The Federated States of Micronesia is a federal republic made up of 4 island states: Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap. The unicameral, 14-member Congress has representatives elected from each state on the basis of universal suffrage. The elections were deemed acceptable despite evidence of fraud. Congress chooses the President and Vice President from among 4 Senators at large. There are no political parties, and political support tends to be based on clan allegiance or religion. Individual states have considerable autonomy, and traditional leaders retain influence. Women hold 2 Cabinet positions. The judiciary is independent; Supreme Court judges are appointed by the President with the approval of Congress.
Discrimination on the basis of race, sex, language or religion is prohibited, but enforcement of the law is lax.
Reports indicate that on occasion police physically abuse detainees. Impunity is not reported as a problem, but corruption is, with Chuuk as the state where the problem is most obvious.
Freedom of speech and of the press are guaranteed and respected. Internet access is not restricted. Access to information is not provided in law.
Education is compulsory and free for ages 6 to 14, but the law is not enforced. There is a shortage of teachers, textbooks and teaching materials. Boys and girls have equal access to education. School options include vocational education. Little statistical information is available.
Discrimination against persons with disabilities is prohibited. Special education programmes are provided for children with physical or mental disabilities and learning disabilities, but these programmes depend on foreign funding. Disabled persons are not usually employed outside the home.
The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol. But legislation has been introduced to correct this, and the government cooperates with the UNHCR.
The people are broadly categorised as Melanesians. Most people consider their ethnic identity as specific to an island (such as Yapese), and each state has a different language and culture. Yap state had a social system similar to a caste system in which the status of a village was higher or lower than that of a neighbouring village. Low-status villagers worked without pay for high-status villagers, who in turn were supposed to care for those who worked for them. This system is breaking down but still has an impact. For example, low-status villages do not advocate as vigorously as their neighbours for their needs to be addressed.
Women have equal rights in law in property, education and employment. Equal pay for work of equal value is mandated, but social discrimination exists. Women are becoming successful in business.
Domestic violence is not specifically addressed in law, and prosecution is rare because cultural and family mores prevail. The police do not always respond to what is considered a family matter. Traditional methods of coping with family disputes are breaking down with urbanisation and a shift of emphasis away from the extended family and onto the nuclear family. Sexual harassment is a problem that is not addressed.
Workers, including civil servants, have the right to form or join consultative associations, but no provision exists for trade unions. Employment is either through family-owned businesses or government service. Collective bargaining is not practised. Employers set wages. There is no specific right to strike.
State governments establish the minimum wage rate for government workers, which range from US$2.00 an hour to US$0.80 an hour. The minimum hourly wage for employment with the national government is $2.64. There are no laws regulating hours of work, but a 40-hour work week is standard.
Federated States of Micronesia
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