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During the Great Depression, when emergency relief measures were introduced under President Franklin D.Roosevelt, Roosevelt's New Deal focused predominantly on a program of providing work and stimulating the economy through public spending on projects, rather than on cash payment.Public assistance programs were not called welfare until the early 20th century when the term was quickly adopted to avoid the negative connotations that had become associated with older terms such as charity.

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A welfare state is a political system wherein the State assumes responsibility for the health, education, and welfare of society.

The system of social security provides social services, such as universal medical care, unemployment insurance for workers, financial aid and free post-secondary education for students, subsidized public housing, pensions (sickness, incapacity, old-age), etc.

Some countries run conditional cash transfer welfare programs where payment is conditional on behavior of the recipients.

Prior to 1900 in Australia, charitable assistance from benevolent societies, sometimes with financial contributions from the authorities, was the primary means of relief for people not able to support themselves.

Modern welfare states include Germany, France, the Netherlands, In the Islamic world, Zakat (charity), one of the Five Pillars of Islam, has been collected by the government since the time of the Rashidun caliph Umar in the 7th century.

The taxes were used to provide income for the needy, including the poor, elderly, orphans, widows, and the disabled.

The Song dynasty government (c.1000AD in China) supported multiple programs which could be classified as social welfare, including the establishment of retirement homes, public clinics, and paupers' graveyards.

According to economist Robert Henry Nelson, "The medieval Roman Catholic Church operated a far-reaching and comprehensive welfare system for the poor..." This system was substantially modified by the 19th-century Poor Law Amendment Act, which introduced the system of workhouses.

In the countries of western Europe, Scandinavia, and Australasia (New Zealand), the national government provides social welfare that is paid from the national tax revenues, and by non-government organizations (NGOs), and charities (social and religious). S., welfare program is the general term for government support of the well-being of poor people; likewise, the term social security refers to the social insurance program for retired and disabled people.

Elsewhere, the term social security has a broader definition, which refers to the economic security that a society offers when people are sick, disabled, and unemployed. K., government use of the term welfare includes help for poor people and benefits, specific social services, such as help in finding employment.

Welfare is provided by governments or their agencies, by private organizations, or a combination of both.

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