic violence was widespread, and activists claimed official statistics failed to capture the magnitude of the problem. NGOs also asserted the government did not enforce the law effectively. Experts complained there were no written procedures for referring battered women to counselling centers or shelters and no services for batterers. The lack of affordable public housing or rent-controlled housing often forced victims to return to abusive households.

According to a study commissioned by IKEA in cooperation with the NGO Fenestra published in November, 77 percent of Slovak respondents believed that violence in partnerships was widespread and required more attention, and more than half knew someone who experienced violence in an intimate partner relationship. At the same time, almost 25 percent believed the problem was exaggerated, 48 percent agreed that victims were at least partially responsible for the violence in their partnerships, and 42 percent stated that many women only accused their partners of violence out of revenge.

In April the government allocated three million euros ($3.5 million) to support domestic violence shelters and fund counseling services as a temporary measure to cover a funding gap due to delays in the availability of European Economic Area grants – the major source of funding for shelter homes in the country. An amendment to the law on victims of criminal acts entered into force in July, introducing measures aimed at strengthening rights and protection of victims of criminal acts, including provision of legal assistance to victims seeking restraining orders and extending restraint distances from 33 to 164 feet. Police also became responsible for notifying victims of the termination of restraining orders before informing the offenders. To prevent further victimization, the amendment also expanded the list of victims eligible for compensation, who were to be paid by the state during criminal proceedings. The law also established a network of intervention centers, to become operational as of November, to ensure better coordination between centers providing legal and counseling support to domestic violence survivors and law enforcement bodies, including creating referral procedures for police and providing long-term funding for centers to ensure their sustainability and availability.

In April the General Prosecution Service reported that the incidence of domestic violence increased rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions on movement, with the number of recorded cases in 2020 increasing by 30 percent compared with 2019. Domestic violence prosecutions increased 20 percent in 2020 compared with 2019. The severity of domestic violence incidents increased, and the number of women killed by their partners increased by 71 percent in 2020 compared with 2019, the highest overall number since 2010.

The number of calls to a national helpline for women experiencing domestic violence increased by 49 percent in 2020 compared with 2019. NGOs providing victim care services confirmed the deteriorating trend, and the Institute for Labor and Family Research noted that victims had difficulty accessing assistance in January, when there were no exceptions for threats to life and health included in the strict COVID-19 curfew mandate. According to the institute, however, antipandemic measures during the year did not significantly impact the functioning and availability of shelter homes and emergency housing for women. Despite concerns from civil society organizations, in November the government reintroduced pandemic-related restrictions to the freedom of movement that again did not provide adequate exemptions allowing victims of domestic violence to leave their households despite an active curfew.

In July 2020 police began testing a new smartphone application that would allow victims to secretly place distress calls to them. As of December the application was still not fully operational.

Sexual Harassment: The law defines sexual harassment as unlawful discrimination, which is subject to civil penalties. Victims usually avoided legal action due to fear of reprisal, lengthy court proceedings, and lack of accessible legal services. A coordination center for gender-based and domestic violence under the Labor, Social Affairs, and Family Ministry implements and coordinates countrywide policies to prevent and eliminate violence against women, including sexual harassment, and it also coordinates education and training efforts for the public and professionals. The government operated a 24/7 hotline for women subjected to violence.

Civil society organizations criticized police for poor handling of cases of sexual harassment. In June a group of men allegedly sexually harassed two women in Bratislava, making lewd comments and chasing them, with one man allegedly touching one of the women. The victims reported the incident to police but complained that the police officers were unprofessional, allegedly downplaying the incident by asking speculative questions that doubted and humiliated the victims.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities involving Romani or other women, although human rights organizations maintained that medical personnel often asked Romani women to sign consent forms for these procedures without fully explaining their meaning or providing them in the women’s language.

Authorities continued requiring persons seeking a legally recognized sex change to undergo permanent sterilization, effectively ending their ability to reproduce.

Human rights organizations criticized the quality and practices used in childbirth care services, and NGOs reported that Romani women, especially from marginalized communities in the eastern region of the country, at times faced reproductive health-care discrimination, segregation, verbal and physical violence, and a general lack of information on reproductive health. According to a 2018 government report, infant mortality in the Romani population was almost three times higher than the national rate, while a 2014 study by the Slovak Academy of Sciences (the most recent available) reported there was a high rate of adolescent pregnancies among women from Romani communities, with approximately 25 percent of them bearing a first child by the age of 18. In comparison the Ministry of Health reported that women under 18 made up 4.2 percent of all first pregnancies in 2019.

In July, on the advice of the ombudsperson and after repeated calls by civil society and international organizations, parliament’s Human Rights and National Minorities Committee passed a resolution requesting a systemic resolution of the issue of involuntary sterilizations of predominantly Romani women, expressing support for adoption of a restitution scheme and calling for and calling for a government apology. Two victims of involuntary sterilization gave testimony to committee members during the session. Subsequently, on November 24, the government issued a formal apology to female victims of involuntary sterilizations and condemned the violations of their human rights. The government acknowledged that the “unacceptable” practice, targeting primarily Roma women from marginalized communities, occurred not only under the communist regime, but as late as early 2000s, when the women were often pressured into providing their consent without adequate understanding of the sterilization’s consequences or sufficient time to consider the decision. The government also established an expert working group to set up a system to identify and compensate the women.

In 2020 the regional court in Kosice upheld a lower court ruling that awarded compensation to an illegally sterilized Romani woman. The woman was sterilized without informed consent in 1999 in Krompachy Hospital in the eastern region during the birth of her second child by Caesarean section. She was not informed about the sterilization procedure by hospital staff and did not give informed consent to the intervention. She became aware that she had been sterilized only after the procedure. The ensuing court case continued for more than 15 years.

While contraception was widely available, NGOs reported that a lack of reimbursement from the national health system (unless used for health-related reasons) constituted a significant barrier to access, especially for young and vulnerable populations.

During the year NGOs expressed concerns regarding some practices imposed on women in childbirth, including medically unjustified separations of mothers and newborn babies, refusal to allow a companion to be present at birth, and reduced quality of health care to and undignified treatment of mothers who tested positive for COVID-19 due to measures to respond to the pandemic. In May the ombudsperson released a survey on childbirth care, covering a period from 2016 to 2020 and based on a sample of almost 3,200 women. It showed problems with lack of informed consent in 55 percent of cases and inadequate privacy in 26 percent of cases. In November the Health Ministry issued unified standards for obstetrical care that the ombudsperson lauded for also including rules concerning birth companions, informed consent, right to privacy, or performance of episiotomy.

The country does not have a national sexual and reproductive health program to provide dedicated access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Victims approached their general practitioners, emergency rooms, or, less frequently, their gynecologists. Survivors generally had access to emergency over-the-counter contraception. The government ran a 24/7 national multilanguage helpline for women experiencing violence, and the Coordinating Methodical Center for Prevention of Violence against Women offered emergency help to victims of sexual violence.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status for women as for men. Discrimination against women remained a problem, particularly in the labor market, where women were less likely to be offered employment than men with equal qualifications and faced a 21 percent gender pay gap.

In April the government approved a new gender equality strategy for 2021 to 2027 along with an accompanying action plan, which focuses on addressing key issues affecting women’s rights in the areas of dignity and bodily integrity, family and work life, education, employment, and political and economic participation.

The constitution guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms to everyone regardless of sex, race, color, language, belief or religion, political affiliation, or other conviction, national or social origin, nationality or ethnic origin, property, descent, or any other status, and it allows no person to be discriminated against or favored on any of these grounds. An antidiscrimination law forbids unequal treatment on the grounds of one’s race or belonging to a national or ethnic group, which is subject to civil penalties. The criminal code defines “extremist” crimes such as founding, supporting, and expressing sympathy toward movements aimed at suppressing fundamental rights and freedoms; producing or disseminating “extremist” materials; defamation of a nation, race, and belief; or incitement to national, racial, or ethnic hatred. Crimes committed with a special motive, which includes hatred against a group or individuals for their actual or alleged race, nationality, or ethnic affiliation, are punished with stiffer sentences. While experts noted increased investigation and prosecution of “extremist” crimes, they recognized that public authorities often failed to identify a special aggravating motive. Civil society organizations also criticized the government for ineffective enforcement of antidiscrimination legislation, especially concerning widespread discriminatory practices against the Roma population.

Segregation and societal discrimination against Roma and individuals of non-European ethnicity was common. A 2019 Atlas of Roma Communities study by the Ministry of Interior, the most recent available, found that as much as 49 percent of the Romani population resided in marginalized communities. This represented a slight decrease compared with the previous iteration of the study conducted by the UN Development Program in 2013, which estimated that 53 percent of Roma resided in settlements. According to the same study, only 19 percent of the Romani minority lived integrated among the majority population. The study identified 180 segregated rural settlements located outside municipalities and 418 communities on the outskirts of municipalities. The study found that 61 percent of inhabitants in the 100 largest concentrations of Romani citizens had access to drinking water, compared with 48 percent in 2013.

There were reports of harassment of members of ethnic minorities during the year and reports of violence and excessive use of force by members of the police against Romani citizens. Experts noted that most cases of police violence were likely not reported by the Roma due to fear and lack of trust and highlighted that inadequate police investigation of such cases was a persistent problem.

In May the public broadcaster reported that police officers in Svidnik allegedly beat two Romani men who were suspected of a petty cash robbery. According to one of the victims, the police officers took him to the local police station for interrogation and proceeded to beat him in the interrogation room, first hitting his head and then beating his bare feet while he was forced to kneel on a chair completely naked. The other man stated that police hit his head and feet several times while he was leaning against a wall. The case was investigated by the Police Inspection Service and was pending as of December.

In May and June, the Kosice District Court acquitted five Roma charged with making false allegations against police officers in connection with the investigation of the 2013 police raid on a Romani community in Moldava nad Bodvou. The acquittals came after the prosecutor of the Kosice Regional Prosecutor’s Service dropped charges against five of six defendants in the case, a decision observers attributed to a September 2020 verdict of the ECHR regarding a complaint submitted by two of the defendants. The ECHR identified human rights violations by the authorities and awarded the two raid victims financial compensation to be paid by the government. A Kosice District Court judge ruled on December 9 to drop prosecution of the final, sixth, Roma victim of the raid who faced false testimony and perjury charges, citing the European Human Rights Convention as well as the ECHR decision as grounds for the verdict. The prosecutor appealed the ruling, and the case was pending a decision by the Kosice Regional Court as of December.

In response to the acquittals, in June the government issued a formal apology to the victims of the police raid, expressing regret over the authorities’ actions and subsequent criminalization of the victims. Following repeated calls by civil society and the ombudsperson, in July the police president mandated reintroduction of compulsory video recordings during police raids.

In 2020 the Kosice District Court, in its third and binding ruling in the case, confirmed a lower court ruling that acquitted all of the police officers accused in a 2009 case of police abuse against a group of six Romani boys between the ages of 11 and 15. During the incident the officers allegedly brought the boys to the police station and forced them to strip, slap each other, and carry out their orders and also threatened them with a loaded weapon and police dogs. Some of the actions were recorded on a smartphone and made public. The ECHR ruled in April on a related incident that preceded the alleged beatings that state authorities did not sufficiently investigate the police violence allegations.

