Mauritius's unusual welfare state dates back to the introduction of non-contributory old-age pensions in 1950. This article examines the origins of this reform, focusing on the interactions between political actors in both Mauritius (local planters, political activists, and the colonial government) and London (the Colonial Office and Labour Party). Faced with riots among unorganised sugar estate workers in 1937, the colonial administration considered welfare reforms as part of a package intended to substitute for political change. The nascent Mauritian Labour Party used its links to the British Labour Party to apply additional pressure on the Colonial Office and, hence, the Governor in Mauritius. Welfare reform was stalled, however, by resistance from, initially, the governor and, later, the Colonial Office. It took partial democratisation in 1948 to push the local administration towards reluctant reform. The choice of tax-financed old-age pensions reflected the combination of a small and open economy, the absence of surplus land, poorly organised workers, and an effective state.