It is still prevailing practice to define social security in terms of the types of public instruments and institutional settings that formally aim at guaranteeing citizens an achieved or minimum standard of living (most typically by means of social insurance and social assistance). However, Berghman (1986) challenged such an instrumental definition by suggesting that social security could perhaps be better understood if one focuses not on the instruments as such, but on their goals. In this perspective, social security is a status of citizens, in which they experience and perceive security as regards their socio-economic existence (‘actor-security’). Social security policies and instruments are then seen as parts of a wider social setting providing a (more or less) stable and viable socio-political and socio-economic context for citizens’ lives (‘system-security’). The interesting empirical questions this perspective leads to are twofold. Firstly, how secure do people actually feel when it comes to their socio-economic status? And secondly, to what degree do social security policies and instruments positively affect such feelings?
This paper aims at answering these two questions. First, I will develop concepts and arguments further, and than present the results of analyses of data from the 2008 European Social Survey in which Europeans were asked how they perceived their future income and employment security.