Dr Zoë Irving

MA (Hons) Social Policy; PhD Social Policy

  • Senior Lecturer in Comparative and Global Social Policy
  • Erasmus Coordinator

Visit Dr Zoe Irving's profile on the York Research Database to see a full list of publications and browse her research related activities.


I have previously worked as a researcher at the Centre for Research in Social Policy, Loughborough University and lectured at Leeds Metropolitan (now Beckett) University (1994-2001), and the University of Sheffield (2002-2014). I have also been a visiting lecturer at the University of Malta. I have published on the subjects of social policy pedagogy; gender and employment; small island states, and most recently, the effects of economic crisis on welfare states and the impact of austerity.

I co-founded the International and Comparative Social Policy Group (ICSP) of the UK Social Policy Association with Nicola Yeates (Open University) which we convened 2004-2011. I am co-editor, with Kevin Farnsworth, of the Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy and have previously co-edited the annual publication of the Social Policy Association, Social Policy Review. I am currently a member of the Executive Committee of the UK Social Policy Association. With John Hudson I am Director of the Department’s Centre for Research in Comparative and Global Social Policy.

Areas of expertise

  • Comparative analyses of social policy
  • Social policy in small states and small island states
  • Economic crisis and social policy
  • Gender, employment and social policy
  • Non-standard employment and social policy

I am currently supervising doctoral students whose projects address:

  • the paradox of gendered pay satisfaction (Maria Smith)
  • global social movements and post-crisis social policy (Gregory White)
  • poverty, disability and social protection in Malta (Edgar Galea-Curmi).


My early research explored the relationship between social policy and the gendered dimensions of atypical work, including comparative study of women’s self-employment and male part-time employment. My current interests are located around the question of size within welfare state analysis and the ways in which approaches from political economy, sociology and anthropology can inform a better understanding of differences in social policy development in small and large states. I have a particular interest in Iceland and in the social policy of small island states more generally. With Kevin Farnsworth, I am also engaged in research which problematises recent social policy responses to the global economic crises experienced since 2007. Our comparative work to date demonstrates that welfare retrenchment is a political choice in the face of economic uncertainty, and our current project, assessing the austerity agenda in different welfare states and at the international level, further investigates the changing relationship between politics and economics.

Recent presentations

Keynote Plenary: ‘Austerity’ (with Kevin Farnsworth) at "Rethinking the Irish Welfare State”, Symposium, University of Maynooth, Ireland, January 2015   

Public Lecture: ‘Towards an allometry of welfare states: the significance of the size-shape relationship in social policy development’, University of Malta, March 2015

Selected recent publications include

Farnsworth, K. and Irving, Z. (2015) “A new era for social policy: Welfare States and the Financial Crisis”, in S. McBride, G. Boychuk, and R. Mahon (eds) Global Financial Crisis and Welfare States, Vancouver: UBC Press, pp 59-84

Farnsworth K. and Irving, Z. (eds) (2015) Social Policy in Times of Austerity: Global Economic Crisis and the New Politics of Welfare, Bristol, The Policy Press

Irving, Z. (2015) “Transformation and Persistence in the Gender Division of Work” in V. Robinson and D. Richardson (eds) Introducing Gender and Women’s Studies, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan 4th Edition, pp206-29

Translated into Japanese, Minerva Shobo Publishers, 2014: Hill, M. and Irving, Z., (2009) Understanding Social Policy, 8th Edition, Oxford, Blackwell/John Wiley

Irving, Z. (2012) “Seeking Refuge in the Nordic Model: Social Policy in Iceland post 2008” in M. Kilkey, G. Ramia and K. Farnsworth (eds.) Social Policy Review 24, Bristol, The Policy Press, pp 295-316


I co-convene and teach on the undergraduate Level 1 core 'Introducing Social Policy' module and the level 3 module 'Welfare States and Economic Crisis'.

I also co-convene and teach on several modules and supervise dissertations on the various MA courses including the recently launched MA in Global Social Policy.

My research in the learning and teaching of social policy leads to an approach combining thematic understanding of core concerns such as social divisions and redistribution, with a focus on the analysis of particular social problems and their solutions, within the UK and beyond. In this way students are able to stretch their existing knowledge of recognisable topics to help make sense of theoretical perspectives and to develop independent thinking. My approach is also informed by the view that students read for a degree but that this is an active process, and that social policy study is enriched through an understanding of the contributions drawn from other social science disciplines.

Zoe Irving

Contact details

Dr Zoë Irving
Senior Lecturer

Social Policy in times of austerity, policy press, September 2015, Zoe Irving Kevin Farnsworth

Farnsworth, K & Irving, Z. (eds.) (2015) Social Policy in Times of Austerity, Policy Press


social policy review 27 edited by zoe irving and john Hudson Menno Fenger. 30 June 2015

Irving, Z., Fenger, M. & Hudson, J. (eds.) (2015) Social Policy Review 27, Policy Press


journal of international and comparative social policy, zoe irving Kevin Farnsworth editors

Farnsworth, K. & Irving, Z. (eds.) Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy,