Professor Kate Hardy

Professor Kate Hardy



I am a scholar of work and employment with an interest in working conditions, collective organizing, gender and self-employment in gendered and marginal forms of employment. My major work to date has addressd the sex industry and other forms of low paid women’s work, such as early years and childcare. Overall, my research is driven by the key notion that examining the labour processes and relations in more marginalized forms of work can theoretically enrich and conceptually deepen understandings of work and employment. As such, my interests lie in using empirically robust data to explore theoretically driven questions relating to forms of labour and economic practices that cut across the spectrum of formal and informal capitalist wage labour relations in the Global ‘North’ and ‘South’.

To date, my research has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the European Parliament, the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Sociological Review and Feminist Review funds. In addition to publishing in leading international journals (see Publications below), I have a growing profile as a public scholar and my work has regularly featured in a variety of news outlets including a number of broadsheet newspapers. I have appeared as a guest on a number of radio programmes including Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed and Woman’s Hour and given evidence a number of times in both English and Scottish Parliament.

Current Projects

’L-Earning: Young Women’s Transitions at Work’ (ESRC)

L-earning is a 3-year research study exploring young women’s early experiences of work – including work while studying – and how these experiences may contribute to gendered inequalities in later life. The study is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of the ‘Transforming Working Lives’ initiative – a broader scheme of research projects investigating changes in working lives and power in the workplace.

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‘Digit’: Digital Futures at Work Research Centre (ESRC)

The Digital Futures at Work Research Centre (Digit) studies the way that digital technologies are reshaping work and the impact on employers, workers and their representatives, job seekers and governments. Our research aims to generate new knowledge about the benefits, opportunities, risks and challenges of these changes that is theoretically informed, empirically evidenced and policy relevant. Through our research, events, publications and engagement with policymakers, commercial and third sector organisations, we aim to inform current debates about the future of work and develop a compelling, empirical basis for effective policy-making.

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Past Projects

‘Retention and return: delivering the expansion of early years entitlement in England’  (Early Education and Childcare Coalition)

In the 2023 Spring Budget the Chancellor announced a significant expansion in early years funding. The announcement focused on the funding of this expansion, but little was said about the workforce who would deliver it. This research combines new modelling focused on the additional demand likely to be generated by the expansion, with the working conditions and experiences of those currently working in the sector and those who have recently left. The research team gathered nearly 1,000 surveys and 60 participants in interviews and focus groups. It aims to better understand the conditions of the current early years workforce, the implications of the extended entitlement and what is needed to ensure any expansion of access can be successful, while ensuring the high-quality places that children deserve.

Read the full report here

‘Childcare during Covid-19 in England and Wales’ (ESRC)

Early Years (EY) childcare is foundational to the economy and to society given its positive impact on child development and wellbeing. Without provision of formal and informal childcare, parents will not be able to return to work during or after the COVID-19 crisis, exacerbating intra-and inter-household inequalities. This project addresses the urgent challenges of disruption to and sustainability of provision and ensuring safe environments for workers, children and families

For more, see:


‘The Beginning of the End of the Housing Crisis: participatory action research’

Funded by the Feminist Review Trust, this was a participatory action project with Focus E15 in East London. Focus E15 is a housing campaign in east London led by young working class women from the borough of Newham. Using questionnaires and interviews, this research project sought to gather information that will enable activists to better resist the removal of individuals and families from the borough and to demand the right to decent housing for all. Each week many Newham residents visit the campaign stall and tell activists the stories of their struggles to be housed and remain in Newham. This project enabled the activists to capture these stories and generate an evidence base to contest displacement. 

Read the report here: 


PhD, Queen Mary, University of London; MRes, The University of Liverrpool; BA, The University of Sheffield


2024 – ongoing: Professor of Global Labour

2016 -2023: Associate Professor in Work and Employment Relations

2012-2016: Lecturer in Work and Employment Relations

2011-2012: Researcher Cosmetic Surgery Tourism

2010-2011: Researcher The Mainstreaming of Lap Dancing (all at the University of Leeds)

Visiting positions at:

2019 – University of Buenos AIres, Argentina

2009 - School of Management and Labour Relations, Rutgers University, New Jersey

2007 Centre for Gender and Excellence, Orebro University, SwedenMy overarching research considers issues of gender, work, employment and collective organising from a Marxist-Feminist perspective. My ESRC funded doctoral work focused on the organising strategies of AMMAR, the Argentinean sex workers union. It used a collaborative approach to explore the experiences of collectively organising, examining the role of the state, connections with broader trade unions and the place of sex work in the wider political economy of Argentina.

PhD Supervision
I am interested in supervising doctoral students with interests in any of the above. My teaching interests lie in the fields of sex work, gender and development, work and employment, sexuality, and qualitative research methods. My teaching is widely interdisciplinary and I have taught in Sociology and Geography departments, as well Management and Business Schools.


Research interests

My research interests include issues surrounding sex work; the body and work; disability; gender and work; black, informal and underground economies; paid and unpaid work and labour; theorising work and labour; labour organising and social movements.; trade union organizing; women's movements; disability; agency and resistance.

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change

Current postgraduate researchers