Forces of reaction: the cross-class alliance against earnings-related pensions in Britain in the 1950s

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

Abstract

In 1957, the British Labour Party published radical proposals for a state earnings-related pension scheme. ‘National Superannuation’ would produce an earnings-related pension equivalent to about ‘half-pay on retirement’. The very large funds that this would generate would be invested by the state in equity and bond markets to generate high returns. Ultimately, however, this radical idea failed to catch the imagination of voters in the 1959 general election and Britain’s first experience of earnings-related pensions was the much more limited ‘graduated pension’ implemented by the Conservatives in 1961 as a ‘back-stop’ to the continued growth of private pensions. In part, this was the product of a sophisticated lobbying campaign by the insurance industry, which feared that National Superannuation would mark the end of its lucrative occupational pension scheme business. But an important part in the failure of National Superannuation was also played by trade unions that resisted Labour’s attempt to break the power of the pension funds. This paper explores the resistance to ‘National Superannuation’ and considers the implications of this cross-class alliance between capital and labour, not least in terms of a possible missed opportunity to build a ‘developmental state’ in the UK, but also in terms of the country’s increasingly inadequate system of pension provision.
Translated title of the contributionForces of reaction: the cross-class alliance against earnings-related pensions in Britain in the 1950s
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean Social Science History Conference
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2008

Bibliographical note

Name and Venue of Event: Lisbon
Conference Organiser: International Institute of Social History

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