Social security (also called social welfare) is a system of social services intended to counter risks and uncertainties that arise within society. A product of the industrial era and linked to employment, it was initially intended to respond to certain pressing needs (workplace accidents and employment-related illness in particular), and to institutionalize solidarity within society lest individuals be obliged to depend on charity. Social security has been expanded progressively to other areas and now deals with a large spectrum of risks and social uncertainties (unemployment, maternity, old age, disability, income loss, aid to families and children and services for dependent survivors and orphans).
The development of the welfare state naturally implied the choice of a certain sort of society. With the creation of the ILO then the United Nations, social security became recognized a basic human right and was codified as such in international treaties. However, although in some countries substantial achievements have been made, some 80% of the world’s population, entirely or partially, is excluded from social security. Worse, the implementation of neo-liberal policies throughout the world over the past three decades has meant a dismantling or, at least, a weakening, of social security in the countries (especially in Europe) where it was institutionalized and universalized with success after the Second World War.