In 2020 a police officer allegedly beat a group of five Romani children trying to leave a marginalized Romani settlement that was placed under quarantine due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the community. According to the Union of Roma in Slovakia, the officer first threatened the children with a gun and then beat them using batons, causing bruises and other injuries. The ombudsperson, the government plenipotentiary for Romani communities, and the Slovak National Center for Human Rights condemned the incident and called for a thorough investigation. The Ministry of Interior’s inspection service launched an investigation into possible abuse of power by a public official. The investigation was pending as of December.

Police generally responded quickly to gatherings targeting the Romani community and prevented crowds from entering Romani communities or inciting confrontations.

There were instances of public officials at every level defaming minorities and making derogatory comments about Roma. In July the former prime minister and chair of the opposition Smer party, Robert Fico, denounced the financial incentives introduced by the government to encourage vaccination against COVID-19, alleging they would benefit mostly Roma and stating, “gypsies in gypsy settlements are already rubbing their hands.”

In September Pope Francis visited the Lunik IX housing estate in Kosice, home to the largest Romani population in the country, estimated at more than 4,000, with a significant proportion of inhabitants facing poverty and poor living conditions. The visit precipitated a wave of racist commentary on social media targeting the Romani communities living at Lunik IX.

During the October 13 International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Anti-Semitism in Malmo, Sweden, Prime Minister Heger committed the government to include Roma history in educational and training materials and to make active use of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s recommendations on teaching about the Roma Holocaust.

In August Prime Minister Heger, Interior Minister Roman Mikulec, Public Defender of Rights Maria Patakyova, and other government officials attended a Romani Holocaust remembrance ceremony in Banska Bystrica. Other leaders, including President Caputova, Justice Minister Maria Kolikova, and Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok, commemorated the Roma Holocaust separately as well, with President Caputova calling on “every citizen to reduce the space for hatred so that ethnically motivated humiliation and physical and verbal attacks do not happen.” In April, on International Roma Day, President Caputova hosted a group of Roma medical and social workers, volunteers, educators, and activists in recognition of their work on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19.

In 2020 the Slovak Academy of Sciences released a representative survey of majority attitudes toward Romani citizens. When examining stereotypes about Roma, the survey found that most respondents (80 percent) tended to agree with a statement that Roma in the country received undeserved benefits from the social system, and almost two-thirds of respondents tended to identify with openly negative stereotypes of Roma. Only half of the respondents tended to agree with the statements that highlighted the value of Romani culture. The survey also found that respondents identified most with a so-called hostile political discourse, where politicians referred negatively to Romani citizens, particularly regarding work habits and crime rates in Romani communities.

Widespread discrimination against Roma continued in employment, education, health care, housing, loan practices, restaurants, hair salons, religious services, and public transportation.

During the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government continued the controversial practice of blanket quarantining of entire marginalized Romani settlements to stop the spread of the disease. Based on results of COVID-19 testing, regional public health offices ordered a mandatory full-area quarantine in one settlement in December 2020 and two settlements in February, with armed police and military guards stationed at the entrances to the settlements. Quarantines lasted up to several weeks, and NGOs reported that residents complained of uncertainty due to absence of clear guidance on the duration and conditions of the quarantine. Authorities reportedly did not isolate persons who tested positive for COVID-19 from other persons in the community. Local authorities provided food and medical supplies to the sealed-off settlements, but the Plenipotentiary for Roma Communities reported lack of firewood and access to general and specialized health care while under quarantine. Human rights NGOs reported the quarantines contributed to further stigmatization and anti-Romani prejudice, and that there were reports of increased hate speech against Roma on social media. The ombudsperson continued criticizing the blanket quarantines in Romani communities. In February she requested the prosecutor general review the legality of the quarantines and consider submitting the matter to the Constitutional Court. The prosecutor general forwarded the motion to district prosecutors’ offices, which suspended it on the grounds that the quarantines were already over by that time.

Human rights experts also noted that Romani individuals often received harsher penalties for breaching antipandemic measures. In January police issued a 500 euro ($575) fine to a Rom for crossing a border between the Kosice Okolie and Kosice districts to get firewood, although media reported that the average penalty for violating the COVID-19 restrictions at that time was only 67 euros ($77). In May prosecutors in the Spisska Nova Ves District dropped charges against an 18-year-old Rom from a marginalized community in Richnava who was facing a two-year prison sentence for stealing 0.26 euros ($0.30) worth of wood in January during a COVID-19-related state of emergency. The prosecutor deemed the charges by police as illegal and unsubstantiated, citing the negligible damage, the fact that the man was underage at the time of the incident, and taking into account that the man, together with his grandfather, was helping to care for his four siblings.

Local authorities continued to use regulatory obstacles, such as withholding of construction permits, to discourage the legal establishment of Romani settlements. Media reported cases where non-Romani persons tried to prevent Romani customers from buying or renting property in “their” neighborhood.

Members of the Romani minority continued to experience obstacles and discrimination in the access to quality health care. A government report released by the Ministry of Finance in 2019, the most recent data available, estimated life expectancy in the Romani population at 69.6 years, nearly seven years less than the general population, and infant mortality at three times the country average. NGOs reported Romani women faced multiple forms of discrimination in reproductive health care, including segregation in maternity departments, verbal harassment, and mistreatment by medical personnel. The hospitals claimed they grouped persons according to their levels of hygiene and adaptability, not by ethnicity. NGOs continued to express concerns regarding the way medical personnel obtained informed consent from Romani patients, often not fully explaining its meaning or requesting a signature under time pressure.

In April the government adopted a new National Strategy for Roma Equality, Inclusion, and Participation by 2030, which NGOs assessed positively, although they noted that the implementation of such documents in the past was often uneven.

The government’s Council on Human Rights, National Minorities, and Gender Equality operated a Committee for the Prevention and Elimination of Racism, Xenophobia, , and Other Forms of Intolerance. Since 2017 “extremist” crimes fall under the purview of the National Counterterrorism Unit at the National Crime Agency and are prosecuted by the Specialized Prosecution Service at the Specialized Criminal Court. Experts credited these specialized law enforcement and prosecution agencies with an increased number of cases and higher conviction rate for perpetrators of “extremist” crimes as well as for raising the profile of the issue in society.

Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship by birth to at least one citizen parent, regardless of where the child is born. Each domestic birth is recorded at the local vital statistics office, including for children born to asylum seekers, stateless persons, and detained migrants.

Education: Romani children from socially excluded communities faced educational discrimination and segregation and were disproportionately enrolled in “special” schools or placed in segregated classrooms within mainstream schools. A government review released by the Ministry of Finance’s analytical unit in 2019 confirmed earlier reporting from the ombudsperson that Romani children received an inferior education compared with their non-Romani peers. The report found a disproportionately high share of Romani children in “special” schools for children with intellectual disabilities (42 percent of all children enrolled) and schools with special classes for Romani children (63 percent). According to the review, only 32 percent of Romani children had received preschool education, compared with 75 percent for the general population, and one-third of Romani children dropped out of the education system before completing elementary school.

School closures during the COVID-19 pandemic deepened the educational gap between children from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, particularly children from marginalized Romani settlements, and children from more affluent families. According to a study conducted by NGO EduRoma, 70 percent of marginalized Romani children did not participate in distance learning, and 60 percent of them had no contact with their teachers whatsoever because of closure of primary and secondary schools during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, mainly because they did not have access to a computer or the internet. Experts reported similar obstacles during limitations imposed on in-class learning throughout the 2020-21 school year. Educational professionals warned this interruption in the education of children from disadvantaged backgrounds would have lasting impacts on their future educational and career prospects.

There were reports of racial discrimination and inappropriate language being used against members of the Romani minority at all levels of the education system. In 2020 the regional court in Bratislava upheld a 2016 trial court ruling dismissing an antidiscrimination lawsuit against the segregation of Romani children at an elementary school in the town of Stara Lubovna. The court determined that Romani children were not segregated in education even though the school was ethnically homogenous and attended exclusively by Romani children from a nearby marginalized settlement. The human rights NGO Poradna, which initiated the lawsuit, considered the court’s judgment in breach of international human rights law and filed an extraordinary appeal to the Supreme Court that was pending as of December.

In December the government adopted a Strategy for Inclusive Approach to Education 2030 that included inclusive education, desegregation, and destigmatization in education among its priority areas. While Roma and education experts noted the need for the strategy, they criticized the quality and vagueness of the document and noted lack of implementation of the majority of desegregation measures set out in the pilot action plan for 2021, which was adopted by the government in 2020.

Child Abuse: Domestic abuse carries basic penalties of three to eight years’ imprisonment. Child abuse remained a problem according to child advocates. A 2017 government study, the most recent available, indicated that 70 percent of 13- to 15-year-olds had experienced some form of physical, emotional, or sexual violence or parental neglect.

The government continued implementing and annually updating the National Action Plan for Children  for 2013-22, funded through the government budget. Government bodies provided financial support to crisis centers for abused children and to NGOs that worked on child abuse. The Labor and Social Affairs Office had dedicated departments for overseeing childcare and operated a national coordination body for dealing with violence against children, which collected data, provided information on domestic violence and abuse of minors, helped refer victims to service providers, and operated a national helpline.

Coalition members of parliament and civil society experts criticized the ombudsperson for child rights for her inactivity and failure to protect the best interests of children; there were also allegations of lack of transparency, mismanagement, and nepotism. The ombudsperson’s six-year term formally ended in December, but parliament did not appoint her replacement due to disagreements within the ruling coalition.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18. In exceptional cases, based upon request of one of the marrying couple, a competent court may allow marriage of a person as young as 16 if both parents consent. Law enforcement authorities continued reporting a number of cases of Slovak children of Romani descent being subjected to forced marriage, often by their legal guardians seeking financial benefit. In 2020 three Romani victims of forced marriages were identified, and as of December two such victims were identified. Overall in 2020, girls younger than 18 accounted for half of all identified sex trafficking victims (the youngest victim was 11) as well as half of the victims of forced marriages. Most perpetrators were parents or relatives.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Rape and sexual violence against a child carry basic penalties of seven to 15 years’ imprisonment. The law establishes 15 as the minimum age for consensual sex. The law prohibited sexual exploitation of children, including child sex trafficking and prescribed penalties of four to 10 years’ imprisonment. As of November police reported 375 cases of sexual abuse of children younger than 15, compared with 468 cases in 2020 and 518 in 2019. Experts stated that sexual exploitation of children went largely underreported and that convicted perpetrators often received lenient sentences. As of December the police identified nine underage victims of sex trafficking.

The production, distribution, or possession of child pornography is a crime with penalties ranging from two to 20 years’ imprisonment. As of November police reported 257 such cases, compared with 403 and 286 cases in 2020 and 2019, respectively, with distribution of child pornography dominating the cases.

Institutionalized Children: Reports published by the ombudsperson during the year found that juvenile offenders at educational rehabilitation centers regularly endured hunger and were subjected to degrading treatment, including compulsory gynecological examinations of girls after their trips outside the facility. The reports also found substandard levels of education at the centers.

In 2020 the prosecution service opened three new criminal investigations and prosecutions related to the scandal-ridden private juvenile rehabilitation facility Cisty den (Clean Day), which lost its official accreditation in 2017 after a series of allegations of severe malpractice and misconduct. In 2018 and 2019, courts convicted a former therapist and cook employed at the facility and sentenced them to a three-year suspended sentence and a five-year prison sentence, respectively, for sexual abuse of underage persons at the facility. In June a court upheld the five-year sentence for a former cook. In 2019 the prosecution service exonerated the former manager of the facility from accusations of battery and assault of a minor but continued investigating him for alleged fraud.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at

Jewish community leaders estimated, and the 2011 census data indicated, there were 2,000 persons in the Jewish community.

