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Jay Wiggan
Dr Jay Wiggan
Lecturer in Social Policy; Programme Director of the MSc Comparative Public Policy & MSc Policy Studies
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
Welfare systems marketisation Left-libertarianism Labour Market welfare reform Policy narratives Devolution and social security disability discourse analysis


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

Research interests

Jay’s research is focused on the politics of active labour market policy and the governance of public employment services and social security administration. Recent work has included comparative analysis of the rescaling of 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. The focus here is in unpacking the interplay of discourse and the 'material' as actors compete to support or displace dominant interpretations and representations of desirable and feasible forms of governance that support or contest particular power relations and patterns of inequality. Recent work in this area has explored the emergence of a social democratic imaginary in Scotland that provides for a vision of contemporary and future welfare governance that challanges that of the UK Government.

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 examines 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. 

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; Jobcentre Plus; the National Audit Office; the Department for Work and Pensions; the National Association of Welfare Rights Advisors and Salford City Council.


  • Member of the Editorial Collective of the journal- Critical Social Policy
  • Member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Social Policy.
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
  • Member of the Social Policy Association.

Teaching interests and activity

  • Jay is Programme Director for the MSc Comparative Public Policy and Programme Director for the MSc Policy Studies. He convenes and lectures on the postgraduate courses Political Issues in Public Policy and Global and International Social Policy and has previously contributed lectures to the undergraduate courses; Social Policy & Society; Rethinking the Financial Crisis; 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.

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

Select publications

Journal articles

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
, 37 (11-12): 639-654

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. 51 (3): 511-538.

A related written submission of evidence to the Work & Pensions Select Committee: In-work progression in Universal Credit Inquiry can be found at the following link

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.

Jantz, B. Klenk, T. Larsen, F. Wiggan, J. (2015) 'Marketization and Varieties of Accountability Relationships in Employment Services: Comparing Denmark, Germany, and Great Britain', Administration & Society, Online First.

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. (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

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.