As from 1947 we have had a Welfare State..
Education is free from primary school right through
to university with school being compulsory up to age
16. At age 11 you can currently go into either a
Grammar school, if you pass the '11 plus' test, or a
Secondary school if you don't. Most people consider
the Grammar school to be a preparation for university.
Depending on the parents income students will get a
grant towards their expenses at university though
they can also apply for a subsidised student loan too.
Local schools come in four varieties... state schools
which are mainly attended by non-Catholics (actually
mainly protestants but other ethnic groups would go
to these too), catholic schools which are mainly Catholics, integrated schools which are a mixture and
public schools (these are actually private schools ie
the parents pay fees and, no, I don't know why we
call them public). The public schools are effectively
private sector versions of integrated schools: they
don't care what race/colour/religion you are so long
as your credit rating is good! We also have single-sex
and mixed (co-educational) versions of most of these
types though by and large the schools are mixed these
days: the boys only public schools seem to have
specialised in producing gay men which has put people
off them a little! I just went to a mixed Grammar
school so I hope I'm safe enough that way!!
Health care is free for us in all respects except for
prescription medication which we've to make a
contribution towards. Naturally there's also private
health care but it's really only for routine
operations and is on nothing like the scale in the US.
If you're unemployed you get paid something (about £50??) per week for the first six months but as I've
not been unemployed since just after I left
university I'm kind of hazy on this.
Retirement... When you hit 65 you get the state pension which is
based on your National Insurance contributions and is
currently about UKP 70 per week but it's gradually
being phased out and by the time I reach 65 I'll
probably only be able to buy myself a packet of
crisps with it! Actually it's currently age 60 for
women but it's being increased to 65 over the next
lot of years.
Employment... For all but the very smallest companies
it is obligatory to advertise vacancies as a result
of several lots of anti-discrimination legislation (banning
discrimination on the grounds on religion and sex/marital
status and soon for race too). As far as I know
everybody gets at least four weeks holidays but it's
usually five. If you're working and get pregnant then
you get three months off per pregnancy at full pay,
not counting any time you might be off sick prior to
the birth. You usually work about 40 hours each week
for a full-time job or up to 20 for part-time (different
legislation applies to part-timers). All of the
larger companies have a company sponsored pension
scheme but you usually need to pay 5% towards this.
Lastly, the important bit... yes, salary! Just
considering full-time jobs gross (pre-tax) salaries
range from about UKP 8,000 ($12,000) to around UKP 30,000
($45,000) for the bulk of people and you end up with
about 2/3rds of that 'in your hand'.