Organized neo-Nazi groups with an estimated 500 active members and several thousand sympathizers occasionally spread anti-Semitic messages. Latent anti-Semitic stereotypes characterizing Jews as greedy or secretly influencing world affairs were widespread, even beyond neo-Nazi groups and their sympathizers. The neo-Nazi party Kotlebovci – Ludova strana Nase Slovensko (Kotleba’s – People’s Party Our Slovakia, LSNS) received 8 percent of the vote in the 2020 parliamentary elections, securing 17 of 150 seats in parliament. Among the elected representatives for LSNS were several individuals prosecuted or convicted of hate crimes, including party chair Marian Kotleba, who was convicted for giving a charitable donation with Nazi symbolism; Andrej Medvecky, convicted of attacking a foreigner because of race; Stanislav Mizik, acquitted for lack of evidence of posting an anti-Semitic message on his Facebook profile criticizing the president for giving state awards to citizens of Jewish origin; and Milan Mazurek, convicted for anti-Romani statements made in a public radio broadcast, who left LSNS in January.

In 2020 the Specialized Criminal Court approved a plea bargain for Michal Buchta, former LSNS regional chairman and a former leader of the LSNS youth wing, Ludova mladez (Popular Youth). Buchta was given a three-year suspended sentence and a 600 euro ($690) fine and ordered to undergo mandatory psychological counseling for distributing extremist materials. He had previously been arrested by the National Criminal Agency in 2018 along with two other individuals, including neo-Nazi singer Jaroslav “Reborn” Pagac. Pagac was convicted by the Specialized Criminal Court in June for producing and distributing clothes and other items bearing extremist symbols and was sentenced to four years in prison.

In April the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of LSNS regional chairman Anton Grno, who in 2020 was found guilty of supporting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and fundamental freedoms. During a 2018 Supreme Court hearing, Grno shouted the greeting of the World War II-era Slovak fascist state’s paramilitary force. Grno was fined 5,000 euros ($5,750) and sentenced to six months in prison should he fail to pay the fine. Media outlets reported that Grno’s social media profiles contained several openly racist and anti-Semitic posts.

In October the Supreme Court confirmed a verdict of the Specialized Criminal Court, which in 2019 found Tibor Eliot Rostas, editor in chief of Zem a vek magazine, guilty of defamation of race and nation for his anti-Semitic article, “Wedge of Jews Among Slavs.” The court upheld the original sentence of a 4,000 euro ($4,600) penalty, which Rostas paid in December, thus avoiding a three-month prison sentence. In 2019 both Rostas and the prosecutor appealed the sentence. In the original 2017 article in Zem a vek, which local experts labeled a conspiracy magazine, Rostas wrote about centuries-long efforts of Jews to drive wedges among Slavs and destroy their traditions, culture, and values, drawing on selected anti-Semitic quotes of prominent political figures from Slovak history.

While direct denial of the Holocaust was relatively rare, expressions of approval of the World War II-era Slovak fascist state, which deported tens of thousands of Jews, Roma, and others to death camps, occurred frequently. Throughout the year far-right groups commemorated dates associated with the Slovak fascist state and its president, Jozef Tiso, including the LSNS youth wing, which on March 14 published a social media post commemorating creation of the fascist state in 1939. On the same date, LSNS chairman Marian Kotleba posted a Slovak flag on his social media account that experts claimed was an acknowledgement of the Slovak fascist state anniversary. In December, following an investigation into a case of a street named after the Slovak fascist state president located in a village of Varin, the National Criminal Agency pressed charges against 10 of 11 local councilors for a crime of expressing sympathies with a movement aimed at suppressing fundamental rights and freedoms. The charged councilors, one of whom was absent then, refused to vote in favor of changing the name during an August municipal council meeting, citing plans to call a local referendum once police and the courts closed the case. After all 10 councilors objected, the special prosecutor dismissed the charges on grounds that the particular crime cannot be committed by inaction and that “lack of empathy and ignorance of historical facts” do not constitute a crime. In April the Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities publicly protested a decision by the city of Ruzomberok to present an award to a historian it claimed was an advocate of the wartime Slovak state who relativized the Holocaust.

In October Prime Minister Heger participated in the Malmo International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Anti-Semitism, where the government pledged to take concrete steps in the fight against anti-Semitism and anti-Roma attitudes and continue to address the legacy of the Holocaust. Specific steps included completion of a Holocaust museum, use of International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definitions, and application of IHRA recommendations for enhanced teaching and learning about the Holocaust, including targeted awareness-raising efforts among youth about the Holocaust and the dangers of distorting it.

On September 9, President Caputova and government officials commemorated the Day of the Victims of the Holocaust and of Racial Violence at the Holocaust Memorial in Bratislava and the Slovak Holocaust Museum in Sered. The coalition government undertook initiatives to promote Holocaust education in schools and funded school field trips to Auschwitz and the Slovak Holocaust Museum in Sered. On September 8, the government adopted a resolution marking the 80th anniversary of the so-called Jewish codex, expressing regret over crimes committed by the Slovak fascist state, particularly adoption in 1941 of the “disgraceful decree” that eventually led to deportations of Jews and their subsequent mass killings in concentration camps.

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, the judicial system, other transportation, or the provision of other public services. The antidiscrimination law does not qualify the denial of reasonable accommodation as discrimination based on disability.

NGOs reported that persons with disabilities continued to experience several problems, particularly in access to education, transport, employment, and government as well as private services.

According to the government’s commissioner for disabled persons, while a few children with disabilities participated in mainstream education, most were educated separately in so-called “special” schools that further contributed to their social isolation and stigmatization. Among the main reasons cited for the separate schooling of children with disabilities were physical barriers at state schools, lack of qualified support staff, and reluctance from teachers and parents of children without disabilities. In February the public defender of rights called on the government to abolish the “variant A” schooling for students with mild mental disability, which limited the level and type of secondary education these students could access. The Strategy for Inclusive Approach to Education 2030, adopted by the government in December, included “debarrierization” of education and an overhaul of education counseling services among its key priorities.

In October parliament adopted an education law reform that introduces inclusive education both as one of the principles of education and as a right of a child and student, while removing the previous rule of allowing a maximum of two children with special education needs per classroom in kindergartens. The law also aims to provide better access to counseling services for all children, including those with most serious issues requiring specialized assistance. While education experts praised the reform’s intentions, they expressed skepticism regarding its implementation due to shortage of qualified personnel at schools and lack of details on the counseling reform.

According to a March 2020 study by the Value for Money Unit of the Finance Ministry, students with disabilities constituted 11 percent of students in elementary schools, 7 percent in secondary schools, and 1 percent among university students.

NGOs and municipalities continued to report problems, including excessive administrative burden and red tape, in applying the law on opening and operating “social enterprises” that could serve to employ persons with disabilities.

Psychiatric institutions and hospitals, which fall under the purview of the Ministry of Health, used cage beds to restrain patients. Physical and nonphysical restraints in social care homes managed by the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Family were prohibited by the law, except for life-threatening situations in which their use was permitted for a limited time only.

Broadcasters rarely complied with laws requiring television stations to provide audio descriptions for viewers who are blind or have impaired vision.

While the law defines mandatory standards for access to buildings, NGOs noted they were not fully implemented, although access to privately owned buildings improved more rapidly than access to public buildings. Civil society organizations and the disability rights commissioner noted that navigating most cities with a visual impairment or on a wheelchair remained difficult due to the many obstacles and barriers on sidewalks and in public transport.

The government’s Council on Human Rights, National Minorities, and Gender Equality operated a committee on persons with disabilities. The council served as a governmental advisory body and included representation from NGOs working on disability problems. The country’s national human rights strategy included a chapter on the rights of persons with disabilities. In May the disability rights commissioner presented an annual report to parliament summarizing progress in implementing the human rights strategy and the Convention on the Rights of , as well as providing recommendations for legislative and policy changes, based on the commissioner’s own monitoring and complaints lodged by citizens.

LGBTQI+ organizations reported the law requires that persons seeking legal gender recognition provide confirmation from a medical practitioner that a person has undergone a “gender change” to obtain new identity documents. The law, however, does not define “gender change,” and experts criticized lack of official guidance. In practice authorities required confirmation that a person had undergone permanent sterilization before issuing new identity documents. NGOs also reported instances of public authorities not recognizing transition undergone abroad and requesting that persons undergo the process again in Slovakia.

Except in the case of university diplomas, the law does not allow educational establishments to reissue educational certificates with a new first name and surname to transgender individuals after they have transitioned. The law does allow institutions to issue such individuals new birth certificates reflecting the name with which they identify.

NGOs reported violence and online harassment of LGBTQI+ persons. In June a popular local clothing company received a wave of online anti-LGBTQI+ hate comments for posting a social media advertisement for its rainbow collection depicting two men holding hands. In May a kindergarten in Poprad issued a public apology after facing strong online backlash from parents and the public, who argued it promoted the LGBTQI+ community when it featured a rainbow in a weekly play put on by students. Also in May, a cultural center in Bratislava reported that its rainbow flag, flying in support of the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia, was torn down in broad daylight by a group of men. Organizers reported online hate speech, while an LGBTQI+ rights NGO reported an alleged violent incident took place in June in center of Bratislava only days before the Bratislava Pride month launch, during which several youths verbally assaulted a group of gay men and then proceeded to physically attack one of them, kicking him in the head, delivering multiple blows with a telescopic baton, and chasing the victim down a street. The victims later complained of inadequate reaction by police, with officers showing up late to the scene and not taking a formal report. The case was being investigated by the National Criminal Agency. During the August rainbow pride march in Kosice, a group of approximately 20 LSNS supporters gathered in protest and attempted to block the approximately 900 marchers. There were no reports of violence.

According to an EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) survey released in 2020, more than three-quarters of Slovak same-sex couples reported fears of holding hands in public. The survey also indicated only 26 percent of members of the LGBTQI+ community openly declared their orientation and that 36 percent were afraid to visit certain sites for fear of being attacked. In total, 46 percent of members of the LGBTQI+ community felt discrimination in at least one area and at least one in five transgender and intersex persons reported being physically assaulted in the five years prior to the survey, double the number of other LGBTQI+ persons. The FRA survey found that only 8 percent of victims reported such an attack to the police and 6 percent alerted an equality body or other organization to discrimination.

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, education, state social services, health care, and access to goods and services and identifies sexual orientation as a hate crime motivation that warrants stiffer sentences. NGOs reported the government did not always actively enforce these laws.

On November 3, the Committee for Rights of LGBTI Persons, a permanent expert body of the Government Council for Human Rights, National Minorities, and Gender Equality chaired by the minister of justice, adopted a formal resolution expressing concerns over repeated attempts by members of parliament throughout the year to pass laws that sought to ban legal gender transition and “promotion of homosexuality” in education and media.

NGOs reported online hate speech towards refugees.

Government officials at all levels and leaders from across the political spectrum engaged in rhetoric portraying refugees and Muslims as a threat to society, and several political parties used antimigrant rhetoric. The Center for the Research of Ethnicity and Culture released a study in May that confirmed a worsening trend in public attitudes toward migrants in the country. Most respondents believed foreigners contributed to higher crime rates (65 percent) and worsened safety (62 percent). According to the study, a majority also held negative attitudes toward a “refugee from Syria” (68 percent) and a “Muslim family” (64 percent).

