Social Security is a Worldwide Phenomenon

Feb 12, 2021 / Amanda Chase, Horsesmouth Associate Editor

A number of people think the concept of Social Security is unique to the United States. Or they figure that maybe a couple of those “socialist” countries, such as Sweden and Denmark, have social insurance programs in place, but surely not too many other places. Actually, just the opposite is true. Almost every country on the planet has a Social Security system in place for its citizens. And many of those countries had Social Security laws on their books long before the U.S. jumped on the social insurance bandwagon in the 1930s.

The U.S. Social Security Administration produces a book called “Social Security Programs Throughout the World.” It provides thumbnail sketches of the history, funding and benefits of each country’s social insurance system. There are currently about 190 countries around the globe. And 177 of them have Social Security programs. To those who fret about the future of our Social Security system, tell them that Social Security isn’t an American experiment in socialism that will someday run its course. Instead, Social Security is a worldwide phenomenon. It is a system of rules and laws in place everywhere in the world, from Albania to Zimbabwe.

Most Social Security programs around the world offer benefits remarkably similar to our own—to retirees, disabled people and survivors. The rest of this column highlights the similarities and differences between a random selection of those 177 programs described in the book.


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