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CHAPTER VI.

WORKMEN'S INSURANCE IN GREAT BRITAIN.

XI

CHAPTER VI.

WORKMEN'S INSURANCE IN GREAT BRITAIN.

INTRODUCTION.

The industrial development of the United Kingdom, embracing as it does all classes of industries from the agricultural to highly developed manufacturing and commercial undertakings, would seem to afford scope for the operation of correspondingly developed forms of insurance in every field. Except for the mandatory provisions of the compensation acts, however, such provisions as exist are entirely voluntary.

Insurance, widely extended and fairly adequate to the needs of the various classes of workmen, is provided for by various statutes, with the payment of benefits in case of death or disability caused by accidental injury or by sickness, as well as old-age pensions. These provisions are in part supervisory, as in the legalization and control of friendly societies and institutions of like nature; and in part mandatory, as in the workmen's compensation acts; while absolute provision is made for payment by the Government itself of old-age pensions within prescribed conditions. Insurance and annuities may also be procured through the agency of the State. Apart from such statutory provisions, moreover, and originating before their enactment, there are what may be classed as merely permitted organizations, which are entirely voluntary in their formation, and which come only in slight degree under the regulations prescribed by the statutes referred to.

By means of these various agencies an industrial population of between twenty and twenty-five millions is offered protection of different kinds and extent, the compensation act of 1906 applying to approximately thirteen millions of persons, while friendly societies embrace a membership of six millions and trade unions a membership of two and one-half millions. The number of persons pensionable under the old-age pension act of 1908 approximates 700,000. The opportunity offered by the Government to obtain insurances and annuities through the post-office is in no sense restricted to classes of population, but by its very nature and the limitations as to amounts, it appeals to those of moderate incomes. It is, however, of small effect, the number of policies in existence after three-quarters of a century amounting to about 3,000 deferred annuity contracts and 13,000 insurances. The number of immediate annuities is larger,

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though not great, an average of 1,840 policies having been issued annually during the ten-year period 1899 to 1908. During the five years 1896 to 1900, when these policies seem to have been in greatest favor, the average annual number issued was 2,123.

ACCIDENT AND SICKNESS INSURANCE.

The problem of meeting the need of definite relief in cases of industrial accident has occupied the attention of Parliament for a number of years, with the result that, in addition to various laws enacted to fix the liability of employers for injuries to their employees, two compensation acts have been passed, the first in 1897, and the present law in 1906. Both these laws contain provisions for the substitution of other forms of relief or insurance than that set forth by the statute itself, on compliance with conditions set forth in the laws, and it is only in this connection that the subject of accident insurance, strictly speaking, is involved in the operation of these laws; this subject, therefore, as well as that of the so-called "schemes” for contracting out will receive consideration in connection there with.

British custom and law define the boundaries of the results of sickness and accident far less distinctly than is the case in most countries arranging for insurance of this nature. The workmen's compensation act is addressed to the mitigation of the results of "personal injury by accident” befalling workmen in their employment, but its benefits reach also to disability occasioned by certain diseases specified in the act, while the secretary of state is empowered by the law to extend its operation to other diseases, and to other injuries than those caused by accident. As regards the provisions of friendly societies and trade unions, sickness and accident are not distinguished, the insurance granted by these institutions being for the disability for labor, regardless of its cause; it is impossible, therefore, to distinguish costs, administration, etc., for the two forms of disability benefits, so that, apart from the statistical presentation of rates of accidents, no effort is made to treat them separately.

SUPERANNUATION.

The subject of provision for old age is closely related to that of disability from other causes, the distinctive element being the test of years. The Government by its act of 1908 grants pensions to persons of the age of 70 years and upward, whose income falls below a specified standard, and who are not debarred by prescribed tests, among which physical condition is not included. The institutions already named, friendly societies and trade unions, while fixing an age limit for the commencement of superannuation benefits, may also include the provision that the beneficiary must be physically unable to earn more than a specified amount. The tendency of sick relief to shade into superannuation benefits will appear more fully in the presentation of the subject under the various heads.

Annuities, as well as life insurance, may be procured through the post-office as the agency of the Government in this behalf, but as will appear in the section devoted to this phase of the subject, the effects of the law arranging for such form of old-age insurance are negligible in a study of industrial conditions, although the law providing therefor has been on the statute books since 1882 and in different forms since 1833.

AGENCIES FOR PROCURING INSURANCE. The various instrumentalities through which the different forms of insurance enumerated above may be procured have already received incidental mention. Courts of law are of course open to suitors under the liability law, and their judges may act as arbitrators in the adjustment of claims for compensation under the compensation act.

Among voluntary organizations the friendly societies are the oldest, presenting an unbroken history of mutual assistance in all these lines of relief, taking their beginning, as seems most likely, from the mediæval guilds. These in turn may be followed back, if not through a line of actual descent, at least by a likeness of purpose and character, through the time of the foundation of the Germanic States, and even to Latin and Greek class or trade groups and societies. The legislation attendant on the development of the friendly societies and the scope and methods of their working will be taken up later. It is sufficient to say at this point that they are an expression of the spirit of self-help by reason of which the workman has attempted in different ways to spare himself the humiliation of "going on the rates” in case of disability, or of burial as a pauper in case of death. This spirit has been encouraged by the middle and upper classes by material aid and by other forms of assistance and advice, as well as by parliamentary action.

It may be noted in this connection that the action of Parliament in making provision for old-age pensions, as well as other proposals looking to relief in sickness, have been the subjects of much discussion on account of their probable influence on their recipients in the matter of self-help and reliance. The reports and memoranda of governmental committees on the subject of old-age pensions disclose the same principal legislative and economic view points as are set forth in the reports of a much earlier date on the subject of legislation in behalf of friendly societies, i. e., "promoting the happiness of individuals and at the same time diminishing the public burdens," and "encouraging the industrial population by state aid or otherwise to make provision for old age.” The commission of 1907 found that a large section of the 250,000 persons

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