In September the government adopted a new policy document, Migration Strategy 2025, in which it committed to consider and analyze potential creation of a centralized immigration and naturalization office to provide a centralized approach not only to migration but also to integration of refugees. Civil society organizations, however, criticized the new document for retaining an outdated and inadequate integration policies.

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions of their choice. The law also provides for unions to conduct their activities without interference, including the right to organize and bargain collectively, and workers exercised these rights. The law recognizes the right to strike with advance notice, both when collective bargaining fails to reach an agreement and in support of other striking employees’ demands (solidarity strike). Civil servants in essential services, judges, prosecutors, and members of the military do not have the right to strike. The law prohibits dismissing workers who legally participate in strikes but does not offer such protection if a strike was illegal or unofficial. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. The law does not state whether reinstatement of workers fired for union activity is required.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws and remedies, and penalties for violations were commensurate with penalties for other laws involving the denial of civil rights. These procedures were, however, occasionally subject to delays and appeals.

Workers and unions generally exercised these rights without restrictions. The government generally respected their rights.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Police are responsible for investigating forced labor, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. The law provides strong penalties for labor traffickers, which were commensurate with those for other serious crimes but were not fully applied. The Ministry of Interior, together with the International Organization for Migration, trained government officials in identifying victims subjected to trafficking for forced labor.

There were reports by NGOs of male and female migrants forced to work in the country under conditions of forced labor, including nonpayment of wages. Migrant workers in the retail and construction sectors or employed as household help were considered particularly vulnerable. Underemployed and undereducated Roma from socially segregated rural settlements were disproportionately vulnerable to forced labor. The government carried out extensive awareness-raising campaigns on the dangers of trafficking in persons, with a focus on forced labor, and organized joint inspections of business entities to identify illegal employment and forced labor. Courts continued to issue light and suspended sentences for most convicted traffickers that failed to deter trafficking offenses or protect victims.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. The minimum age for employment is 15, although younger children may perform light work in cultural or artistic performances, sports events, or advertising activities if it does not affect their health, safety, personal development, or schooling. The National Labor Inspectorate (NLI) and the Public Health Office must approve, determine the maximum hours, and set conditions for work by children younger than 15. The law does not permit children younger than 16 to work more than 30 hours per week on average and restricts children younger than 18 to 37.5 hours per week. The law applies to all children who are high school or full-time university students. The law does not allow children younger than age 18 to work underground, work overtime, or perform labor inappropriate for their age or health. The violation of child and juvenile labor rules is punishable by penalties, which were commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, although application of those penalties was not always sufficient to deter violations. The NLI did not report serious violations of laws relating to child labor.

Regional inspection units, which are under the auspices of the NLI, received and investigated child labor complaints. Apart from regional inspection units, the state Social Insurance Company was also responsible for monitoring child labor law compliance. If a unit determined that a child labor law or regulation had been broken, it transferred the case to the NLI, which may also impose fines on employers and individuals that fail to report such incidents adequately.

The government generally enforced the law effectively. Resources, inspections, and remediation were generally adequate.

There were reports Romani children in some settlements were subjected to child sex trafficking and forced marriage (see section 6, ). NGOs reported that family members or other Roma exploited and trafficked Romani victims, including children with disabilities. Forced child labor in the form of forced begging was a problem in some communities.

The law prohibits discrimination regarding age, religion, ethnicity, race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation, social status, or “other status” but does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on HIV status. Relevant inspection bodies provide for the protection of migrant workers against abuses from private employment agencies. The Central Office of Labor, Social Affairs, and Family and the Trade Business Office may cancel or suspend the business license of violators and impose penalties, which were commensurate with those for other civil rights laws. The government did not consistently enforce the law.

Employers discriminated against members of the Romani minority. The government continued implementing a program to increase the motivation of the long-term unemployed Roma to find jobs. The Operational ProgramHuman Resources for 2014-20 included as one of its priorities the integration of marginalized Romani communities in the labor market through educational measures. A 2019 government report prepared by the Ministry of Finance showed that Romani jobseekers were less likely to benefit from effective active labor market measures, particularly further training and requalification, compared with the non-Romani population of jobseekers. Activists frequently alleged that employers refused to hire Roma, and an estimated 70 percent of Roma from socially excluded communities were unemployed. NGOs working with Roma from such communities reported that, while job applications by Roma were often successful during the initial phase of selection, in a majority of cases employers rejected the applicants once they found they were Roma. Rejected job applicants rarely pursued discrimination cases through the courts, and if they did, the proceedings resulted in excessive and undue delays; even successful cases awarded minimal financial compensation. Human rights NGOs noted that Romani employees from marginalized settlements were disproportionately affected by the economic downturn and subsequent layoffs caused by COVID-19 and were usually among the first employees to be released when companies began downsizing.

Despite having attained higher levels of education than men, women faced an employment gap of almost 13 percent, according to Eurostat 2020 data, and the Slovak Business Agency reported that less than 29 percent of entrepreneurs were women. Experts noted motherhood negatively affected career prospects due to long maternity and parental leave and a lack of preschool facilities and flexible work arrangements. There is no mandated paid paternal leave, which put a disproportionate care burden on women. Women earned on average 21 percent less than their male colleagues, according to the 2021 Gender Equality Index by the European Institute for Gender Equality.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wages and Hours Laws: The minimum wage exceeded the minimum living standard (an official estimate of the poverty income level).

The law mandates a maximum workweek of 48 hours, including overtime, except for employees in the health-care sector, whose maximum workweek is 56 hours, including overtime. Worker overtime generally could not exceed 150 hours per year, except for health-care professionals who, in specific cases and under an agreement with labor unions, could work up to 250 hours overtime. Employees who worked overtime were entitled to a 25 percent premium on their hourly rate. Employees who work under conditions that endanger their health and safety are entitled to “relaxation” leave in addition to standard leave and an additional 35 percent of their hourly wage rate. Employees who work during government holidays are entitled to an additional 100 percent of their hourly rate. Employers who fail to follow wage and overtime rules face penalties that were commensurate with those for similar violations.

Trade unions, local employment offices, and the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Family monitored observance of these laws and determined the NLI – the authority charged with enforcing them as well as for conducting wage and hour inspections – did so effectively. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient to verify compliance with the law, and inspectors have authority to make unannounced inspections. The NLI may impose sanctions.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law establishes occupational safety and health standards that are appropriate for main industries, and the NLI generally enforced them. Workers could generally remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation. The same inspectors had authority over occupational safety and health laws, and penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes. In 2020 there were 81 accidents that caused serious workplace injuries or death and 7,525 accidents that resulted in less severe injuries.

Informal Sector: Workers in the informal economy were covered under wage, hour, occupational safety and health laws and inspections.


Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of both women and men, including spousal rape, and domestic violence are illegal, and the government enforced the law effectively. Penalties for violations range from two to 10 years in prison.

The National Council for Crime Prevention (NCCP) reported 9,577 cases of rape in 2020, an increase of approximately 9 percent from 2019. Women and girls were victims in 93 percent of the cases. Domestic violence remained a problem, and 16,616 cases between adults were reported during 2020, a 58 percent increase from 2019. Of these, 13,616 (82 percent) were violence against women.

The law provides for the protection of survivors from contact with their abusers. When necessary, authorities helped survivors to protect their identities or to obtain new identities and homes. Both national and local governments helped fund volunteer groups that provided shelter and other assistance for abused women.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Honor-related violence often involved immigrants from the Middle East or South Asia. The national support line for those who need advice in situations concerning honor-related violence reported a decrease from 1,019 cases involving 1,054 suspected victims in 2019 to 784 cases involving 907 suspected victims in 2020. The calls mostly concerned child or forced marriage, abduction or being held abroad, or female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C).

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides for criminal penalties ranging from a fine to up to two years in prison. The government generally enforced this law.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

NGOs the Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) and Never Forget Pela and Fadime reported on virginity testing and hymenoplasty done by some private medical practitioners. The government condemned these practices and stated they were not compatible with health and medical care legislation.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance law. The government enforced the laws effectively.

The constitution charges public institutions with promoting equality in society and combating discrimination. The constitution prohibits unfavorable treatment of anyone based on ethnic origin, color, or other similar circumstances, and the government generally respected these rights.

Societal discrimination and violence against Roma continued to be a problem.

Police registered reports of xenophobic crimes, some of which were linked to neo-Nazi or white supremacy ideology. Police investigated and the district attorney’s office prosecuted race-related crimes. The Security Service concluded that right-wing extremism was on the rise in the country: right-wing propaganda spread more widely, and more individuals were attracted to it. Neo-Nazi groups operated legally (see section 2.a.). The Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) was the largest white supremacy group with approximately 160 active members. The NRM registered as a political party and participated in the parliamentary and local elections in 2018 but did not win any seats.

There were problems around vulnerable EU citizens, the vast majority of whom were Roma from Romania and Bulgaria, who resided in the country. As EU citizens, they are allowed to stay in the country without permission for no more than three months, but authorities did not enforce this limit.

The country’s official minority languages are all varieties of Finnish, Yiddish, Meankieli, Romani Chib, and Sami. During the year the government supported 38 projects with 3.5 million kronor ($410,000) in grants, including a digital platform for culture (Yiddish), a language learning page on Facebook (Meankieli), creative writing (Finnish), digital tools for language promotion for youths (Romani Chib), and a language and sports camp for youths (Sami).

Basic training for police officers included training on identifying and investigating hate crimes. Emergency call responders were continuously trained in identifying hate crime motives in crime reports. Police cooperated with Victim Support Sweden, which helps and supports victims, witnesses, and others affected by crime.

Police in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmo have democracy and anti-hate-crime groups. The National Center for Preventing Violent Extremism under the auspices of the NCCP serves as a clearinghouse for information, best practices, and support of municipalities, agencies, and other actors.

Indigenous Peoples

The constitution charges public institutions with promoting opportunities for the Sami people and ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities to preserve and develop a cultural and social life of their own. The approximately 20,000 Sami in the country are full citizens with the right to vote in elections and participate in the government, including as members of the country’s parliament. They are not, however, represented as a group in parliament. A 31-member elected administrative authority called the Sami parliament (Sametinget) also represented Sami. The Sami parliament acts as an advisory body to the government and has limited decision-making powers in matters related to preserving the Sami culture, language, and schooling. The national parliament and government regulations govern the Sami parliament’s operations.

Longstanding tensions between the Sami and the government over land and natural resources persisted, as did tensions between the Sami and private landowners over reindeer grazing rights. Certain Sami have grazing and fishing rights, depending on their history. On November 3, the government announced the creation of a truth commission to chart and investigate policies – including “abuses, rights violations and racism” – affecting the Sami. Another task of the commission is to spread awareness of Sami history and how past abuses affect the Sami people today.

