The mutualist movement gained strength at the second half of the 19 th century, responding to the growing feeling of insecurity in the working class. The steady increase in the wage-earning class, the low pay received by the workers, the workers’ powerlessness to adapt in the face of crises and monetary fluctuations and, finally, the random nature of access to jobs plunged the working class into pauperism. In this situation, however, workers did not want to have to turn to public assistance or charity as destitute people without work were obliged to do. They therefore decided to organise solidarity funds by putting aside a proportion of their salary to help those who succumbed to certain risks: sickness (disability), accidents, old age, death, etc. This mutual aid given to overcome the effects of risks and the funding of this aid through workers’ contributions was to be the cornerstone of social insurance schemes and the funding of social security.
By the end of the century, mutual benefit societies were already regulated by elaborate legislation and had quite a high number of members in several countries. With large national mutualist movements in operation and already working together and an impressive prevailing trend towards the internationalisation of social issues, the scene was set for the first International Mutuality Congress in 1900. Several congresses followed, one of which in Milan in 1906, where the “International Mutuality Federation” was established, AIM’s ancestor.