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Public provision for the economic security and social welfare of all individuals and their families, especially in the case of income losses due to unemployment, work injury, maternity, sickness, old age, and death. The term encompasses not only social insurance but also health and welfare services and various income maintenance programs designed to improve the recipient's welfare through public services. Some of the first organized cooperative efforts to provide for the economic security of individuals were instituted by workingmen's associations, mutual-benefit societies, and labour unions; social security was not widely established by law until the 19th and 20th centuries, with the first modern program appearing in Germany in 1883. Almost all developed nations now have social security programs that provide benefits or services through several major approaches such as social insurance and social assistance, a needs-based program that pays benefits only to the poor. See alsoSocial Security Act; unemployment insurance; welfare; workers' compensation.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on social security, visit Britannica.com.