Labor Markets, Unions, and Government Policies

By Everett Johnson Burtt Jr. | Go to book overview

21 ■
THE GOVERNMENT AND ECONOMIC SECURITY

THE MAJOR SOURCES of economic insecurity for workers and their families are unemployment, sickness, disability or death of the wage earner, and retirement because of old age. Each of these brings loss of income and possibly increased expenditures and can cause economic hardship and even financial disaster. Within the modern urbanized, industrialized economy, where the income of the individual and the family is primarily derived from wages and salaries, protection against serious income losses is a principal objective of government economic security programs.


Relief and Social Insurance

Governments have long recognized the responsibility of providing for the needy in society. In the United States prior to the Social Security Act of 1935, local governments bore the primary costs of relief for the poor, sick, and aged. Their assistance programs were generally organized to meet actual needs, as measured by the gap between some accepted minimum standard of income and the "means" available to the individual. The income and assets of the family unit therefore had to be investigated by a social worker or some welfare officer. Many limitations were placed on the granting of relief payments, however. For example, they were paid only to those who had resided within the community for a specified period of time, in order to prevent an overwhelming number of applicants from other areas. Communities would deny relief to those whose relatives were able to furnish support.

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