The social security systems that, perhaps more than any other governmental programmes, have characterized the development of industrial societies are under siege. On the threshold of the 21st century, the future of social insurance is uncertain; it may even be seriously threatened. In this study, nine leading scholars probe deeply into the nature of social rights, trying to read the near future and locate the most meaningful and effective role that social insurance can play as today's new socioeconomic patterns develop. In-depth chapters analyse existing systems and recent and ongoing reforms in seven countries - Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden, the United States, Japan, Taiwan and China. There is also a chapter on the European Union's work toward a harmonized scheme to match other programmes of integration, and a chapter on the all-important interpenetration of social insurance and human rights. The authors clearly demonstrate that the unprecedented challenges faced by social insurance today arise not only from changes in the patterns of society, but also from lack of confidence and ideological prejudice on the part of both academia and public policy.