Social policy is based, since its inception, on a certain “philosophy” regarding the desirable social model, encompassing religious, political and social values, as well as appropriate objectives and tools for protecting vulnerable target groups. This philosophy differs both geographically and historically. Thus, European social policies have a specific axiological foundation comparing to social models developed on other continents. Even if relatively stable, this foundation is continuously redefined and, therefore, the European social model is an evolving concept. Our paper analyses how social vulnerability and vulnerable groups are redefined within the European social policies, during Covid-19 pandemic. If in recent decades the European social policies have tried to implement more selective and means-tested social protection, the approach to social protection during the pandemic is different, there are indications of increasing the universalisation of social benefits for covering new vulnerabilities. In our analysis, the pandemic accentuated some pre-existing trends to redefine the predilect target groups and their social protection: larger decommodification, protection for atypical employment, social security schemes covering new risks, and instruments for a new work-life balance. At the same time, European social protection policies tend towards synergy with actions in the fields of digitalisation and ecology. Are these changes temporary or will they last even after the pandemic? Of course, it is difficult to make predictions, but we believe that some of them anticipate possible structural reforms of more humane, less biopolitical European social protection policies. Our analysis is based on data from social statistics, official documents and public speeches.
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