United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Latvia, 30 January 1996, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa3b40.html [accessed 21 April 2015]
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LATVIA Latvia is a parliamentary democracy. With its statehood widely recognized as continuous for more than 70 years, it regained its independence in 1991 after more than 50 years of Soviet occupation. Elections for the 100-seat Parliament (Saeima) held in the fall were free and fair, but the election law barred some citizens from competing as candidates due to prior activity in pro-Soviet organizations or lack of fluency in the state language. The Prime Minister, as chief executive, and the Cabinet are responsible for government operations. The President, as Head of State, is elected by the Parliament. The 1991 Constitutional Law, which supplements the 1922 Constitution, provides for basic rights and freedoms. The judiciary is independent but not well-trained, efficient, or free from corruption. The security apparatus consists of: the national police and other services subordinate to the Ministry of Interior; municipal police operating under local government control; the counterintelligence service and a protective service operating under the Ministry of Defense; and the National Guard, an element of the national armed forces, which also assists in police activities. Civilian authorities generally maintain effective control of the security forces and a recently established Constitution Protection Bureau (SAB) has oversight over intelligence activities. However, Interior Ministry forces and municipal police sometimes acted independently of central government authority. Some members of the security forces, including police and other Ministry of Interior personnel, committed human rights abuses. Traditionally dominated by agriculture and forestry products, with military-industrial production introduced by the Soviets, the varied economy is increasingly oriented toward the service sector. As the transition from a centrally planned to a market-oriented economic system continues, private enterprise in trade and services is thriving, and about 50 percent of farmland is now in private hands. In the industrial sector, progress toward privatization and revitalization is much slower. The currency remained stable and freely traded, unemployment was around 8 percent, and annual inflation about 25 percent, down from 36 percent in 1994. Per capita gross domestic product (GDP) was approximately $1,000 per year. GDP had been forecast to rise by 2 percent in 1995. However, the economy suffered from the collapse of the largest and several smaller commercial banks as well as from a severe government budget crisis. The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens and the large resident noncitizen community, although problems remained in certain areas. Members of the security forces, including the police and Interior Ministry mobile battalions, continued to use excessive force; police and prison officers beat detainees and inmates. The Government did not take adequate disciplinary action against those responsible. Prison conditions remained substandard. The inefficient judiciary did not always ensure the fair administration of justice. The Citizenship and Immigration Department (CID) continued to act arbitrarily and, in some cases, to ignore court orders concerning the residence status of noncitizens. Among key positive developments were the enactment of the first law clearly defining the status of most noncitizens, a limited liberalization of the 1994 Citizenship Law, the beginning of naturalization under the 1994 law, adoption of a national program for protecting individual rights, and the establishment of an independent human rights office. Moreover, by adopting the law on the status of former Soviet Citizens ("On the Status of Those Citizens of the Former USSR Who do not have the Citizenship of Latvia or Any Other State"), Parliament authorized most of the approximately 700,000 noncitizen residents to obtain travel documents verifying their rights to reside in, leave, and return to Latvia; however, the Law had not been fully implemented by year's end. Women are discriminated against in the workplace, and spousal abuse is a widespread problem, as is child prostitution.
Respect for Human Rights
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution prohibits torture. However, there were credible reports that police and prison personnel beat detainees and prison inmates. There were no reported instances of the Government prosecuting those responsible. Prison conditions remain poor. Inadequate sanitation facilities, persistent shortages of blankets and medical care, and insufficient lighting and ventilation are common problems, as is the shortage of resources. The law continues to prohibit detainees awaiting trial from sending mail, but this prohibition is not universally enforced. Interior Ministry mobile battalions reportedly used excessive force to "restore order" to prisons in Valmiera, near Daugavpils, and elsewhere. A detention center established at Olaine, outside Riga, provided substandard conditions for over 100 asylum seekers (including more than 40 children) being held indefinitely without trial. While new construction at prisons in Jelgava and Riga reportedly provided a small percentage of prisoners with improved conditions, state auditors found evidence that Interior Ministry personnel had misappropriated scarce resources allocated to the prison system in prior years. In December the Riga district court convicted former Latvian Soviet secret police head Alfons Noviks of "genocide" and sentenced him to life imprisonment for his involvement in mass killings, deportations, and torture between 1940 and 1953. The situation for some imprisoned children, who are not always separated from adults, remained poor. Children as young as 14 years of age were kept in unsanitary conditions and suffer from disease and deprivation. Both boys and girls are subject to violence and possible sexual abuse. One of the legacies of the Soviet occupation is the regular practice of hazing military recruits. President Guntis Ulmanis convened meetings to highlight this problem and urged military authorities to curb abusive practices. The Parliament also amended the Criminal Code to specify criminal sanctions for harassment and abuse of soldiers, but reliable reports suggest that the practices continued. Despite the high-level attention, the authorities did not take adequate disciplinary or legal action to punish military authorities who accept or tolerate cruel and degrading treatment of young soldiers. However, at year's end authorities were pursuing cases against several soldiers arrested for abusing recruits during 1995.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
There were no known instances of arbitrary arrest or exile. As of 1994, the responsibility for issuing arrest warrants was transferred from prosecutors to the courts. The law requires the prosecutor's office to make a formal decision whether to charge or release a detainee within 72 hours after arrest. Charges must be filed within 10 days of arrest. A detainee may not be held for more than 6 months without new arrest orders being issued by the prosecutor's office. No detainee may be held for more than 18 months without the case going to court. Detainees have the right to have an attorney present at any time. These rights are subject to judicial review but only at the time of trial. There were credible reports that these rights are not always respected in practice, especially outside Riga.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respects this provision in practice. However, the courts must rely on the Ministry of Justice for administrative support and the Supreme Court does not have a clearly established right to rule on the constitutionality of legislation. A minority in the Parliament used procedural moves to block establishment of a constitutional court to fulfill this function. Although the criminal justice system was organized according to the former Soviet model, Latvia is reforming its judicial system. In 1995 it completed the establishment of regional courts which will hear appeals of lower court decisions. For more serious criminal cases, two lay assessors join the professional judge on the bench. There are no reports that the Government improperly influenced judges, but corruption is reportedly widespread. Most judges have little legal education, and the court system is too weak to enforce many of its decisions. There is a lack of information available on which to make informed decisions, especially outside Riga. Trials may be closed if state secrets might be revealed or to protect the interests of minors. All defendants have the right to hire an attorney, and the State will lend funds to destitute defendants for this purpose. Defendants have the right to read all charges and confront all witnesses and may offer witnesses and evidence to support their case. While the prosecutor appealed court decisions exonerating three Members of Parliament of charges that they had willingly collaborated with the KGB, the Parliament voted to restore their mandates (a fourth member had been acquitted owing to lack of evidence, and the prosecutor is not pursuing the case; a fifth member resigned from Parliament and was not tried). This decision reversed the Parliament's 1994 decision to suspend parliamentary participation by the five members pending the outcome of their trials. The Government had characterized the Parliament's original decision as an unconstitutional infringement of the right to a presumption of innocence. Following a 25-month trial, former Latvian Communist Party First Secretary Alfreds Rubiks was sentenced to 8 years in prison for attempting to overthrow the independent Latvian State in 1991. While Rubiks' supporters describe him as a political prisoner, claiming that he acted in accordance with the prevailing Soviet legislation, there is no evidence that his conviction violated human rights standards.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law requires that law enforcement authorities must have a judicial warrant in order to intercept citizens' mail, telephone calls, or other forms of communication. This protection does not apply to the large noncitizen population. Following press reports that the Ministry of Defense (MOD) counterintelligence service had monitored the office telephones of employees suspected of possible security breaches, a senior MOD official indicated that no warrant was required to conduct such monitoring for internal investigative purposes.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitutional Law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The 1991 Press Law prohibits censorship of the press or other mass media. Most newspapers and magazines in Latvia are privately owned. New publications continued to appear, but economic difficulties forced others to close. Newspapers in both Latvian and Russian published a wide range of criticism and political viewpoints. A large number of independent television and radio outlets broadcast in both Russian and Latvian, and the number of people receiving satellite television broadcasts continued to increase. In late September, a reporter for a major media organization claimed to have been beaten after being abducted at a location where she had arranged to meet a government official. However, the Government has denied any involvement in this incident, and there is no independent evidence linking government officials to the crime. A new law on radio and television adopted in August contains a number of restrictive provisions regulating the content and language of broadcasts. No more than 30 percent of private broadcasts may be in languages other than Latvian; in prime time, 40 percent of television broadcasts must be of Latvian and 80 percent of European origin. Moreover, foreign investment may not exceed 20 percent of the capital in electronic media organizations. There are no restrictions on academic freedom.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association.
