Sir, Alex J Pollock’s assessment of Otto von Bismarck’s actuarial abilities (Letters, August 18) are wide of the mark on several counts. The German pension introduced in 1889 had nothing to do with retirement, but replaced earned income lost due to age (70) or disability, the latter category covering roughly eight out of 10 German state “pensioners” by the early 20th century. Neither the Iron Chancellor (nor anyone else, for that matter) knew much about the extent of disability among the working classes when the legislation was initially drawn up.

Bismarck himself blithely assumed that the entire scheme would be financed out of general tax revenues. It was the actuaries found in his Interior Office who disillusioned him and drew up the contributory scales of the world’s first funded state pension scheme.

Noel Whiteside

Professor of Comparative Public Policy,

Institute of Employment Research,

University of Warwick, UK

Letter in response to this letter:

Bismarck’s system was based on disability not age / From Bernard H Casey

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