Jay Wiggan
Dr Jay Wiggan
Senior Lecturer in Social Policy
Social Policy School of Social and Political Science
University of Edinburgh
3.07 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
+44 (0) 131 6503939
Labour Market Policy Welfare Markets Welfare reform politics Archival Research and Document Analyses Unemployment Critical Discourse Analysis social security Work Cultural Political Economy


PGCHET (Queen's University Belfast) PhD (University of Nottingham) MA (University of Leeds) BA (UCLAN)

Research interests

Jay’s research concentrates on the politics of labour market policy and the governance of public employment services and social security administration. Recent work includes; analysis of the financialisation of social policy via social impact investment markets; comparative analysis of the employment service quasi-markets in Great Britain and Ireland and a critical analysis of the Work Programme and Mandatory Work Activity employment schemes in Britain.

Jay is also interested in the temporal and spatial variability of the 'activation' turn in labour market and social security policy and how this manifests in policy discourse. Recent work in this area has explored the emergence of a social democratic imaginary in Scotland as an alternative to UK Government discourse around 'welfare reform'. This strand of work is linked to a general interest in understanding the role of ideas in policymaking and how this relates to the agency of  'dominant' and 'dominated' actors within public policy. 

During 2016-17 Jay was engaged in research for the  project: 'Bringing labour back in: class antagonism, labour agency and Britain’s active labour market reforms', supported by a fellowship from the Independent Social Research Foundation.  The study examined the evolution of active labour market policy in Britain from the mid 1970s and how the development of conditionality and workfare both shaped, and was shaped by, practices of resistance, subversion and evasion. Early findings from the archival aspect of this research, exploring a visual history of social 'resistance' within social security and employment programmes, was presented to the conference on Welfare Conditionality held at the University of York in 2018. Drawing on the research conducted for this project Jay is currently writing a book on the politics of unemployment policy in Britain between 1975 and 2020.

Prior to moving to Edinburgh, Jay held a lectureship in social policy at Queen’s University, Belfast and has held research positions at the University of Manchester and the University of Nottingham. He has worked on policy related projects for a variety of organisations including Age NI; the National Association of Welfare Rights Advisors; the National Audit Office; the Department for Work and Pensions and Salford City Council.


Teaching interests and activity

  • Jay is currently Programme Director for the MSc Public Policy and course organiser for the postgraduate course Political Issues in Public Policy. Jay has previously served as Programme Director of the MSc Policy Studies and MSc Comparative Public Policy and course organiser of the  postgraduate course Global and International Social Policy. Jay has also contributed teaching to the undergraduate courses; Social Policy & Society; Rethinking the Financial Crisis and The Politics of the Welfare State. 

PhD Supervision

Jay is interested in supervising doctoral students in the following areas and welcomes expressions of interest regarding this.

  • The politics of labour market and social security policy.
  • The governance of public employment services and social security administration.
  • Social impact investment and/or public sector quasi-markets in the welfare state.
  • Critical policy discourse analysis and the political economy of welfare state reform. 
  • UK devolution and varieties of 'welfare reform'.
  • Self governance, mutual aid and alternatives to state welfare provision.

Select publications

Journal articles

Wiggan, J. (2018) 'Policy Boostering the Social Impact Investment Market in the UK', Journal of Social Policy, Vol. 47, Issue 4: 721-738

Jantz, B. Klenk, T. Larsen, F. Wiggan, J. (2018) 'Marketization and Varieties of Accountability Relationships in Employment Services: Comparing Denmark, Germany, and Great Britain', Administration & Society, pp 321-345. Vol. 50. No. 3.

Wiggan, J. (2017) 'Contesting the austerity and “welfare reform” narrative of the UK Government: Forging a social democratic imaginary in Scotland', International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, pp 639-654. Vol 37. Issue 11-12 

Rafferty, A. L. & Wiggan, J. (2017) 'The time-related underemployment of lone parents during welfare reform, recession and austerity: A challenge to in-work conditionality?' Social Policy & Administration. pp 511-538. Vol. 51, No. 3.

Wiggan, J. (2015) 'Reading active labour market policy politically: An autonomist analysis of Britain’s Work Programme and Mandatory Work Activity', Critical Social Policy, pp 369-392, Vol. 35, No. 3.