The authorities legally may not prohibit public gatherings. Organizers of demonstrations must provide advance notice to local authorities, who may change the time and place of public gatherings for such reasons as fear of public disorder. Numerous mass meetings and political demonstrations took place without Government interference. However, the Riga city council regularly denied permission or sought to change the time and place of demonstrations by groups representing a portion of the noncitizen community. On occasion this led to clashes between demonstrators and the municipal police. Noncitizen representatives and Russian-language newspapers accused the police of using excessive force to break up "unauthorized" meetings. On one occasion the municipal police detained several demonstrators briefly for allegedly blocking access to the city council building, but the cases against them did not hold up in court. The Constitution provides for the right to associate in public organizations. However, the law on registering public organizations was amended in late 1993 to bar registration of Communist, Nazi, or other organizations whose activities would contravene the Constitution. The Justice Ministry also refused to register the League of Stateless Persons in Latvia on the grounds that noncitizens are prohibited from forming "political" organizations. More than 35 political parties are officially registered.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitutional Law provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. Although the Government does not require the registration of religious groups, a new law on religious organizations specifies that religious organizations can enjoy certain rights and privileges only if they register. Only religious groups which have at least 25 members who are citizens may be registered. Foreign evangelists and missionaries are permitted to hold meetings and proselytize, but the law stipulates that only religious organizations in Latvia may invite them to carry out such activities. Representatives of religious organizations which authorities consider to be "nontraditional," including the Mormons, continue to experience difficulties in obtaining visas and residence permits to serve as missionaries in Latvia. Religious education may be provided to public school students on a voluntary basis only by representatives of legally registered religious organizations.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
There are no obstacles to freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, or repatriation of citizens. In April the Parliament adopted a Law on the Status of Former Soviet Citizens which stipulates that registered permanent resident noncitizens also enjoy the rights to establish and change residences within Latvia, travel abroad, and return to Latvia. The law also provides for issuance of new noncitizen travel documents verifying these rights. By year's end, the Government had reportedly contracted with a firm to produce these documents, but they were not yet available. In the interim, and in apparent contradiction with the Law on Former Soviet Citizens, the CID continued to require departing noncitizens to obtain separate reentry permits. Moreover, because of a continuing shortage of the former Soviet passports previously issued to noncitizens, foreign travel for some noncitizens was temporarily restricted in mid-1995. This situation was largely alleviated in the latter half of the year when the CID began to issue temporary noncitizen identification documents, valid for 2 years and accepted as travel documents by key foreign countries. Latvia is not a signatory to international conventions on refugees and does not have a law on political asylum. Most of those seeking refugee status are persons from the Middle East and Central Asia entering by land from Russia or Belarus and hoping to reach Scandinavia; Latvia usually attempts to return such asylum seekers, but neighboring countries are generally willing to accept only their own citizens or legal residents. One group of over 100 asylum seekers was repeatedly shuttled in a train among border posts in Latvia, Lithuania, and Russia. After being detained in the train under deplorable conditions, the group was finally transferred to a substandard detention center outside Riga. In December most of these asylum seekers were transferred to a newly constructed building at the same location, furnished with the help of the Swedish Government, where they remained in detention. Latvian authorities remained unwilling to grant asylum to these persons, who were attempting to reach Sweden, and no other country was prepared to accept them.