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents. The tax authority immediately registered in the national population register all children born in the country, regardless of their parents’ citizenship or immigration or residency status in the country.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits parents or other caretakers from abusing children mentally or physically. Penalties range from a fine up to 10 years in prison. Cases of child abuse were reported. Authorities may remove abused children from their homes and place them in foster care. Rape of a child carries a penalty of two to 10 years in prison.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 18, and it is illegal for anyone under 18 to marry. The government legally recognizes as valid the marriage of anyone who comes to the country after the age of 18, even if they were married abroad before the age of 18. The government does not recognize a foreign child marriage if either of the parties was a Swedish citizen or resident in Sweden at the time of marriage. Compelling or allowing a child to marry is punishable by up to two years in prison. Municipalities’ social welfare services can petition administrative courts to issue travel restrictions to protect at-risk children from being taken out of the country for marriage. Such children are not to be issued passports, and passports that were issued are to be rescinded. The law makes it a crime to take a child who is subject to travel restrictions out of the country, with punishment of up to two years in prison for violations.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes “contact with children under 15 for sexual purposes,” including internet contact intended to lead to sexual assault. Penalties range from fines to one year in prison. The law prohibits the sale of children; penalties range from two to 10 years in prison. It also bans child pornography with penalties ranging from fines to six years in prison. Authorities enforced the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at

Leaders of the Jewish community estimated there were 15,000 Jews in the country and approximately 6,000 registered members of Jewish congregations. The NCCP registered 280 anti-Semitic crimes in 2018, compared with 182 in 2016. Anti-Semitic crimes accounted for 4 percent of all reported hate crimes. Anti-Semitic crimes included threats, verbal abuse, vandalism, graffiti, harassment in schools, and Holocaust denial. Anti-Semitic incidents were often perpetrated by groups associated with neo-Nazi movements or corresponded with events in the Middle East. Swedish Jews were often targeted for actions of the Israeli government.

The most commonly reported incidents of anti-Semitism were hate speech (45 percent of complaints), unlawful threats or harassment (34 percent), vandalism or graffiti (8 percent), and defamation (8 percent). Of the 182 investigations opened in 2016, 52 percent were dismissed; 37 percent were directly dismissed without a formal investigation due to lack of evidence. Formal charges were brought in 9 percent of the cases.

On January 26 – the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day – four anti-Semitic acts of vandalism took place at the Linkoping City Hall and at three media outlets in Linkoping and Norrkoping, small cities approximately 120 and 100 miles from Stockholm, respectively. The perpetrators plastered anti-Semitic messages and Stars of David on building facades and left behind cans of an unidentified powder. The Linkoping police opened four investigations into incitement against ethnic groups. Also on January 26, the words “the Holocaust is a hoax” were projected onto a crane in Gothenburg, the country’s second largest city, for about 10 minutes. Gothenburg police confirmed on January 28 that they had initiated an investigation into the incident.

On May 12, a man was arrested on suspicion of hate speech after singing the anti-Semitic Khaybar chant at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Malmo. In May a 12-year-old Jewish girl filed a police report concerning anti-Semitic harassment to which she had been subjected by schoolmates in a Malmo school. On May 26, a non-Jewish man wearing a kippah was assaulted by several men and was called “Jewish bastard” by at least one of them in Gothenburg.

On March 27, the first night of Passover, baby dolls splashed with red paint were strung outside a synagogue in Norrkoping, next to a flyer with anti-Semitic messages. The Norrkoping police opened a hate crime investigation on March 28.

Police, politicians, media, and Jewish groups have stated that anti-Semitism has been especially prevalent in Malmo. In March the Malmo Municipality published a report on anti-Semitism in schools where all 26 staff and 14 Jewish students interviewed said they had experienced anti-Semitism in Malmo schools and kindergartens. School staff identified anti-Semitic expressions in Malmo’s schools that were connected to the Israel-Palestine conflict, geopolitical relations in the Middle East, and pan-Arabic nationalism.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center left in place its travel advisory, first issued in 2010, regarding travel in southern Sweden, because Jews in Malmo could be “subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment.”

In January Prime Minister Lofven announced that Sweden would assume the presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) starting in March 2022. On October 13, the government hosted the Malmo International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism, marking the 20th anniversary of the Stockholm Declaration that created the IHRA, with over 300 participants including Holocaust survivors, high-ranking representatives from more than 35 countries, and leaders of civil society organizations. Forum participants criticized social media platforms for not better policing anti-Semitic hate speech online.

During the year a Jewish neurosurgeon at Nya Karolinska University Hospital (NKS) reported continuing reprisals stemming from his 2017 report that the hospital’s chief of neurosurgery subjected him and two other Jewish colleagues to anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination. In June the Equality Ombudsman concluded its third inquiry into the doctor’s allegation and found its inquiry did not substantiate the allegations that the NKS violated the law’s prohibition on retaliation. In December 2020 the Health and Social Care Inspectorate rejected a formal complaint made in 2019 by the NKS that the doctor posed a risk to patient safety and rebuked the NKS for identifying the doctor’s religion in its complaint.

The Living History Forum is a public authority commissioned to address societal problems related to religious and ethnic tolerance, democracy, and human rights, using the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity as its starting point. The forum sensitized the public, and particularly the young, to the need to respect the equal value of all persons, with a specific focus on teaching about the Holocaust as a means of fighting Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism.

The Media Council, a government agency whose primary task is to train minors to be conscious media users and to protect them from harmful media influences, initiated a “No Hate Speech Movement” campaign and worked to stop anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. The government allocated six million kronor ($706,000) to the Swedish Committee against Anti-Semitism and the Living History Forum to increase opportunities for student and teacher study visits to Holocaust memorial sites. On March 18, the government stated that two million kronor ($235,000) of these funds were earmarked for planning and preparation for resuming remembrance trips to the Holocaust memorial sites for high school students and teachers after trips were canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with disabilities were able to access health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. Government regulations require new buildings and public facilities to be fully accessible. The government enforced these provisions. Observers reported cases of insufficient access to privately owned buildings used by the public, such as apartments, restaurants, and bars. Some means of public transportation remained inaccessible.

In 2020 the Equality Ombudsman received 916 reports concerning discrimination related to disability, of which 372 concerned a lack of accessibility. The complaints were mainly about perceived discrimination in working life, education, social services, and trade in goods and services. A large proportion of the complaints concerned the lack of reasonable accommodations in the workplace. In the education system, many cases concerned children and young persons with reading and writing difficulties not receiving sufficient support at school. In the case of trade in goods and services, many of the cases concerned access to premises or services and inadequate communication tools. The NGO Antidiscrimination Agency Norra Skane, the NGO Malmo against Discrimination, and an individual who had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome sued the Swedish Armed Forces in the autumn of 2020 because the military was denying persons with neuropsychiatric disabilities access to basic military training. The armed forces stated these diagnoses were not compatible with military activities, due to the requirements and the environment in which the individual would work; it paid a fine to the plaintiff.

According to the Agency for Participation, the level of education was lower among persons with disabilities than among others in the population. Its reports showed that two reasons were that special support was provided too late and that students with disabilities felt more insecure. Among 30- to 64-year-olds with disabilities, 33 percent had postsecondary education compared with 47 percent for the rest of the population. Within the group of persons with disabilities between the ages of 20 and 36, 9 percent had dropped out of upper secondary school, compared with 3 percent in the rest of the population. In 2019 just over 11,100 students with disabilities attended compulsory special school, just over 6,000 attended upper secondary special school, and 659 students with disabilities attended special resource school. In November the Supreme Court ordered the city of Malmo to pay fines of 20,000 kronor ($2,350) to a student for discrimination based on the student’s disability when a municipal school did not provide the student sufficient assistance within a reasonable time span. Disability NGOs noted the judgment was one of the first of its kind in the country.

The Agency for Participation noted that some polling stations in the general election of 2018 were inaccessible for persons with disabilities. In the 2018 elections, 84 percent of persons with disabilities voted, compared with 91 percent in the rest of the population.

The law prohibits discrimination by state and nonstate actors against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons. The government generally enforced such laws.

Societal discrimination and violence against immigrants continued to be a problem.

Several districts in the country where most of the population was of immigrant origin or parentage suffered social segregation from the rest of the country. The result was lower levels of education, higher levels of unemployment, and separation from the country’s mainstream culture, mainly due to poor Swedish-language skills.

In 2018 the NCCP identified 7,090 police reports with a hate-crime motive, a majority of which had xenophobic motives. Of the reports, 8 percent were anti-Muslim. Anti-Christian and other antireligious hate crimes accounted for 4 percent each.

For 2020 and 2021, the government allocated 22 million kronor ($2.6 million) for grants to increase security for threatened places of worship and other parts of civil society and announced an allocation of 34 million kronor ($4 million) for 2022. All religious communities and civil society actors who believe they have been threatened may apply for the grant. In 2020 a total of 17.3 million kronor ($2 million) was allocated for security measures in 10 different faith communities. Of the amount, 83 percent was granted to Jewish communities, organizations and museums, schools, and elderly care facilities.

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for protection of workers from being fired because of union activity. If a court finds a dismissal to be unlawful, the employee has the right to reinstatement. The government effectively enforced the law and penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes.

Foreign companies may be exempt from collective bargaining, provided they meet minimum working conditions and levels of pay. Public-sector employees enjoy the right to strike, subject to limitations in the collective agreements protecting the public’s immediate health and security. The government mediation service may also intervene to postpone a strike for up to 14 days for mediation. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) claimed the law restricts the rights of the country’s trade unions to take industrial action on behalf of foreign workers in foreign companies operating in the country. The law allows unions to conduct their activities largely without interference.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws. The Labor Court settles any dispute that affects the relationship between employers and employees. An employer organization, an employee organization, or an employer who has entered into a collective agreement on an individual basis may lodge claims. The Labor Court may impose prison sentences commensurate with those for similar violations. Administrative and judicial procedures were not subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

Workers and employers exercised all legal collective bargaining rights, which the government protected. The government and employers respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. ITUC reported no serious violations of worker rights in 2020 and from January to June 2021.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, including by children, and the government effectively enforced the law. Penalties of imprisonment were generally commensurate with those for similar serious crimes. Forced labor involving adult trafficking victims occurred in agriculture (including involving companies providing foreign labor for berry picking), construction, hospitality, domestic work, forced begging, and theft, and there were reports of forced begging involving child trafficking victims (see section 7.c.). In some cases employers or contractors providing labor seized the passports of workers and withheld their pay. Resources and inspections were adequate.

According to the latest government statistics from the NCCP, 196 cases of suspected human trafficking were reported to police in 2020. Of those, 24 concerned adult forced labor, 12 adult forced begging, and 42 other forms. According to the NCCP, there were 79 cases of human exploitation, a complementary crime to human trafficking related to unreasonable working conditions, with 72 cases of human exploitation for adult forced labor and four for human exploitation of adults for the purpose of begging.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. It permits full-time employment from the age of 16 under the supervision of local authorities. Employees younger than 18 may work only during daytime and under supervision. Children as young as 13 may work part time or perform light work with parental permission. The law limits the types of work in which children may or may not engage. For instance, a child may not work with dangerous machinery or chemicals. A child may also not work alone or be responsible for handling cash transactions. The law considers a violation of these limits a civil rather than a criminal violation. According to the law, forcing a child to work may be treated as coercion, deprivation of liberty, or child abuse, and it carries a wide range of penalties, including fines and imprisonment. The government effectively implemented these laws and regulations. Criminal penalties were commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping, and inspection was sufficient to enforce compliance.

According to the most recent government statistics from the NCCP, 196 cases of suspected human trafficking were reported to police in 2020. For children, there were 15 cases of child sex trafficking, five cases of child forced labor, one case of child forced begging, one case of forced child war service, and 25 cases of other forms of child trafficking.

Boys were mainly subjected to forced begging and forced petty theft. Girls were mainly subjected to sexual exploitation, forced begging, and child marriage. Police and social services reportedly acted promptly when cases were reported.

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on religion, sex, ethnicity (including race, national origin, color, and in some cases refugee status), disability (including HIV/AIDS status), age, and sexual orientation or gender identity. The government effectively enforced applicable law, and penalties were commensurate with similar violations. The law requires equal pay for equal work. The government effectively enforced the law prohibiting gender discrimination by investigating and prosecuting complaints.

