The Soviet government enacted its first social-welfare decree within one week of taking power, putting the burden on private firms to insure their employees against disability and other risks. With the nationalization of most industry, the state became the main insurer. The categories eligible for public assistance were broadened slowly in the 1920s. In 1937 all employed persons—a category that excluded peasants on the collective farms—became eligible for old-age pensions. Income maintenance programs were overhauled in 1956 and reformed again in the 1970s, when the formerly excluded peasants were brought into the state pension scheme.
The Soviet social-security system was quite comprehensive in coverage. Legislation provided for old-age pensions to all women and men beginning at the retirement age, mothers’ allowances for families with three or more children, pensions for disability or loss of a family wage earner, and grants to students in higher education. All medical services were provided free of charge.
Government-provided social services, such as health care, registered some successes in the USSR; they also suffered from overuse, corruption, and unequal access. Pensions and other income maintenance programs were extremely popular, but the sums provided were often insufficient. Partly in recognition of limitations on its resources, the regime in the 1930s reconsidered its earlier coolness toward the nuclear family and passed laws affirming the importance of marriage and of family responsibility for children and elderly parents. Even after income support was made more generous in the 1950s and 1960s, many Soviet citizens relied on their relatives to give them shelter and financial aid in their old age or at times of illness. "USSR" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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