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Report No. 138

7.7. History of social security.-

In this context, it may be desirable to examine the meaning of the expression "social security." The concept of social security in a wide sense, that is to say, governmental as well as voluntary social security, has a fairly long history, because the basic sources of social welfare, viz. poverty, disability, disease and dependence, are as old as society itself. Initially, religion and philosophy tended to provide a framework for the conduct of social welfare.1 However, as society developed, there arose more systematic responses to the factors that rendered individuals (and thus, society at large), vulnerable. Social security programmes sponsored by Government, such as social assistance and social insurance, became prominent.

While the Poor Laws in many countries, including England and Germany, came on the statute book as early as the 16th and 17th centuries, the first general social insurance scheme appears to have been introduced in Germany in 1883. The scheme of Chancellor Bismark (1883), for sickness insurance by law, provided to employees (in defined types of industries), bath medical care and cash benefit, during a period of sickness, to be paid for out of contributions from both employers and employees. This was followed by a law of 1884 in Germany, making accident insurance compulsory and, later, by a law providing pension for all workers from the age of 70 (1880). Germany's example was followed by Austria (1888), Italy (1893) and Sweden and Netherlands (1901).2

In the United Kingdom, in 1889, Government carried out an enquiry into the income of 12,000 elderly persons and in 1908, in Britain, pensions at age 70 were introduced. Later, in the Continent, unemployment insurance was introduced, in Belgium and France family allowances were provided for. In the United States, the Social Security Act of 1935 provided federal grants for public assistance by the State to the aged, blind, disabled and dependent children and also established a federal old age insurance scheme and federal financial backing for State plans for unemployment insurance3.

1. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia, (1987), Vol. 27, p. 421.

2. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia, (1987), Vol. 27, pp. 429, 435, 436.

3. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia, (1987), Vol. 27, p. 429.

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