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Bismarck’s social insurance legislation in Imperial Germany A comparison with UK Liberal welfare reforms.

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Presentation on theme: "Bismarck’s social insurance legislation in Imperial Germany A comparison with UK Liberal welfare reforms."— Presentation transcript:

1 Bismarck’s social insurance legislation in Imperial Germany A comparison with UK Liberal welfare reforms

2 Structure of Lecture Part A: Late 19 th century Germany –The founding of an industrial empire –Social insurance legislation (1880s) Part B: Britain and social insurance –Demands for social reform ( ) –Outcomes: social insurance in context Part C: Comparisons and conclusions –The different objectives (policy logics) –Regime contradictions

3 Part A: Germany in the late 19 th century (recap) (1) Empire, governance and industrialisation Kaiser absolutism and Junker dominance –Weakness of Reichstag (low tax capacity) –Weakness of liberal laissez-faire capitalism Rapid, successful industrialisation –State-sponsored: protectionist –Railways & armaments (German unification) –Post 1848 revolution: socialist problem (SPD) –Trade unions. RC: Hirsch Duncker (liberal): ‘free’ (SPD) – the latter being the most successful

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5 Visions of Bismarck

6 Germany in the late 19 th century (recap) (2) Coping with poverty Poor Law (in rural Prussia, quasi-feudal) Prussian legislation –1849 Prussian law empowers municipalities to compel workers to join mutual aid societies –1854 Prussian miners compelled to join benevolent funds Rapid industrialisation and urban growth –Collapse of financial base of poor law –Pressure from localities for reform

7 Bismarck’s legislation To win workers’ loyalty to the Reich 1883 Health Insurance (joint contributions) 1884 Accident Insurance (employers’ contributions) 1889 Old age and Invalidity Insurance (tri- partite contributions) : Anti-Socialist Laws in force (repression of ‘free’ TUs and SPD)

8 Common features Contributions and benefits all earnings-related Cover confined to employed industrial workforce (low protection for migrants, the very poor or women: excludes rural workers) –E.g. Ehrfurt: 1895 – 10% population covered by social insurance Aim: to give skilled, well-paid and organised (socialist) German workers a vested interest in the Reich

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10 New Kaiser: new policy More emphasis on incorporation free trade unions & SPD (not repression) Partly by fostering local autonomy and local responsibility for social policy –Reich to focus on foreign policy / trade –Local states and free cities to determine operation of (particularly) health insurance and labour market placement services –= varied responses to free trade unions –Local action informed by social science (Berlin)

11 SPD and sickness funds Whole range of established (& new) sick funds register under legislation. Sickness fund administration –Council elected in proportion to contributions –Financed two-thirds by workers: one-third by employers (elected officials: 2 out of 3 = workers’ representatives) –During repression, SPD use this to consolidate organisation at local level

12 Britain and social reform : origins of Liberal welfare reform Recurrent economic depression: recurrent crises in poor law finance (inner cities) Poverty exposed (Booth and Rowntree) –Threat to physical efficiency (Eugenics) –Threat to economic / Imperial supremacy 1906 and after: threat of Labour Party to Liberal parliamentary majority

13 British Liberal Welfare Reforms Outcome: reforming the labour market 1906 Trade Disputes Act (TUs legal protection) 1908 Old Age Pensions Act (tax-funded) 1908 Wages Boards Act (‘sweated’ trades) 1908 Labour exchanges (decasualisation) 1911 National Insurance (contributory) –Part 1 health insurance (universal) – via registered friendly societies & trade unions –Part 2 unemployment insurance (5 trades) – single central fund

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15 Fabian socialist influence

16 Conclusions I: similarities Both cases see social insurance as part of solution to crisis of poor law. Insurance principle: identify and isolate regular workers= male heads of household –The vested interest in supporting the government Supporting economic modernisation (protection against new ‘risks’) –The significance of social science in the analysis of social problems Consolidating Empire

17 Conclusions II: dissimilarities Different objectives (policy logics) Germany: working class allegiance to Reich –SPD suppressed: welfare legislation passed –Contributory schemes offer social rights –Schemes aimed at well-off workers, not poor UK: meeting economic threat of pauperism –Welfare legislation & growth of TU protection –Contributory schemes = extension of ‘friendly’ society protection –More tax payer subsidy (esp. pensions which include cover for women)

18 Conclusions III: More dissimilarity Counter-factual outcomes + remits of state power Germany: –authoritarian regime fosters social democracy = roots of industrial co-determination –Limitations on nation state: Reich respect for municipal /state powers = diversity UK: –liberal democracy fosters autocratic (centralised & bureaucratic) social insurance (actuarial principle) –Corrosion of local autonomy


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