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Citizens have the right to change their government. Latvia held free and fair elections for Parliament (the Saeima) in September and October, with the participation of numerous parties and factions representing a broad political spectrum. Candidates from 11 parties won seats in the Saeima, and 72 percent of eligible voters participated. Although international observers deemed the parliamentary elections to be free and fair, the elections law passed in May barred the candidacy of any citizen who remained "active" in the Communist Party or various other pro-Soviet organizations after January 13, 1991. Furthermore, there was a Latvian-language requirement for candidates. The law granted wide authority to the Central Elections Commission to interpret and apply these relatively vague provisions, and it struck the names of over a dozen of the nearly 1,000 persons on parties' candidate lists. Local elections commissions took inadequate steps in some locations to insure that voters could make their choices in private booths, but there were no allegations that voters were subject to improper pressure or influence. There are no ethnic restrictions on political participation, and some nonethnic Latvians serve in various elected bodies. There was no mechanism for the many residents of Latvia who were not citizens to participate in the elections. Following the restoration of independence in 1991, citizenship was immediately accorded only to those persons who were citizens of the independent Latvian republic in 1940 and their direct descendants. Owing to the russification policy pursued during the Soviet era, ethnic Latvians make up only about 54 percent of the total population and do not constitute a majority in seven of the eight largest cities. More than 70 percent of the registered residents of Latvia are citizens, almost 400,000 of whom are not ethnic Latvian. Under provisions of a July 1994 law, various categories of noncitizens become eligible to apply for naturalization over a period extending from 1995 until early in the next century. Highest priority was given to spouses of Latvian citizens, citizens of other Baltic states, and persons born in Latvia. The law includes a Latvian language and residence requirement as well as restrictions on naturalization of several groups including former Soviet KGB and military officers. The law requires applicants for citizenship to renounce previous non-Latvian citizenship, to have knowledge of the Constitution and Latvian history, and to take a loyalty oath. International observers including the resident Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission credit the Government with establishing a competent and professional naturalization board with offices throughout the country to implement the 1994 law. Early experience suggested that the board sought to apply the law fairly, although international observers expressed some concern that tests of Latvian language and history might be overly difficult for some applicants. Just under 1,000 persons were naturalized in 1995. The reason for this small number may include potential applicants' lack of confidence about their language ability, the time needed to establish naturalization and testing procedures, the restricted category of applicants eligible to seek naturalization in the first year, and 1995 amendments to the citizenship law which granted automatic citizenship (rather than requiring naturalization) for certain persons. These liberalizing amendments, which applied to all ethnic Latvians returning to the country (primarily those returning from Russia whose families were not Latvian citizens in 1940) as well as to persons successfully completing secondary education in Latvian language schools, allowed several thousand additional persons to register as citizens. International experts, government officials, and domestic human rights monitors agreed that Latvia must continue to place high priority and devote sufficient resources to implementing the naturalization law in a fair, impartial manner. The Government must also provide greater opportunities for noncitizens to learn Latvian. The CID, which has administrative responsibility for registering noncitizens, has frequently failed to implement properly and fairly laws affecting noncitizens, most often by denying noncitizen residents' applications for permanent resident status. Negative CID decisions are subject to judicial review. However, the CID sometimes refused to comply when courts overturned negative CID decisions.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A growing number of nongovernmental organizations devoted to research and advocacy on human rights issues, including prison conditions and women's and children's rights, operate without government restriction. Several organizations deal with issues of concern to local ethnic Russians, presenting them to the courts and the press. The Government demonstrated a willingness to engage in dialog with nongovernmental organizations working on human rights issues. It welcomed visits by human rights organizations and received delegations from, among others, the OSCE, the Council of Europe (COE), and the United Nations. A resident OSCE mission continued to operate with a mandate to "address citizenship issues and other related matters." Building on the recommendations of a special high-level team organized by the United