Tuesday, November 3, 2009

This week in New Zealand history

1 November 1898: the New Zealand Old-Age Pensions Act came into law, the first measure of its type in the British Empire.

The pension was modest (£18 a year), carefully means-tested, and had a racist element in its careful exclusion of "Chinese or other Asiatics". It was also limited to persons "deemed to be of good character"; no drunkards or fallen women allowed.

But for those fortunate enough to be eligible, the pension made the difference between destitution and a measure of security. It was the first stirrings of what eventually became New Zealand's social welfare system.

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