Wiggan, J. (2015) Varieties of marketisation in the UK: examining divergence in activation markets between Great Britain and Northern Ireland 2008-2014, pp 115-132, Policy Studies, Vol. 36, Issue 2.

Wiggan, J. (2012) 'Telling stories of 21st Century Welfare: the UK Coalition Government and the neo-liberal discourse of worklessness and dependency ', Critical Social Policy, pp 383-405, Vol. 32, No. 3.

Wiggan, J. (2012) ‘A kingdom united? Devolution and welfare reform in Northern Ireland and Great Britain’, pp 55-70, Policy & Politics, Vol. 40, No. 1

Rafferty, A. & Wiggan, J. (2011) ‘Choice and welfare reform: lone parents’ decision making around paid work and family life’, pp 275-293, Journal of Social Policy, Vol. 40, No. 2.

Wiggan, J. (2010) 'Managing time: the integration of caring and paid work by low income families and the role of the Uk's tax credit system', pp 631-645, Policy Studies, Vol. 31, No. 6.

Talbot, C. & Wiggan, J. (2010) ‘Public Value of the National Audit Office’, International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 23, Issue 1.

Wiggan, J. (2009) ‘Mapping the governance reform of welfare to work in Britain under New Labour , International Journal of Public Administration, pp 1-21, Vol. 32, Issue 12.

Brookes, S. & Wiggan, J. (2009) ‘Reflecting the Public Value of Sport: A game of two halves’, Public Management Review, pp 401-420, Vol. 11, Issue 4.

Wiggan, J. (2007) ‘Reforming the United Kingdom’s public employment and social security agencies’, International Review of Administrative Sciences, pp 409-424, No. 3, Vol. 73, September.

Wiggan, J. (2007) ‘Administering economic reform: labour and the governance of social security’, Policy & Politics, No. 4, Vol. 35, October.

Wiggan, J. & Talbot, C. (2006) 'The benefits of welfare rights advice', Benefits – The Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, pp, 235-239,Vol. 14, No. 3, October.


Wiggan, J. (2019) 'Financialisation, Social Impact Bonds and the making of new market spaces in social policy', in Whitworth, A. (ed.) Towards a spatial social policy: bridging the gap between geography and social policy, Bristol University Press, Bristol. 

Wiggan, J. (2016) 'Austerity Politics', Chapter 21, Alcock, P. Haux, T. May, M. Wright, S. (eds.) The Student's Companion to Social Policy, 5th Edition, Wiley-Blackwell.

Wiggan, J. (2015) 'What variety of employment service quasi-market? Ireland's JobPath as a private power market', in Irving, Z. Fenger, M. and Hudson, J. (eds) Social Policy Review 27, The Policy Press, Bristol.

Wiggan, J. (2011) 'Something old and blue or red, bold and new? Welfare reform under the Coalition Government' in Holden, C. Kilkey, M and Ramia, G (eds) Social Policy Review 23, The Policy Press.

Wiggan, J. (2007) ‘Department for Work & Pensions’, pp 110-117 in Talbot, C. & Baker, M. (eds.) The Alternative Comprehensive Spending Review, Manchester University Press.

Wiggan, J. & Talbot, C. (2006) ‘Take-up of Entitlements and Pensioner Poverty: A Review of the Literature’, Chapter 6, pp 47-58, Progress in Tackling Pensioner Poverty: Encouraging Take-up of entitlements – Technical Report, Comptroller and Auditor General, HC1178-11, Session 2005-2006, TSO, London.

Research Reports and commentary

Wiggan, J. (2020) Short time working programmes and mass unemployment in Britain: it was acceptable in the 80s,  Autonomy Institute.

Rafferty, A. & Wiggan, J. (2008) Lone Parents and the reform of UK Public Employment Services: Examining the role of private recruitment agencies, Recruitment and Employment Confederation/ Adecco Institute, December, http://www.rec.uk.com/home

Talbot, C. & Wiggan, J. with Hendey, N. Rafferty, A. Calcraft, R. Freestone, M. & Wyatt, B. (2005) Jobcentre Plus customer service performance and  delivery: A qualitative review, Research Report No. 276, Department for Work and Pensions, Corporate Document Services, Leeds.