Nations Development Program, the COE, and the OSCE, the Government adopted a national program for the protection and promotion of human rights, and the Parliament authorized creation of an independent human rights office to replace the interim office of a state minister for human rights. The human rights office has a mandate to provide information on human rights, inquire into individual complaints, and initiate its own investigations on alleged violations. Its permanent director will be appointed by the Government, confirmed by the Saeima for a 4-year period, and subject to dismissal only under limited circumstances. The office began working under an acting director; as of December she had been able to fill only some of the office's planned 26 positions owing to budget cuts stemming from the Government's financial difficulties. In 1995 the U.N. Human Rights Committee charged with monitoring compliance with the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights expressed satisfaction at positive changes since 1990 and welcomed its "open and constructive dialogue" with Latvia but registered concern and made suggestions on numerous issues, including prison conditions and the legal system, as well as the status of noncitizens and asylum seekers.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
According to the 1922 Constitution, all citizens are equal under the law. The 1991 Constitutional Law, which modifies the Constitution, states that "all persons in Latvia" are equal under the law regardless of race, sex, religion, language, social status, political preference, or other grounds and grants equal rights to work and wages to "persons of all nationalities." However, the Constitutional Law limits to citizens the right to occupy state positions, establish political parties, and own land. Of Latvia's more than 2.5 million registered residents, there are more than 765,000 ethnic Russians, 100,000 ethnic Belarusians, almost 70,000 ethnic Ukrainians, and more than 60,000 ethnic Poles. Nearly 400,000 members of ethnic minorities are citizens.
Sources indicate that domestic violence against women is fairly widespread and is often connected with alcohol abuse. There is anecdotal evidence suggesting that the entire legal system, including the courts, tends to downplay the seriousness of domestic violence. Observers suggest that police are sometimes reluctant to make arrests in such cases. No government program exists specifically to assist victims of domestic abuse. Both adult and child prostitution are widespread and often linked with organized crime. Women possess the same legal rights as men. The Labor Code prohibits women from performing "hard jobs or jobs having unhealthy conditions" which are specified in a list agreed upon between the Cabinet and labor unions. Beyond this, the Code bans employment discrimination. In reality, women frequently face hiring and pay discrimination, especially in the emerging private sector. It is not unusual to see employment advertising which specifically seeks men. Sexual harassment of women in the workplace is reportedly common. Women apparently have not brought any discrimination suits before the courts. Women's advocacy groups are growing in size and number. They are involved in finding employment for women, lobbying for increased social benefits, assisting victims of domestic abuse, and opposing the hazing of military recruits.
Although it is government policy to ensure children's rights to basic health, welfare, and education, there is no general legislation outlining these rights, and the Government lacks resources necessary to provide them fully. Anecdotal evidence suggests that child abuse and abandonment are relatively widespread. A few children's advocacy groups are active, particularly in lobbying for legislation to protect children's rights and for increased welfare payments for children. Although legislative gaps hampered efforts to win convictions in child molestation cases, law enforcement authorities have won court suits to remove children from abusive parents and secured convictions in child prostitution cases. Although legislation provides for the establishment of special institutions for rehabilitation and vocational training of juvenile offenders, the Government failed to budget funds for this purpose. Consequently, juveniles are frequently housed in regular prison facilities after committing relatively minor offenses.
People with Disabilities
Latvia does not have a law banning discrimination against the disabled. The Government supports special schools for disabled persons. It does not enforce a 1993 law requiring buildings to be accessible to wheelchairs, and most buildings are not. However, Riga has undertaken an extensive wheelchair-ramp program at intersections.
In May a mysterious bombing caused serious damage to the sole remaining synagogue in Riga. The President and other government officials immediately expressed their outrage, and the authorities actively investigated this incident. However, at year's end no arrests had been made.
