In Jewish tradition, the poor are entitled to charity (represented by tzedakah) and justice as a matter of right rather than benevolence. Contemporary charity is regarded as a continuation of the Biblical Maaser Ani, or poor-tithe, as well as Biblical practices, such as permitting the poor to glean the corners of a field and harvest during the Shmita (Sabbatical year). Voluntary charity, along with prayer and repentance, is believed to ameliorate the consequences of bad acts.
The Song dynasty (c.1000AD) government supported multiple forms of social welfare programs, including the establishment of retirement homes, public clinics, and pauper’s graveyards 
The concepts of welfare and pension were put into practice in the early Islamic law[not in citation given] of the Caliphate as forms of Zakat (charity), one of the Five Pillars of Islam, since the time of the Rashidun caliph Umar in the 7th century. The taxes (including Zakat and Jizya) collected in the treasury of an Islamic government were used to provide income for the needy, including the poor, elderly, orphans, widows, and the disabled. According to the Islamic jurist Al-Ghazali (Algazel, 1058–1111), the government was also expected to store up food supplies in every region in case a disaster or famine occurred. (See Bayt al-mal for further information.)
There is relatively little statistical data on welfare transfer payments before the High Middle Ages. In the medieval period and until the Industrial Revolution, the function of welfare payments in Europe was principally achieved through private giving or charity. In those early times, there was a much broader group considered to be in poverty as compared to the 21st century.
Early welfare programs in Europe included the English Poor Law of 1601, which gave parishes the responsibility for providing welfare payments to the poor. This system was substantially modified by the 19th-century Poor Law Amendment Act, which introduced the system of workhouses.
It was predominantly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that an organized system of state welfare provision was introduced in many countries. Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of Germany, introduced one of the first welfare systems for the working classes. In Great Britain the Liberal government of Henry Campbell-Bannerman and David Lloyd George introduced the National Insurance system in 1911, a system later expanded by Clement Attlee. The United States did not have an organized welfare system until the Great Depression, when emergency relief measures were introduced under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Even then, 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.