The equality ombudsman investigated complaints of gender discrimination in the labor market. In 2020 the ombudsman received 988 complaints of discrimination in the labor market, of which 431 were related to gender and 145 to disabilities. The World Economic Forum estimated that earned income for women was less than that for men. Of the complaints of ethnic discrimination to the equality ombudsman, 555 involved the labor market. Complaints may also be filed with the courts or with the employer. Labor unions generally mediated in cases filed with the employer.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: There is no national minimum wage law. Annual collective bargaining agreements set wages within industries, which were greater than the poverty income level. By regulation, both foreign and domestic employers must offer conditions of employment on par with the country’s collective agreements. Nonunion establishments generally observed these contracts as well.

The labor law and collective bargaining agreements regulate overtime and rest periods. The law allows a maximum of 200 hours of overtime annually. Collective agreements determined compensation for overtime, which could take the form of money or time off. The law requires a minimum period of 36 consecutive hours of rest, preferably on weekends, over a seven-day period. The Work Environment Authority effectively enforced wage and hour laws.

Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational safety and health (OSH) standards were appropriate. The responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remains with OSH experts and not the worker. The Work Environment Authority, a government agency, effectively enforced these standards. In 2020 the authority conducted 17,602 inspections. Inspectors have the authority to conduct unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. The 258 inspectors were sufficient to enforce the law. In 2020 the authority took part in a cross-agency task force that made 1,274 visits to check on work permits, taxes, and working environment regulations. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Work Environment Authority carried out many inspections at a distance via video meetings or telephone. The government tasked the authority with carrying out a targeted supervisory effort focusing on the spread of COVID-19 in primary and secondary schools, grocery and retail stores, transportation, dentist offices, slaughterhouses, cleaning companies, companies that worked with property management, and restaurants that sold takeaway food.

The Work Environment Authority issued occupational health and safety regulations and trained union stewards and safety ombudsmen whom government inspectors monitored. If an employee finds that the work involves immediate and serious danger to life or health, the employee must immediately notify the employer or safety ombudsman. Workers have the right to remove themselves from unsafe conditions without jeopardy to their employment. Safety ombudsmen have authority to stop unsafe activity immediately and to call in an inspector. An employer may be fined for violating work environment regulations. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations.

Foreign seasonal workers, including berry pickers from Asia and Bulgaria, faced poor living and working conditions. The guidelines of the Swedish Retail and Food Federation cover EU citizens who pick berries in the country but not workers from outside the EU. Under the guidelines, berry pickers are to be informed that they have the right to sell their berries to all buyers and that nobody has the right to control how, when, and where they pick wild berries. A foreign company providing berry pickers to a local company must also demonstrate how it expects to pay workers in case of limited work or a bad harvest. The guidelines task food and retail organizations and brokers with ensuring their implementation.

In August approximately 50 Bulgarian berry pickers were stranded in Alvsbyn (450 miles north of Stockholm) when their employer was not present when they arrived, and police determined their vehicles were not fit for legal use. Police started an investigation on human exploitation. The Bulgarian embassy helped 35 of the berry pickers to return to Bulgaria by bus.

The Swedish Construction Workers’ Union reported in 2020 that working conditions for foreign workers in the construction sector had deteriorated. In the report, foreign workers said they received lower salaries than their Swedish colleagues and that some employers did not pay taxes or give the foreign workers an official employment contract. The living standards provided by the employer were substandard. There were reports of 20 to 30 workers living in the same apartment and sleeping in shifts.

The Work Environment Authority reported industrial accidents caused the death of 24 workers in 2020, the lowest number recorded in any year since 1955. Ten of the accidents in 2020 were in the construction sector. Construction, transport, and manufacturing were the three sectors with the greatest number of deaths caused by industrial accidents between 2011 and 2020.

United Kingdom

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of both women and men, including spousal rape. The maximum legal penalty for rape is life imprisonment. The law also provides for injunctive relief, personal protection orders, and protective exclusion orders (similar to restraining orders) for survivors of gender-based violence. The government enforced the law effectively in reported cases. Courts in some cases imposed the maximum punishment for rape. The government provided shelters, counseling, and other assistance for survivors of rape or violence. NGOs warned that police and Crown Prosecutorial Services have raised the bar for evidence needed, causing survivors to drop out of the justice process. The Crown Prosecution Service was in the second year of a five-year plan for the prosecution of rape and serious sexual offenses (RASSO) to help reduce the gap between reported cases and prosecutions. The plan is committed to improving cooperation between police and prosecutors, fully resourcing RASSO units, and training to improve communication with victims.

The law criminalizes domestic violence. Those who abuse spouses, partners, or family members face tougher punishment than those who commit similar offenses in a nondomestic context. The government estimated that there were 2.3 million survivors of domestic abuse a year between the ages of 16 and 74 (two-thirds of whom were women), and more than one in 10 of all offenses recorded by the police were domestic abuse-related. On April 29, the Domestic Abuse Act became law. It creates a statutory definition of domestic abuse, establishes the office of Domestic Abuse Commissioner, provided for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order, and requires local authorities in England to provide accommodation-based support to survivors of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation. The act no longer allows accused perpetrators to cross-examine witnesses in the courts and establishes a statutory presumption that survivors of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal, civil, and family courts. It also widened the offense of disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress, established nonfatal strangulation or suffocation of another person as a new offense, and clarified in statute law the general proposition that a person may not consent to the infliction of serious harm and, by extension, is unable to consent to his or her own death.

On July 21, the government published its Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy to tackle the crimes of rape, female genital mutilation/cutting, stalking, harassment, and digital crimes such as cyberflashing, “revenge porn,” and “up-skirting.”

Domestic abuse incidents in Scotland reached a 20-year high over 2019/20, with Police Scotland recording 63,000 incidents. Government officials suggested an awareness campaign to encourage survivors to report abuse helped drive the increase.

Police in Northern Ireland recorded 31,174 domestic abuse incidents (19,612 crimes) from June 2020 to July 2021, the highest total for a 12-month period since 2004/05. In January the Northern Ireland Assembly passed domestic abuse legislation criminalizing coercive control in the region for the first time.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C and requires health and social care professionals and teachers to report to police cases of FGM/C on girls younger than age 18. It is also illegal to take a British national or permanent resident abroad for FGM/C or to help someone trying to do so. The penalty is up to 14 years in prison. An FGM/C protection order, a civil measure that can be applied for through a family court, offers the means of protecting survivors or at-risk women and girls from FGM/C under the civil law. Breach of an FGM/C protection order is a criminal offense carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison.

FGM/C is illegally practiced in the country, particularly within some diaspora communities from countries where FGM/C is prevalent. The National Health Service reported 2,165 newly recorded cases between January and September.

The government took nonjudicial steps to address FGM/C, including awareness-raising efforts, a hotline, and requiring medical professionals to report FGM/C observed on patients.

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment at places of work. Authorities used different laws to prosecute cases of harassment outside the workplace.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Health policy was devolved to constituent parts of the country.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men. The government enforced the law effectively. Women were subject to some discrimination in employment (see also section 7.d.).

The law prohibits racial and ethnic discrimination, but Travelers, Roma, and persons of African, Afro-Caribbean, South Asian, and Middle Eastern origin at times reported mistreatment on racial or ethnic grounds.

The majority of hate crimes were racially motivated, accounting for around three-quarters of such offenses (74 percent; 85,268 offenses), an increase of 12 percent.

On May 31, the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture reported on its visit to the country in 2019. It found persons from Black, Asian, and other minority ethnic groups were over four times more likely to be detained than persons from White ethnic groups. Black Caribbean persons experienced particularly high rates of detention. Those from ethnic minorities were more likely to be subject to restraint and other restrictive practices and to experience disproportionate numbers of deaths in custody and in mental health care. Both male and female individuals from ethnic minorities were significantly overrepresented in prisons, which was attributed to a number of factors including discriminatory sentencing. In 2018 a total of 27 percent of the prison population identified as an ethnic minority, compared with 13 percent of the general population.

In September, Human Rights Watch reported that in the country, black persons were nine times more likely to be stopped and searched, and four times more likely to have force used against them by police than a white person. A black child was four times more likely to be arrested, and three times more likely to be given a caution or sentence. Blacks were also disproportionately represented in the prison population and continued to die at disproportionate rates in custody. A black woman was five times more likely to die in childbirth.

The government responded to nationwide antiracist demonstrations in 2020 by announcing a cross-governmental commission. On March 31, the government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities reported it did not find the system was “deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities.” The report acknowledged impediments and disparities existed but stated “very few of them are directly to do with racism.” It added that racism was “too often” used as a catchall explanation.

In Scotland racial or other discriminatory motivation may be an “aggravating factor” in crimes. Race-based hate crime was the most commonly reported hate crime in Scotland, accounting for 3,285 charges in 2020/21, an increase of 6 percent on the previous year.

“Right to Rent” rules require all landlords in England to check the immigration documents of prospective tenants to verify they were not irregular or undocumented migrants. Landlords may be fined up to 3,000 pounds ($3,960) for noncompliance.

On March 11, the Scottish Parliament extended protection for vulnerable groups with a new offense of “stirring up hatred.” Under the bill offenses are considered “aggravated” when involving age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity, or variations in sex characteristics.

In Northern Ireland, 839 racially motivated crimes were recorded in the period July 2020 to June 2021, an increase of 238 compared to the previous 12 months.

Birth Registration: A child born in the UK receives the country’s citizenship at birth if one of the parents is a UK citizen or a legally settled resident. Children born in Northern Ireland may opt for UK, Irish, or dual citizenship. A child born in an overseas territory is a UK overseas territories citizen if at least one of the child’s parents has citizenship. All births must be registered within 42 days in the district where the baby was born; unregistered births were uncommon.

Child Abuse: Laws make the abuse of children punishable by up to a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment. Social service departments in each local authority in the country maintained confidential child protection registers containing details of children at risk of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect. The registers also included child protection plans for each child.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 16. In England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, persons younger than 18 require the written consent of parents or guardians, and the underage person must present a birth certificate. The legal minimum age to enter into a marriage in Scotland is 16 and does not require parental consent.

Forcing someone to marry against his or her will is a criminal offense throughout the country with a maximum prison sentence of seven years. Forcing a UK citizen into marriage anywhere in the world is a criminal offense in England and Wales. In 2020 the joint Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office and the Home Office Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) provided support in more than 759 cases of potential or confirmed forced marriage involving UK citizens, which represented a 44 percent decrease from 2019, attributable to restrictions on overseas travel and weddings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the cases that the FMU provided advice or support to in 2020, 199 cases (26 percent) involved victims younger than 18 years, 278 cases (37 percent) involved victims ages 18-25, 66 cases (9 percent) involved victims with mental capacity concerns, 603 cases (79 percent) involved female victims, and 156 cases (21 percent) involved male victims.

Assistance included safety advice as well as “reluctant spouse cases” in which the government assisted forced marriage victims in preventing their unwanted spouse from moving to the UK. The government offers lifelong anonymity for victims of forced marriage to encourage more to come forward.

In Scotland, 12 cases of forced marriage were reported in 2020, down from 22 in 2018.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The penalties for sexual offenses against children and the commercial sexual exploitation of children range up to life imprisonment. Authorities enforced the law. The law prohibits child pornography. The minimum age of consensual sex is 16.

