Social Insurance and Allied Services

In This Review

Social Insurance and Allied Services

By William Beveridge
Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1942
299 pp.
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Despite many precursors, the modern formulation of the welfare state can be attributed to the Beveridge Report. It was commissioned in 1941 by the wartime Grand Coalition of Conservatives and Labour under Winston Churchill and charged with examining the British system of welfare and economic support and making recommendations for changes after the war. Sir William Beveridge, former director of the London School of Economics, sought to abolish want in Britain by establishing a national minimum level of income ($8 a week for a childless couple, 57 percent of the then-prevailing average wage, plus an additional allowance for each child) for everyone, regardless of circumstances. A centrally administered national system of universal social insurance, comprehensive both in coverage and scope, would cover the unemployed, disabled, widows, and pensioners, with flat-rate contributions, flat-rate benefits, and no means test. Health care was to be provided to everyone at moderate charge through a National Health Service. Financing was to be based mainly on employer and employee contributions, with relatively modest help from the national exchequer. A modified version of Beveridge's recommendations was adopted in Britain after 1945, and it set the framework of debate and often the pattern of adoption in many other countries, especially in Europe.