The Great Depression exposed many weaknesses of modern industrialized society. In the war years, memories of the poverty and unemployment of the Depression inspired many people to propose new social welfare policies that would soften the effects of severe economic problems in the future.
Throughout his life, Sir William Henry Beveridge (1879-1963) worked on issues surrounding poverty. As a young man he worked in a housing development for the poor. After a period of work in the government, he later became Director of the London School of Economics before moving to Oxford University in 1937, where he wrote his most famous report,Social Insurance and Allied Services, or theBeveridge Report(1942). In the report, Beveridge identified three particular problems involved in the provision of social security. Within these, age was isolated as the largest issue, and the main solution he proposed was a contributory pension plan. Beveridge's report received world-wide recognition upon its release, and served as a blueprint for progressive social policy-making around the world:
"… age, as a cause of inability to earn after childhood is past, exceeds in importance all the other causes of such inability … The cost of pensions relatively to the rest of social security will increase inevitably through increases in the proportion of people of pensionable age in the population." (William Beveridge,Social Insurance and Allied Services, London, 1942, p. 90.)
Leonard Charles Marsh (1906-1982) began his life in England, where he studied at the London School of Economics under William Beveridge. In 1930, Marsh moved to Canada and became Director of the McGill Social Science Research Project. In addition to studying under Beveridge, Marsh had significant contact with the International Labour Organization in the war years when the organization's headquarters were temporarily moved from Geneva to Montreal. Like Beveridge, Marsh proposed the introduction of a contributory pension plan in Canada.
"Only in the case of permanent disability is it necessary to accept the fact that the earner has reached the end of his employment rail. The problems of security during old age and retirement for other reasons are therefore more closely allied with the problems of providing for permanent disability than they are with the plans for short-term security during unemployment, ill-health, accident, etc. The universality of old age automatically means that the nature of the problem concerns all peoples in all lands." (Leonard Marsh,Report on Social Security for Canada, Ottawa, 1943, p.68.)