Research themes

The research conducted by the Centre for Decent Work (CDW) focuses on four themes: Employment and Productivity, Equality, Inclusion and Voice, Labour in the Global Economy, and Regulation and Governance of Work.

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Employment and Productivity

Work under this theme examines: (i) the changing structure of labour markets and the growth in ‘atypical’ forms of employment, including underemployment, bogus self-employment and ‘gig work’; (ii) the consequences of atypical employment for the wellbeing of workers and their labour market prospects; (iii) the labour market and occupational mobility of disadvantaged workers, including the extent to which they cycle between employment, underemployment and unemployment and the factors that influence the ability of disadvantaged groups to progress from ‘bad’ to ‘better’ jobs; (iv) factors affecting the quality of jobs; (v) the complex linkages between employment, work organisation and productivity; (vi) and work in the informal economy.

Equality, Inclusion and Voice

Work within this theme focuses on: (i) understanding disability, gender and employment in advanced and emerging economies; (ii) challenging discriminatory structures, processes and practices and improving the quality and sustainability of work for marginalised workers ; (iii) promoting agency and voice for marginalised workers; and (iv) building ‘inclusive’ organisations.

Labour in the Global Economy

This research theme explores the position of labour in the global economy through the analysis of four dimensions of work and employment research. (i) The ‘Labour of Movement’ focuses upon employment relations and the labour process of workers in global logistics, warehousing and parcel delivery. This work addresses the political economy of the connected spheres of production, circulation and consumption. It also explores the impact of technology on workers in the logistics sector. (ii) Supply chain accounting and employment practices in the automotive and textile industries in South Africa and Brazil.

This interdisciplinary ESRC-funded project engages with institutional theory and debates around global value chains, in addition to addressing concerns around vulnerable work. (iii) The politics of corporate social responsibility, workplace regulation and labour standards. (iv) Theorising Labour Regimes and the Labour Process: This dimension brings together social science researchers with different theoretical perspectives and approaches in order to explore these issues and develop a systematic programme of cutting-edge research and theory building.

Regulation and Governance of Work

Work in this theme explores: (i) the regulation of work and employment at the international, national, regional and local levels; (ii) the composition and behaviour of regulatory institutions; (iii) differing forms of workplace governance and the role of stakeholders; (iv) the challenges of regulating non-standard work and work in the informal economy; (v) variations in regulation and governance in the private, public and third sectors; and (vi) differing theoretical approaches to regulation and the intersection with broader processes of political economy.


In addition to advancing knowledge in these and other areas, CDW is committed to communicating our work to policymaking and practitioner communities and engaging with them with the aim of making improvements in the world of work.

The research topics on which we focus include:

  • Atypical employment;
  • Dependent and bogus self-employment;
  • Disabled workers, their employment opportunities and workplace experiences;
  • Employment rights;
  • HRM in China;
  • Informal economy;
  • Labour Process Theory and Global Value Chains;
  • Low-paid work;
  • New methods of conflict resolution;
  • Pension reforms;
  • Public administration and labour policy (labour administration);
  • Social policy and flexicurity in the UK and the EU;
  • Underemployment;
  • Women’s employment and careers;
  • Work and employment in the logistics sector;
  • Work and employment in SMEs;
  • Workplace support for working carers;
  • Young workers and their labour market transitions.