Because the majority of ethnic minorities are not citizens, they have difficulty participating fully in civic life. Noncitizens who are temporary residents have particular difficulty. Prior to 1995, this group typically had resided in factory dormitories or housing units previously connected to the Soviet or Russian military. The adoption of a Law on the Status of Former Soviet Citizens who do not hold Latvian or any other citizenship was a major positive development in 1995, ending years of uncertainty about the legal status of more than 700,000 persons. This Law reiterates guarantees of basic human rights and provides noncitizens who have been permanent residents continuously since July 1, 1992, with the rights to change residence, leave and return to Latvia, and invite close relatives to join them for the purpose of family reunification. It also required the registration of noncitizens regardless of their housing status, helping to resolve cases of persons previously unregistered because they lived in former Soviet military or dormitory housing. The law also provides for issuance of new travel documents specifying these rights (see Section 2.d.). Various laws prohibit employment of noncitizens in certain categories, some of which appear to be reasonable restrictions (e.g., only citizens can serve as Latvian diplomats) while others seem less justified (e.g., service as crewmembers on Latvian National Airlines). Parliament failed to adopt compromise proposals on employment restrictions. The language Law requires employees of the State and of all "institutions, enterprises, and institutes" to know sufficient Latvian to carry out their profession. The Law also requires such employees to be conversationally proficient in Latvian in order to be able to deal with the public. Despite the language Law, there have been no reports of widespread dismissals, even in the city of Daugavpils, in which 87 percent of the population is not ethnically Latvian. Moreover, Russian is the prevailing language in state-industrial enterprises. Nevertheless, many non-Latvians believe that they have been disfranchised and that the language law discriminates against them, although there are no reports of widespread dismissals. Some ethnic Russians have also complained of de facto discrimination resulting from the property laws which limit land ownership to citizens. Moreover, noncitizens were given fewer privatization certificates (which can be used to purchase stocks and will eventually be usable to privatize apartments and land) than citizens. However, the law does allow land ownership by companies in which noncitizens own shares. The Government has agreed to continue using Russian as the language of instruction in public schools where the pupils are primarily Russian speakers. It also supports eight other minority language schools. Although all non-Latvian-speaking students in public schools are supposed to learn Latvian, there are shortages of Latvian teachers. State-funded university education is in Latvian, except for the medical school and some classes for outgoing seniors. Incoming students whose native language is not Latvian must pass a Latvian-language entrance examination. The Government's stated goal is that all public schools eventually convert to Latvian as the language of instruction.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The law on trade unions mandates that workers, except for the uniformed military, have the right to form and join labor unions of their own choosing. Union membership, which had been about 50 percent of the work force in 1993, continued to fall as workers left Soviet-era unions that include management or were laid off as Soviet-style factories failed. Leaders of the two largest trade union confederations, the Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the Latvian Trade Unions' Alliance of Employees, were among candidates of a "Labor and Justice" coalition which gained less than 5 percent of the vote in the 1995 parliamentary elections. Unions are free to affiliate internationally and are developing contacts with European labor unions and international labor union organizations. In general, the trade union movement is undeveloped and still in transition from the socialist to the free market model. The law does not limit the right to strike. Although many state-owned factories are on the verge of bankruptcy and seriously behind in wage payments, workers fear dismissal if they strike. While the law bans such dismissals, the Government has not effectively enforced these laws.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Labor unions have the right to bargain collectively and are largely free of government interference in their negotiations with employers. The law prohibits discrimination against union members and organizers. Some emerging private sector businesses, however, threaten to fire union members; these businesses usually provide better salaries and benefits than are available elsewhere. The Government's ability to protect the right to organize in the private sector is weak. There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and it is not practiced. Inspectors from the Welfare Ministry's Labor Department enforce the ban.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The statutory minimum age for employment of children is 15, although those age 13 to 15 may work in certain jobs after school hours. Children are required to attend school for 9 years. The law restricts employment of those under age 18, for instance, by banning night shift or overtime work. State authorities are lax in their enforcement of child labor and school attendance laws.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
In December the Government decided "in principle" to raise the minimum wage to about $70 (38 lats), far below the roughly $95 (50 lats) which trade union officials describe as the bare minimum for survival. Many factories are virtually bankrupt and have reduced work hours. The Labor Code provides for a mandatory 40-hour maximum workweek with at least one 24-hour rest period weekly, 4 weeks of annual vacation, and a program of assistance to working mothers with small children. The laws establish minimum occupational health and safety standards for the workplace, but these standards are frequently ignored.