A social security program was adopted first in Germany in the 1880s, when Chancellor Otto von Bismarck advocated social legislation not only in order to benefit the workers but also to forestall the program of the socialists and gain the support of the workers for his own party. Legislation setting up compulsory sickness insurance, for which the worker paid two thirds of the cost and the employer one third, was passed in Germany in 1883. Compulsory old-age insurance (see pension), the cost of which the employee, employer, and government shared, was adopted in 1889; unemployment insurance legislation, however, was not passed until 1927.
As economic insecurity among workers in the highly industrialized countries spread, an increasing number of social security programs were enacted. In Great Britain, the National Insurance Act, devised by David Lloyd George, was passed in 1911, and a compulsory unemployment insurance program as well as old-age insurance and sickness insurance programs were established. The unemployment insurance system excluded many workers, notably government employees, nurses, casual workers, and those who earned over £250 per annum. A survivors insurance program was adopted (1925); in 1942, Parliament was presented with a plan, by Sir William Henry Beveridge, for a more expanded social security program, much of which was enacted after World War II.
France adopted in 1905 a program of voluntary unemployment insurance and in 1928 made insurance plans for old age and sickness mandatory. Meanwhile, diverse social security programs were adopted throughout Europe, differing from country to country as to the kinds of insurance instituted, the categories of workers eligible, the proportions paid by employee, employer, and government, the conditions for receipt of benefits, the amounts of the benefits, and finally in the overall effects of the programs. In 1922, the Soviet Union adopted comprehensive social security plans as part of their socialist economy. Chile became (1924) the first Latin American country to adopt a social security program.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.