A unique role in the world of international organizations

The roots of the International Social Security Association lie in mutual insurance, the collective response of 19th-century European industrial workers to illness, unemployment, disability and old age. In the space of nine decades, the ISSA has expanded into a truly worldwide Association, now bringing together more than 330 organizations in 158 countries. With the immense challenges the world is facing, its commitment to promoting social security will be needed more than ever to secure social justice for all.
First Regional meeting for Asia and Oceania, 1962

Spanning the globe: 1947 – 1975

The Cold War entrenched the ideological schism between industrial nations. But this was also the era of decolonization and a third world force was on the rise that was to transform the ISSA into a truly global organization represented in all the regions.

Under the leadership of Presidents Renato Morelli of Italy, Reinhold Melas of Austria and Jérôme Dejardin of Belgium, and Secretaries General Rudolf Aladar Métall and Leo Wildmann, both Austrian, the three decades following World War II saw an increase in membership from 39 affiliate members and 21 countries represented in 1947 to 246 affiliate members and 104 countries represented in 1977, with associate members being admitted from 1955.

In 1949, the Social Insurance Institution of Turkey became the first of the ISSA's Asian members; their number grew significantly during the 1950s. By 1957, the number of Latin American countries represented reached 18.

Once the countries of Africa start to win their independence, ISSA membership there quickly grew too: French-speaking organizations lead the way in the 1957-67 period, with the number of English-speaking African members increasing markedly after 1967. Following a quarter-century of steady ISSA expansion, the 17th General Assembly in Abidjan in 1973 was the first to be held on the African continent.

Technical activities

The 1947 Constitution made provision for the creation of technical committees. This was to be the most significant constitutional provision for the ISSA's development and its method of work over the next 20 years. The first to be established were the Permanent Medico-Social Committee, renamed Permanent Committee on Medical Care and Sickness Insurance in 1971, and the Permanent Committee on Mutual Benefit Societies. Further permanent technical committees, subsequently called technical commissions, were set up in the next years, with the focus on family allowances, unemployment insurance and employment maintenance, prevention of occupational risks, insurance against employment accidents and occupational diseases, old-age, invalidity and survivors' insurance, actuarial and statistical issues, organization and methods, and legal aspects of social security.


The 1955 amendment of the Constitution provided for the organization of research, but it was not until the mid-1960s that the ISSA systematically began activities in this area. In 1966, a round-table meeting on the sociology of social security was held jointly by the ISSA and the International Sociological Association in Evian, France. The first research conference took place in Vienna in 1969. The Bureau created the Advisory Committee on Social Security Research in 1972. This was transformed into a full Technical Commission by the constitutional amendments adopted at the 26th General Assembly in 1998, placing research on the same footing as the other technical activities of the Association.

Consolidation: 1975 – 1990

Under the leadership of Secretary General Vladimir Rys (UK), these years saw great strides in the development of regional and research activities and in the number and range of publications stemming from these activities.

The first regional programme, comprising regional meetings, conferences and training activities for the ISSA's four regions, was proposed and approved at the 19th General Assembly (Madrid, 1977). The role of the regional activities was recognized as an essential complement to the technical activities of the permanent committees. Accordingly, the first regional conferences of this era took place in Cairo (1978), Ottawa (1979) and Tashkent (1979). The research programme was incorporated into the Constitution at the 21st General Assembly (Geneva, 1983), though it had been in existence since the beginning of the 1970s under the monitoring of the Advisory Committee on Social Security Research. The first meeting of heads of ISSA member organizations in the Pacific took place in Fiji in 1989.

The ISSA developed its publishing programme, and launched its electronic data processing activities in the 1970s. The Associations' quarterly journal, the International Social Security Review , confirmed its position as the authoritative scholarly publication on social security.

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