Mary Daly is Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the Department and a Fellow of Green Templeton College.
Mary Daly’s research interests and expertise are international in scope, focused on the analysis of social policy in OECD countries, with a particular interest in family, gender, care/social care and poverty. Most of her work is comparative, in a European and international context. Her research has been supported by a wide range of funders, including the Economic and Social Research Council, the EU, Council of Europe, the ILO, UN, UN Women and UNICEF.
In July 2017 Professor Daly was elected fellow of the British Academy. She is also a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences and a Member of the Royal Irish Academy. She is a member of the Social Policy and Social Work sub-panel for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) in 2021. She was the Vice-Chair of the Sociology sub-panel in both the 2014 and 2008 national assessment exercises. She is a former editor of the journal Social Politics and an advisory board member of this and a number of other journals. She has served on numerous national and international funding and peer review panels, including for the ESRC, the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Italy, the Academy of Finland, the Norwegian Research Council and the Ministry of Science and Technology, Portugal.
Mary Daly researches the following social policy areas:
• family policy, including parenting, policies for children and the governance of family life
• gender differences and inequalities
• care systems, especially in regard to meeting need, complexity and inequalities
• poverty and welfare
• comparative social policy development
• EU social policy.
Mary Daly is taking forward her work in these and other areas in five main directions. First, she is researching the persistence of gender inequality, comparing developments in a range of fields but especially theorising the role of social policy in terms of what it has sought to address and the way it frames problems and responses. The questions that she is exploring here include why gender inequality has fallen down the policy hierarchy and why countries vary in how they have prioritised it? She published a new book on gender and social policy in 2020 which addresses these and other questions: Gender Inequality and Welfare States in Europe . As well as scrutinising policies and their consequences, the book sets out a future research agenda.
Secondly, she is extending her research on family and policy, being especially interested in the changing nature of family life and the challenges this poses for social policy and societies. This work leads her towards the analysis of parenting policies, child-related policies, work-life balance, care provision for older people. The driving interest is to understand social policy’s role in supporting (or not) families as changing and complex entities. How can we understand poverty as a family experience? How can we avoid child poverty and how is it connected to family policies and practices? What policies exist to fight issues of concentrated disadvantage and which policies work better in particular contexts? She is looking at these matters through a comparative lens, opening up the question of the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches (for example service-based support vs cash benefits, targeting the individual as against a more collective approach to family and household). A particular interest is in how individuals and families respond to policies and create their own systems of meaning and practice. In a recent paper she problematises and examines how and why European countries approach the matter of children’s rights and entitlements.
Thirdly, she researches and theorises about care. In her work care is conceived broadly, to encompass, along with caring for those in situations of frailty and vulnerability, the human condition as one of interdependence and ubiquitous vulnerability. She is interested in what constitutes ‘good care’ and also in care as a source of inequality and disadvantage. She has written theoretically about care in a 2021 article in the Journal of European Social Policy , suggesting that care be analysed as multi-dimensional, comprising a need, a set of relations/actors, resources and ideas and values. Her interest in care also extends to an analysis of the treatment of care homes during the pandemic in England. She is currently undertaking a project researching the orientations of care workers to their jobs, identifying what choices they see as available to them and how working and other conditions could be significantly improved.
Fourthly, she is very interested in poverty as a social problem and experience. In this regard, her research focuses on better understanding poverty, especially from the perspective of people who are experiencing it. If we do not fully understand poverty, we cannot address it or indeed theorise about it or measure it properly. In recent work she has started to theorise the meaning of family and the complex reality of family life as it relates to poverty. This work treats family not just as a unit of resource sharing but also as the source of relationships and moral and other commitments that affect how poverty is experienced and addressed.
A fifth strand to her work is European Union social policy, especially from the perspective of the underlying social policy models and approaches and the significance of the changing political constitution of Europe for European social policy. She continues to research the development of social policy under Europe 2020 and the European Pillar of Social Rights, carrying out theoretical and empirical work on the guiding concepts of social policy reform in the EU and the associated politics. She has also worked on the significance of Brexit, for both EU social policy and that in the UK.
Mary Daly is the founder of the Care Initiative at Green Templeton College which brings together people from different disciplinary and professional backgrounds to engage in informed debate and research around the complex issues involved in caring for and with older people.
Mary Daly’s latest book, published in February 2020 by Edward Elgar is Gender Inequality and Welfare States in Europe. Earlier books include Welfare and the Great Recession (co-edited with Stefan Ólafsson, Olli Kangas and Joakim Palme), published in 2019 by Oxford University Press. She is also co-author (with Grace Kelly) of Families and Poverty: Everyday Life on a Low Income (Policy Press 2015). Her previous books include: Welfare (Polity Press, 2011); Gender and the Welfare State (Polity Press 2003); The Gender Division of Welfare (Cambridge University Press 2000). She has many published articles in top journals such as Journal of European Social Policy, Journal of Social Policy, Sociology, Theory and Society, British Journal of Sociology, Social Policy & Society, European Societies, Policy and Politics, Journal of Common Market Studies, Social Politics. Social Policy & Administration. In addition to the above, she has published in numerous edited volumes, and completed policy reports for a wide range of governmental and non-governmental organisations.