For specific national programs, see Social Security (United States), National insurance (UK), Social Security (Sweden)
Social security mainly refers to a field of social welfare concerned with social protection, or protection against socially recognized needs. The term can be used to refer to
social insurance, where people receive benefits or services in recognition of contributions to an insurance scheme. These services typically include provision for old age, disability and provision for survivors; in many welfare states they might also include medical care and unemployment.
- income maintenance - mainly the distribution of cash in the event of interruption of employment, including retirement, disability and unemployment
- services provided by administrations responsible for social security. In different countries this may include medical care, aspects of social work and even industrial relations.
- More rarely, the term is also used to refer to basic security, a term roughly equivalent to access to basic necessities - things such as food, education and medical care.
Social security is identified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948:
- "art. 22 — Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality."
The Wresinski report identifies lack of basic security as "the absence of one of more factors that enable individuals and families to assume basic responsibilities and to enjoy fundamental rights".
The concept, however, is much older than that. It was born in France during the Age of Enlightenment, and figures in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789:
- "Art. 2 — The goal of any political association is the conservation of the natural and imprescriptible [i.e., inviolable] rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, safety and resistance against oppression."
The first state-run social insurance program paying retirement benefits was implemented in Germany in 1889 by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck sought to hold back the historical wave that was building in support of socialism across Europe at the time. His system was funded with payroll taxes paid by the employee and the employer, along with contributions from the government. It also included a disability benefit. Today such programs are common, though not universal, among developed countries. They often include features of the initial German system.
The Beveridge report of 1942 offered the main alternative model. Beveridge attempted to make insurance the basis for a comprehensive, universal scheme covering all the main social needs.
Social security is seen as providing assistance to retired workers, often in the form of a superannuation system that provides a pension from a fund to which workers have contributed throughout their working lives. Workers may also contribute to some form of insurance scheme that provides income and assistance in the event of injury or illness for them and their families. While the scheme may be compulsory, the contributions or historic income often determine the level of support provided, once basic elegibility criteria such as age or inability to work are established. In most of the developed "first world" countries, social security also includes a system of publicly funded medicine.
Government pension expenses
Social security policy is usually applied through various programs designed to provide a population with income at times when they are unable to care for themselves. Income maintenance is based in a combination of five main types of program:
- social insurance, considered above
means-tested benefits. This is financial assistance provided to those who have basic needs, such as food, clothing and housing, but are unable to afford those basic needs due to poverty or lack of income because of unemployment, sickness, disability, or caring for children. While assistance is often in the form of financial payments, those eligible for social welfare can usually access health and educational services free of charge. The amount of support is enough to cover basic needs and eligibility is often subject to a comprehensive and complex assessment of an applicant's social and financial situation.
- non-contributory benefits. Several countries have special schemes, administered with no requirement for contributions and no means test, for people in certain categories of need - for example, veterans of armed forces, people with disabilities and very old people.
- discretionary benefits. Some schemes are based on the discretion of an official, such as a social worker.
- universal or categorical benefits, also known as demogrants. These are non-contributory benefits given for whole sections of the population without a test of means or need, such as family allowances or the Citizen's Pension in New Zealand.
Last updated: 10-18-2005 23:51:23