Summary of Bismarck’s domestic policy in Germany, 1871-90

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Although Bismarck introduced these reforms more to trump the socialists than out of any genuine concerns for Germany’s working classes, they did represent a pioneering set of welfare reforms, coming over about a quarter of a century before the celebrated reforms of similar nature of Lloyd George’s British government in the period 1906-14:

-1883: Medical insurance, contributed to weekly/monthly by both the employer and employee (like the Lloyd George’s national insurance scheme, still functioning today), was brought in covering 3 million workers and their families, whereby their medical bills would be covered by the state.

-1884: an accident insurance scheme (funded entirely by employers) was set up to cover those injured at work.

-1886: this accident insurance scheme was extended to 7 million agricultural labourers.

-1889: State pensions were introduced for workers when they reached the age of 70.

*There were, however, also some far less palatable effects of the growth of Germany’s economy in the 1871-90 period.

-The domination of the countryside by the few enterprising farmers to benefit from the protective tariffs and shift in agricultural technology (as well as the Junkers) led to the majority of farmers and agricultural labours feeling forced to emigrate to the nearby towns to find work as labourers in the factories proliferating there. This rural depopulation and consequent explosion in the population of Germany’s cities and towns (Berlin’s population, for example, grew from 967,000 to 1,588,000 from 1875 to 1890) led to severe overcrowding and desperately harsh (and poorly paid) working conditions in the towns, which continued, for many, long after Bismarck’s welfare reforms:

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