This was subject to meeting certain criteria and was means tested. Critically life expectancy was much lower so this was not a significant expense to the state.
Moving forward over a century things have changed completely. The massive baby boomer generation is now retiring, life expectancy has risen dramatically and yet a huge swathe of the British public is in denial about the likely poverty that they will face in their retirement.
'I've paid in all my life' is a much heard comment. However, the current state pension is a giant Ponzi Scheme. Contributions are not ring fenced but instead are used to fund payments to current pensioners. As the population of pensioners is increasing and they are living for longer it's pretty obvious that the current system isn't sustainable.
As we've seen recently, with the implementation of Auto Enrolment, the responsibility of solving this conundrum is being passed to employers. This follows hot on the heels of increased employment legislation, minimum wage and now the living wage. Curiously, at the same time, the population of the self employed has increased massively as has the formation of limited companies. The worry is that some of these people are forced into accepting these 'freelance' roles because there is no other choice. The suggestion then is that this increase is being created by the over regulation of employers.
There is even evidence that some self employed people are earning way below the minimum wage but they are outside the protective net. With that being the case what hope do these people have of saving for their retirement?
Law makers seem oblivious to the two tier society that is being created before our eyes. We are watching a perfect storm and someone somewhere needs to react quickly.