International Child Abductions: The UK, including Bermuda, is party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at

The 2011 census recorded the Jewish population at 263,346. The Institute for Jewish Policy Research and the British Board of Deputies suggested that the actual figure in 2011 was approximately 300,000. A new census was carried out during the year, but the figures were not released before year’s end.

The semiannual report of the NGO Community Security Trust (CST) recorded 1,308 anti-Semitic incidents during the first six months of the year, the highest number the CST has recorded for that period and an increase of 49 percent from the same period in 2020. Of this number, 639 occurred in May. The CST noted the number of reports fluctuated with tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. In educational settings, a total of 130 incidents occurred in schools or during travel to or from school; of these, 21 incidents happened in Jewish schools. There were 355 reported anti-Semitic incidents online.

The CST recorded 87 violent anti-Semitic assaults during the first half of the year, a 67 percent increase from of the same period in 2020. Two of the violent incidents were classified by the CST as “extreme violence,” meaning the incident involved potential grievous bodily harm or a threat to life. There were 56 incidents of damage and desecration of Jewish property and 1,073 incidents of abusive behavior, including verbal abuse, graffiti including on non-Jewish property, social media, and hate mail, an increase of 45 percent from the same period in 2020.

The CST recorded 748 anti-Semitic incidents in Greater London in the first half of the year, an increase of 51 percent from 2020. The 181 incidents the CST recorded in Greater Manchester represented an increase of 159 percent from the same period in 2020. Elsewhere in the country, the CST recorded an anti-Semitic incident in all but four of the 43 police regions, compared with nine regions in the first half of 2020.

In September police arrested a man for six assaults on Jews in the London area. On September 20, Mohammed Iftikhar Hanif, Jawaad Hussain, Asif Ali, and Adil Mota were charged with shouting anti-Semitic abuse while driving around in a convoy in north London on May 16. In December police launched an investigation following an incident in which three men were filmed spitting and yelling anti-Semitic abuse at Jewish passengers celebrating Hanukkah on a privately chartered bus on Oxford Street in London. In December 2020 neo-Nazi Luke Hunter was convicted in Leeds after pleading guilty to seven charges of promoting terrorism and circulating material from terrorist publications against Jews, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) community, and non-White minorities. He was sentenced to a jail term of four years and two months.

In September Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer said the party had “closed the door” on the “dark chapter” on anti-Semitism with the introduction of new rules to tackle it. Labour published its plan for a major overhaul in response to a highly critical report by the EHRC into its handling of anti-Semitism complaints under former leader Jeremy Corbyn. Reforms included a fully independent complaints process to deal with anti-Semitism. The Board of Deputies of British Jews welcomed the new approach adopted by the party. Jewish Labour member of parliament Dame Margaret Hodge said there was “enormous relief and immeasurable hope to every Labour Party member who has been a victim of vile anti-Jew hate.” Former Labour member of parliament Louise Ellman, who quit Labour over its handling of anti-Semitism, rejoined following the rule changes and said she was “confident” leader Sir Keir Starmer was tackling the issue.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn remained suspended from the party for refusing to apologize for saying that while the problem (of anti-Semitism) was “absolutely abhorrent,” the scale of the problem was “dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents,” and for refusing to retract his words.

In January, Scottish justice minister Hamza Yousaf condemned anti-Semitic abuse against the Celtic soccer club’s Israeli midfielder, Nir Bitton, noting that “anti-Semitism deserves the same contempt as Islamophobia or any other prejudice.”

In April the Northern Ireland Assembly adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. The motion, which passed by oral vote, was opposed by some members of the Legislative Assembly who argued the IHRA definition prevents legitimate criticism of the state of Israel. In April, 10 Jewish graves were vandalized in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In the same month, headstones in a Jewish cemetery were destroyed in what police stated was a hate crime. The incident was condemned by all political parties in Northern Ireland.

In May a Jewish-owned business in Londonderry was vandalized with graffiti. Police initiated an investigation into the incident.

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. Government enforcement of rules governing access was inadequate.

Bermudian law protects the rights of persons with disabilities in the workplace. The law does not include any protection from discrimination on mental health grounds.

According to the government’s UK Disability Survey Research Report, June 2021, which surveyed 14,491 individuals to inform the development of its National Disability Strategy, over a quarter of respondents with disabilities often had difficulty accessing public buildings, while one in three respondents with disabilities often had difficulty accessing public spaces. Many persons with disabilities and carers who had trouble accessing public buildings also reported difficulty accessing important public services. Respondents reported cases of insufficient access to privately owned buildings used by the public, such as shops, bars, restaurants, and cafes. Many persons with disabilities and carers reported that they live in homes, which do not meet their needs to live independently or to provide care, or that they have needed to make significant adjustments to their homes to meet accessibility requirements.

In July a deaf woman won a High Court action against the government after arguing it had breached its obligations to make broadcasts accessible to deaf individuals under equality legislation. The court ruled the absence of interpretation constituted discrimination.

Children with disabilities attended school through secondary education at similar rates to children without disabilities. The law requires all publicly funded preschools, nurseries, state schools, and local authorities to try to identify, help assess, and provide reasonable accommodation to children with “special educational needs or disabilities.”

According to the UK Disability Survey, only one in 10 respondents with disabilities to the survey agreed that persons with disabilities are given the educational opportunities they need to thrive in society. Over half of respondents with disabilities not employed reported that they would like more help finding and keeping a job. Of those employed, half of respondents with disabilities felt their employer was flexible and made sufficient reasonable adjustments, and half of care givers felt their employer was supportive of their caring responsibilities. Only a quarter of persons with disabilities and care givers felt they had the same promotion opportunities as their colleagues.

Over half of respondents to the UK Disability Survey reported worrying about being insulted or harassed in public places, and a similar proportion reported being mistreated because of their disability. In the year ending in March, police in England and Wales recorded 9,943 disability hate crimes. According to disability rights organizations United Response and Leonard Cheshire, only 1 percent of alleged hate crime cases across England and Wales in 2020/21 were referred to the Crown Prosecution Service or charged.

In April former Metropolitan Police officer Benjamin Kemp was dismissed from his job after the Independent Office for Police Conduct determined he used excessive force against a 17-year-old girl with learning disabilities in 2019. Kemp reportedly used tear gas spray and struck the girl over 30 times with a baton. A spokesperson for the Crown Prosecution Service stated, “prosecutors carefully considered the evidence passed to them by the Independent Office for Police Conduct in 2019 and determined that, taking into account the circumstances of this particular incident, their legal test was not met” to charge Kemp.

The Crown and Procurator Fiscal’s Office, Scotland’s prosecutor, reported in June that the number of recorded hate crimes against persons with disabilities rose by 29 percent to 387 in 2019/20.

The EHRC provided legal advice and support to individuals and a hotline. It could also conduct formal investigations, arrange conciliation, require persons or organizations to adopt action plans to ensure compliance with the law, and apply for injunctions to prevent acts of unlawful discrimination.

There were no reports of police or other government agents inciting, perpetrating, or condoning violence against LGBTQI+ individuals or those reporting on such abuse. There were reports of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity against LGBTQI+ persons.

The law in England and Wales prohibits discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation. It encourages judges to impose a greater sentence in assault cases where the victim’s sexual orientation was a motive for the hostility, and many local police forces demonstrated an increasing awareness of the problem and trained officers to identify and moderate these attacks. The government generally enforced the law. In the year ending in March, police in England and Wales recorded 124,091 hate crimes, of which 18,596 were sexual-orientation hate crimes and 2,799 were transgender hate crimes.

Sexual motivation may be an “aggravating factor” in crimes. Crime aggravated by sexual orientation was the second most common type of hate crime in Scotland. Hate crime against LGBTQI+ persons accounted for 1,580 charges in 2020/21, an increase of 5 percent year on year. According to figures obtained by Vice World News, the number of homophobic hate crimes in the UK has tripled and the number of transphobic hate crime reports quadrupled over the last six years. Figures received through responses to freedom of information requests from police forces across the country showed there were 6,363 reports of hate crimes based on sexual orientation in 2014/15, compared to 19,679 in 2020/21. For reports of transphobic hate crimes, there were 598 in 2014/15 and 2,588 in 2020/21.

Statistics from the Police Service of Northern Ireland showed 262 homophobic crimes and 33 transphobic crimes.

In June, LGBTQI+ NGO Galop reported that only one in five LGBTQI+ persons surveyed were able to access support after experiencing a hate crime. Galop reported that only one in eight LGBTQI+ persons surveyed had reported the most recent incident they had experienced to the police, with over half saying they thought the police would not do anything, and almost a third who did not submit a report did not because they mistrusted or were fearful of the police.

In October police arrested a second man on suspicion of murdering Ranjith “Roy” Kankanamalage in a suspected homophobic attack that occurred in August. As of November the investigation was ongoing.

Observers reported individuals identifying as LGBTQI+ were more likely to experience worse health outcomes than the general population, found it harder to access services, and had poorer experiences of using services when they were able to access them. According to the report Trans lives survey 2021: Enduring the UKs hostile environment published in September by NGO TransActual UK, one in seven transgender persons have been refused care or treatment by their general practitioner because they were transgender.

In October the minister for women and equalities vowed to protect LGBTQI+ persons, and especially those under 18, from harmful conversion therapies. The government launched consultations and published its proposals on how to make coercive conversion therapies illegal. According to some observers, the government’s proposals would still leave individuals over 18 open to abuse.

According to a report published in September by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service in partnership with LGBTQI+ rights NGO Stonewall, UK’s LGBTQI+ students increasingly view the education system as a space where they feel safe and free to be themselves. The report also stated that individuals identifying as transgender tend to have a less positive experience, with these individuals being less likely to be open about their gender identity, and more likely to have a health condition and achieve lower grades. A report titled Growing up LGBTQI+ published by Just Like Us in June stated LGBTQI+ students were twice as likely to have been bullied and 91 percent had heard negative language about being LGBTQI+.

Hate speech, notably against Muslims, in some traditional media, particularly tabloid newspapers, continued to be a problem, with dissemination of biased or ill-founded information. Online hate speech also was a problem. There were also instances of societal violence against Muslims and attacks on mosques. In May worshippers attending a mosque during Ramadan were pelted with eggs. In September an individual set fire to a Manchester mosque, an act that authorities investigated as a hate crime.

Scottish law criminalizes behavior that is threatening, hateful, or otherwise offensive at a regulated soccer match, and penalizes any threat of serious violence and threats to incite religious hatred through the mail or the internet.

In Northern Ireland crimes related to faith or religion totaled 37 for the same period, an increase of 22 from the previous year. Sectarian crimes increased by 170 to 804.

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law does not cover workers in the armed forces, public-sector security services, police forces, and freelance or temporary work. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and protects employees from unfair dismissal while striking for up to 12 weeks, provided the union has complied with the legal requirements governing such industrial action. The majority of a union’s members must support the industrial action, as demonstrated through an official ballot, and the union must then inform its members and the employer when and how the industrial action will take place.

The law allows strikes to proceed only when at least 50 percent of workers who participate in a secret ballot support it, and workers have provided 14-day notification of strike action. For “important public services,” defined as health services, education for those younger than 17, fire services, transport services, nuclear decommissioning and the management of radioactive waste and spent fuel, and border security, 40 percent of all eligible union members must vote in favor of the strike action, and ballots require at least a 50 percent turnout to be valid and for strike action to be legal. According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the right to strike in the UK is “limited” due to prohibitions against political and solidarity strikes, lengthy procedures for calling strikes, and the ability of employers to seek injunctions against unions before a strike has begun if the union does not observe all legal steps in organizing the strike.

