Chapter 1: Introduction
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At the start of the twentieth century only three countries had any form of national social protection. By the end of the century almost all nations had legislated some form of social protection. Thus social protection is very much a creation of the twentieth century. The form and extent of social protection differ greatly between nations but the fact that nearly all countries, differing greatly in their economic, social and cultural circumstances, have introduced social protection is of itself remarkable. Now, early in the twenty-first century, social protection remains a highly contested area of public policy. Some nations are looking to cut it back, others to expand it, many are concerned about its future cost and sustainability. Some politicians, policy analysts and citizens see social protection, or welfare generally, as unaffordable and undesirable, creating dependency and undermining economic and family life; others see it as a force for good, liberating the most disadvantaged, reducing poverty and inequality and underpinning a modern economy.

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