Social security

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Social Security or social welfare is the name given to programs to provide money for people who need it. Social security systems are often linked to health care.

War pensions are the most ancient type of social security. They are mentioned by Plutarch.

Universal benefits are those where everyone who meets the conditions - such as children under a certain age or people who are ill or disabled - are paid.

Contributions[change | change source]

In many countries social Security provides support only to people who have paid contributions. Most pension systems are for people who have paid contributions. Contributions are regular payments taken from their pay when they are working. They will be recorded by the government. The right to a pension may include dependent members of the family. Pensions may then be paid to widows and orphans. People may also make regular payments into private pensions.

Means test[change | change source]

Means tested benefits are paid to people who can show that they are poor. There are usually tests both of regular income and of capital. They are usually paid to households. Before government schemes were started in many places charities would help people who were thought to need it.


Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights law make the "right to an adequate standard of living" one of the human rights.

France[change | change source]

In France from the beginning of the 20th century employers were made to insure their workers against injury, illness, maternity, and death. After 1946 there was more done by the government. Now there are allowances for children - universal after the first child and Family Complement which is means tested. There are extra payments for adopted and disabled children and orphans. There are both contributory and means tested benefits for people over 65.

Unemployment insurance was started in 1958. It is managed by the employers organization and the trade unions.

There is also a means tested benefit called Revenu de solidarité active for unemployed and underemployed workers.[1]

Germany[change | change source]

Otto von Bismarck started social security benefits in 1883. This was part of what was called State Socialism. This was the first country to do so. It included health insurance, accident insurance (workman's compensation), disability insurance and an old-age retirement pension. [2]

Now there is a system of unemployment benefit. People and their employers have to pay when they are working. It lasts for up to 12 months. There is also a welfare system called Hartz IV which is means-tested. This is also for working people on low pay.

There is a state pension. The retirement age will go up to 66 by 2023. It goes by two months each year, until 2031, when the retirement age will be 67. The amount of pension is based on the pay a person had when they were working and the number of years they paid contributions.[3]

United Kingdom[change | change source]

The English Poor Law system was set up in the Tudor period. Monasteries had given a lot of support to the poor but they were closed. Beggars were sent back to their homes. Workhouses were set up by the parishes for people who could not earn money and they were given work to do. They were paid for by a local tax on the property of the richest people in the parish.[4]

Picture of National Insurance

Pensions were introduced for poor people over 70 in 1908. The National Insurance Act was passed in 1911. This introduced National Insurance Contributions, which gave free medical treatment to working men, sick pay of 10 shillings a week for 26 weeks and 30 shillings Maternity Grant. Unemployed workers could get 7 shillings per week for up to 15 weeks in a year.[5]

The Beveridge Report of 1942 proposed a big expansion of this system and Clement Attlee's government passed laws to make it happen. The National Insurance Act 1946 included sickness and unemployment benefits. This was popular and the Conservative Party (UK) continued it. Married women were expected to rely on their husbands for support. They were not entitled to the same benefits as men. There were widows benefits for women whose husbands died but no benefits for men whose wives died.

National Assistance was the main means tested benefit from 1948 to 1966. Then Supplementary Benefit was introduced, and the legal rules were published. People could go to court about it. It was replaced by Income Support in 1988. Help with the cost of rent came from Housing Benefit. From 2013 Universal Credit began to replace all the means tested benefits.

In 1970 new benefits for disabled people were introduced: Attendance Allowance and Mobility Allowance. In 1976 Invalid Care Allowance was introduced, but married women could not claim it.

Around 2000 there were changes designed to end the discrimination against women. Women's benefits no longer depended on their husbands National Insurance contributions. The state pension age was set at 60 for women, and 65 for men in 1948. At that time most men did not live to claim their pension for long. Women lived on average about 5 years longer than men. In 1995 the law was changed so that the women's pension age would be made equal with men. After 2007 the age people could claim a pension was gradually raised because life expectancy had improved. On average men lived to be more than 80 and women about 84.[6]

The Child Poverty Action Group produces books about the British social security system every year. They explain people's rights.

United States[change | change source]

In the United States, this refers to a program started in the New Deal. The program first gave money only to a few old people, but is now used by millions of people and is one of the largest and most costly programs in the government. The Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program covers 94% of workers. State and local government workers have pension plans at the state or local level. Retirement Insurance Benefits are paid to people over the age of 62. The amount is increased of the person delays their claim.

Social Security in the United States is managed by the Social Security Administration, and a person in the program gets a number and has it forever, mainly because of tax reports.

See also: Social Security (United States)

Related pages[change | change source]

Other websites[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Active Solidarity Income (RSA)". www.service-public.fr (in French). Retrieved 2023-01-26.
  2. Steinberg, Jonathan. 2011. Bismarck: a life Oxford University Press. p. 8, 424, 444.
  3. "home_node". Deutsche Rentenversicherung. 2022-04-30. Retrieved 2023-01-27.
  4. "An Introduction to the Workhouse". www.workhouses.org.uk. Retrieved 2023-01-25.
  5. "National Insurance Act 1911". Socialist Health Association. 1911-02-27. Retrieved 2023-01-25.
  6. "How has life expectancy changed over time? - Office for National Statistics". www.ons.gov.uk. Retrieved 2023-01-26.