The government generally enforced the law. Remedies were limited in situations where workers faced reprisal for union activity, and ITUC stated that the law does not provide “adequate means of protection against antiunion discrimination.” Penalties range from employers paying compensation to reinstatement and were commensurate with those for similar violations. Inspection was sufficient to enforce compliance. The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy funded the Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service (ACAS), which works to help employees and employers better adhere to collective bargaining and other workplace laws and to improve workplace relationships. If ACAS is not able to settle a dispute, a claim can be brought to the Employment Tribunal.

The government and employers routinely respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. The law allows any workplace with more than 21 workers to organize into a collective bargaining unit if 50 percent of workers agree and the employer accepts the terms. Unions and management typically negotiated collective “agreements,” which were less formal and not legally enforceable. The terms of the agreement could, however, be incorporated into an individual work contract with legal standing.

The law does not allow independent trade unions to apply for de-recognition of in-house company unions or to protect individual workers seeking to do so. The effect has been that some in-house company unions operate with a membership less than the majority of workers.

Trade union membership levels rose for four consecutive years since 2017, driven by the increase in female members and public-sector workers. According to the ONS, 6.56 million employees were trade union members in 2019. Membership levels were below the 1979 peak of more than 13 million.

The law prohibits all forms of forced and compulsory labor.

The law permits punishment of up to life imprisonment for all trafficking and slavery offenses, including sexual exploitation, labor exploitation, and forced servitude. Firms with a global turnover of 36 million pounds ($47.5 million) that supply goods or services in the UK must by law publish an annual statement setting out what steps they are taking to ensure that forced labor is not being used in their operations and supply chain. Foreign companies and subsidiaries that “carry on a business” in the UK also must comply with this law. The law allows courts to impose reparation orders on convicted traffickers and prevention orders to ensure that those who pose a risk of committing human trafficking offenses cannot work in relevant fields, such as with children.

The government effectively enforced the law. Resources and inspections were generally adequate, and penalties were commensurate with other sentences for serious crimes.

Forced labor occurred in the UK involving both foreign and domestic workers, mainly in sectors characterized by low-skilled, low-paid manual labor and heavy use of flexible, temporary workers. Those who experienced forced labor practices tended to be poor, living on insecure and subsistence incomes and in substandard accommodations. Forced labor was normally more prevalent among men, women, and children of the most vulnerable minorities or socially excluded groups. The majority of victims were British nationals including minors or young adults forced by criminal gangs to sell drugs.

Albania and Vietnam were the most likely foreign countries of origin for forced labor. Most labor migrants entered the country legally. Many migrants used informal brokers to plan their journey and find work and accommodation in the UK, enabling the brokers to exploit the migrants through high fees and to channel them into forced labor situations. Many with limited English were vulnerable and trapped in poverty through a combination of debts and constrained opportunities. Migrants were forced to share rooms with strangers in overcrowded houses, and often the work was just sufficient to cover rent and other subsistence charges. Forced labor was the most common form of exploitation reported in the UK, followed by sexual exploitation. Migrant workers were subject to forced labor in agriculture (especially in marijuana cultivation), construction, food processing, service industries (especially nail salons), and on fishing boats. Women employed as domestic workers were particularly vulnerable to forced labor.

In Bermuda there were no reported cases of forced labor during the year. The government effectively enforced the law. Expatriate workers are required to obtain a work permit based on the type of work and the expected length of time of employment in Bermuda. The law requires employers to repatriate work-permit holders. Failure to do so has been a migrant complaint. Cases of worker exploitation largely consisted of employers requiring workers to work longer hours or to perform work outside the scope of their work permit, threatening the status of their permit. Penalties for forced labor were generally commensurate with those for similar serious crimes.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. The law prohibits the employment of children younger than 13 with exceptions for sports, modeling, and paid performances, which may require a child performance license, depending on local bylaws. Children younger than 18 are prohibited from working in hazardous environments or after 7 p.m. The law prohibits those younger than 16 from working in an industrial enterprise, including transportation or street trading. Children’s work hours are strictly limited and may not interfere with school attendance. Different legislation governs the employment of persons younger than 16 and, while some laws are common across the UK, local bylaws vary. If local bylaws so require, children between the ages of 13 and 16 must apply for a work permit from a local authority. The local authority’s education and welfare services have primary responsibility for oversight and enforcement of the permits.

The government effectively enforced the law. The Department for Education has primary regulatory responsibility for child labor, although local authorities generally handled enforcement. Penalties were commensurate with equally severe crimes.

In Bermuda, children younger than 13 may perform light work of an agricultural, horticultural, or domestic character if the parent or guardian is the employer. Schoolchildren may not work during school hours or more than two hours on school days. No child younger than 15 may work in any industrial undertaking, other than light work, or on any vessel, other than a vessel where only family members work. Children younger than 18 may not work at night except that those ages 16 to 18 may work until midnight; employers must arrange for safe transport home for girls between ages 16 and 18 working until midnight. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, and inspection was sufficient to enforce compliance. The government effectively enforced the law. The Bermuda Police Service reported no cases of child labor or exploitation of children during the year.

No cases of child labor were reported in overseas British territories, but gaps in the law made children vulnerable. The governments of Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), Montserrat, and St. Helena-Ascension-Tristan da Cunha have not developed a list of hazardous occupations prohibited for children. On Anguilla the minimum age for labor is 12 and for hazardous work is 14, allowing children to engage in work deemed hazardous.

There are legislative gaps in the prohibition of trafficking in children for labor exploitation and the use of children for commercial sexual exploitation on the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and St. Helena-Ascension-Tristan da Cunha. While criminal laws prohibit trafficking in children for sexual exploitation, they do not address trafficking in children for labor exploitation. Laws do not exist in Monserrat regarding the use of children in drug trafficking and other illicit activities. Traffickers subjected children to commercial sexual exploitation in Turks and Caicos.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at  for information on UK territories.

The law prohibits discrimination in employment or occupation regarding race, color, sex, religion or belief, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, being pregnant or on maternity leave, age, language, or HIV or other communicable disease status. The government effectively enforced these laws and regulations.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, gender, and sexual orientation and gender identity. Women were paid less than men, and persons with disabilities faced discrimination in hiring, access to the workplace, and training. Ethnic minorities faced difficulty in hiring and attaining promotion, as well as discrimination in the workplace.

The law requires equal pay for equal work. Businesses with more than 250 employees are required to measure, and then report, on how they pay men and women. This affected 8,000 businesses employing approximately 11 million persons. The pay gap has narrowed over the long term for low earners but has remained largely consistent over time for high earners. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is charged with enforcing pay gap reporting requirements. In 2019 the finance sector had the highest pay gap of all sectors, with the average woman earning 35.6 percent less than the average man.

In Northern Ireland the law prohibits discrimination in employment or occupation regarding age, disability, gender or gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or political affiliation. Teachers applying to work in religious schools, however, are not protected from discrimination on religious grounds. Employers must register with the Northern Ireland Equality Commission if they employ more than 10 persons. Registered employers are required to submit annual reports to the commission on the religious composition of their workforce.

In Scotland the law prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. The Scottish government introduced a plan in 2019 to address the gender pay gap, estimated at 5.7 percent in 2018. The plan set a goal of reducing the gender pay gap by 2021 and included 50 actions to provide resources and support for working women and mothers.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a National Living Wage for workers age 23 or older and a National Minimum Wage for workers of at least school leaving age until age 22. Both wages were above the poverty level.

The law limits the workweek to an average of 48 hours, normally averaged over a 17-week period. The law does not prohibit compulsory overtime, but it limits overtime to the 48-hour workweek restriction. The 48-hour-workweek regulations do not apply to senior managers and others who can exercise control over their own hours of work. There are also exceptions for the armed forces, emergency services, police, domestic workers, sea and air transportation workers, and fishermen. The law allows workers to opt out of the 48-hour limit, although there are exceptions for airline staff, delivery drivers, security guards, and workers on ships or boats.

The government effectively enforced the wage and hour laws. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) enforces wage payments. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) enforces maximum working hours. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance. The HMRC and the HSE can make unannounced inspections and initiate criminal proceedings.

Penalties were generally commensurate with those for similar violations and inspections were sufficient to enforce compliance. Although criminal enforcement is available, most minimum wage noncompliance is pursued via civil enforcement through the courts. In August the HMRC named and shamed 191 companies that had failed to pay 2.1 million pounds ($2.8 million) to over 34,000 workers. The companies had to pay back wages owed and fines to the government. The HSE reported violations of wage, hour, or overtime laws were common in the agriculture, chemicals, construction, fairgrounds and theme parks, film and theater, logistics and transport, manufacturing, mining, energy, sports and leisure, utilities, and waste and recycling sectors.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government set appropriate and current occupational safety and health standards. The law stipulates employers may not place the health and safety of employees at risk. The HSE is responsible for identifying unsafe situations, and not the worker, and inspectors had the authority to conduct unannounced inspections, levy fines, and initiate criminal proceedings. By law workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning in March 2020 the government advised citizens to work from home if possible. Employers of “essential workers,” such as hospital staff, grocery store workers, and public works departments, were required to make arrangements to work safely. In July 2020 the government allowed anyone unable to work from home to return to their place of work, as long as their employer had put in place sufficient safety measures. The government issued “COVID-secure” workplace guidance for different sectors of the economy. Employers that fail to meet these standards can be reported to the local authority or the HSE, an arm of the Department for Work and Pensions, which can require employers to take additional steps where appropriate. Certain businesses, such as theaters and live music venues, have been ordered to close to reduce the spread of coronavirus COVID-19, contributing to a steep rise in unemployment.

The HSE effectively enforced occupational health and safety laws in all sectors including the informal economy. The fines for violations were commensurate with those for similar laws. HSE inspectors also advise employers on how to comply with the law. Employers may be ordered to make improvements, either through an improvement notice, which allows time for the recipient to comply, or a prohibition notice, which prohibits an activity until remedial action has been taken. The HSE issued notices to companies and individuals for breaches of health and safety law. The notice may involve one or more instances when the recipient failed to comply with health and safety law, each of which was called a “breach.” The HSE prosecuted recipients for noncompliance with a notice while the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) prosecuted similar cases in Scotland. The International Labor Organization expressed concern that the number of HSE inspectors decreased in recent years, noting that the number of cases brought by the HSE had also declined.

From April 10 to August 14, there were 34,835 disease notifications of COVID-19 in workers where occupational exposure was suspected, including 409 death notifications.

Figures for April 2020 to March 2021 revealed 142 persons were fatally injured at work. An estimated 693,000 workers sustained a nonfatal injury at work according to self-reports in 2019-20. A total of 65,427 industrial injuries were reported in 2019-20 in the UK. The HSE and COPFS prosecuted 342 cases with at least one conviction secured in 325 of these cases, a conviction rate of 95 percent. Across all enforcing bodies, 7,075 notices were issued. The HSE and COPFS prosecutions led to fines totaling 35.8 million pounds ($47.3 million) compared with the 55.3 million pounds ($73 million) in 2018-19.

Bermuda’s legislation does not provide a minimum or living wage, and efforts to introduce one have not progressed. The Bermuda Department of Labour and Training enforces any contractually agreed wage, hours and safety and health standards. Regulations enforced by the department extensively cover the safety of the work environment, occupational safety, and health standards and are current and appropriate for the main industries. By law workers can remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations.