Professor Jan Windebank

School of Languages and Cultures

Professor of French and European Societies

Jan Windebank
Profile picture of Jan Windebank
+44 114 222 4888

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Professor Jan Windebank
School of Languages and Cultures
Jessop West
1 Upper Hanover Street
S3 7RA

I began a degree in Modern Languages (French & German) at Aston University in 1981. At the time, this was one of only a handful of universities that offered modern language courses based on social scientific rather than literary studies and whilst at Aston I developed an interest in social and economic inequalities and related policies.

I embarked on a PhD in the School of Modern Languages at the University of Bath on the subject of the theorisation of the informal economy in France, an interest which has informed my research ever since.

I obtained my doctorate in 1989 and held my first post as Lecturer in the School of Languages and European Studies at the then Wolverhampton Polytechnic. I joined the Department of French at Sheffield in 1990, first as Lecturer, then as Senior Lecturer from 1997 and was awarded a Personal Chair in 2009. I served as Head of the Department of French from 2010 to 2013 and Head of the School of Languages and Cultures from 2018 – 2021.

Research interests

My research takes as its overarching theme 'informal work' (that is, forms of work other than formal employment such as domestic labour, caring work, voluntary work and undeclared employment and entrepreneurship). I apply sociological and social policy methodologies to the research questions that I address. Within this broad category, I have had two principal interests: on the one hand, gender and domestic and care work and on the other, undeclared employment and entrepreneurship.

I have undertaken research on these themes in the context of France, Franco-British cross-national comparisons and more widely across Europe and the advanced economies funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Joseph Rowntree Trust, the European Union and Sheffield City Council. I have collaborated with fellow researchers from a range of disciplines on these projects.

The first strand of this research on gender and domestic work has included analyses of the domestic labour debates in France, Franco-British comparisons of employed mothers' childcare strategies, evaluations of the impact of French state policy on gender divisions of labour in the home, policy towards paid domestic services in France, Franco-British comparisons of the use of paid domestic services and their impact on gender divisions of domestic labour, Franco-British comparisons of gender and voluntary work, and the impact of the 2008 economic crisis on work-family reconciliation policy in France and the UK. Most recently I have written on the relationship between paid domestic services and the gender division of unpaid domestic labour.

I have published numerous articles on these subjects in journals such as Work, Employment and Society, Journal of European Social Policy, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy and the Service Industries Journal as well as two books: The Informal Economy in France, published by Avebury in 1988 and in 2000 Women and work in France and Britain: practice, theory and policy (written jointly with Prof Abigail Gregory, University of Salford) was published with Palgrave Macmillan.

My second strand of research addresses undeclared employment and entrepreneurship. My book Informal Employment in the Advanced Economies: implications for work and welfare, (written jointly with my long-term collaborator, Prof. Colin Williams, University of Sheffield) was published in 1998 by Routledge and was the first publication to recognise and theorise the heterogeneity of undeclared employment and entrepreneurship in the advanced economies. It has become a seminal work in the field.

I have also undertaken projects looking at the question of using informal work as a tool for tackling social exclusion in a European perspective. This work resulted in a number of books: Poverty and the Third Way, (with Prof Williams, Routledge, 2003) analyses the role that informal work could play in tackling poverty in Europe. Further works on related research questions include: Community self-help (with Prof Williams & Prof Daniel Burns, Palgrave, 2003); Revitalising Deprived Urban Neighbourhoods: an assisted self-help approach, (with Prof Williams, Ashgate, 2001); A Helping Hand: harnessing self-help to combat social exclusion (with Prof Williams, York Publishing Services, 1999).

More recently, this research has focused on analysing the results from two 27-country Eurobarometer surveys of undeclared work in the European Union.

Currently, I am writing a book for Palgrave Macmillan entitled Domestic and Care Work in Modern France - Gender, Family and the State; undertaking further researching on the relationship between the use of paid domestic services and gender divisions of unpaid labour in the home; and starting work on a history of policies to tackle undeclared work in France since 1945.



  • Windebank J (2023) Domestic and Care Work in Modern France Gender, Family and the State. Springer Nature. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Marcelli E, Williams CC & Joassart P (2009) Introduction. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Wirtz JJ (2009) Introduction. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Williams CC, Burns D & Windebank J (2004) Community Self-Help. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Williams CC (2001) Revitalising Deprived Urban Neighbourhoods: an assisted self-help approach. Aldershot: Ashgate. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gregory A & Windebank J (2000) Women's Work in Britain and France. Palgrave Macmillan UK. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Williams CC (1998) Informal Employment in Advanced Economies. Routledge. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Windebank J (1991) The Informal Economy in France. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Williams CC () Revitalising Deprived Urban Neighbourhoods. Routledge. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Williams CC () Poverty and the Third Way. Routledge. RIS download Bibtex download

Journal articles


Book reviews


Research group

I have supervised a number of doctoral students to completion on a variety of contemporary social topics including:

• Widening-participation Students’ Experience of Higher Education
• The Work-Care Experiences of Out-of-Work Partnered Parents in France and the UK: Ideals, Practice and Policy Learning
• Business sponsorship of the arts in France
• Gender and space in contemporary France

Potential areas for future supervision include:

• Gender, the family and employment policy in France or in a European comparative perspective
• Gender divisions of labour in France or in a comparative European perspective
• Undeclared work and employment in France or in a comparative European perspective

Teaching activities

I teach French language from post-A level to advanced level and a range of undergraduate modules focusing on contemporary French society.

Currently I teach the Level 2 module ‘Understanding gender and society in France and the francophone world’’ and contribute to the Level 1 module on ‘Understanding modern France’.

I am very happy to supervise undergraduate dissertations on aspects of contemporary French society.

I also teach on Postgraduate courses on Research Methods and Ethnography, and supervise MA dissertations on a wide range of subjects.

Professional activities and memberships

I have been a very active member of the academic community promoting teaching and research in area studies within modern language departments. I have held a wide range of external examining posts including at the Universities of Leeds, Nottingham Trent, Bath, Aston, Southampton and the University of London in Paris (ULIP).

I am currently Honorary President of the Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France; have been co-editor of the Journal for Contemporary European Studies; and serve on the editorial board of the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy.