Freya Willis is a current DPhil student at the University of Oxford where she studies as a Rhodes Scholar. Her DPhil is a class and labour history, examining the lives and labours of social care workers in the UK between 1979 and 2010. She previously completed an MPhil at the University of Oxford on the same topic, where she graduated with Distinction. Freya’s undergraduate Honours dissertation, a history of women’s participation in the meatworkers’ and clerks’ unions in 1970s Australia, received the 2019 Mick Williams Prize in History at the Australian National University. Freya has published journal articles in Labour History and the Journal of Australian Studies. Her research interests include gender and labour history, the history of capitalism, feminist theory, and deindustrialisation studies


Who Cares? Social Care Workers’ Experiences of Work, Gender, and Class in England and Wales 1979-2010

I investigate the lives and labours of social care workers in Britain between 1979 and 2010. Between 1979-99, care assistants were the fastest growing sector of employment, increasing by 419 percent, while industrial jobs saw the greatest decline. The social care industry was at the vanguard of changes in labour processes and relations associated with the occupational transition that followed deindustrialisation; a major employer of working-class women and migrants, care jobs were characterised by low pay, flexible and precarious work, and limited employment protections. I examine how working conditions in social care were shaped by, and shaping, the major economic, social, and political transitions of this period, including deindustrialisation, the rise of neoliberalism, and austerity politics. As a study of lived experience, moreover, I consider how workers experienced these changes in their everyday lives, and their impact on class formation, family life, gender relations, race and migration in late 20th century and early 21st century Britain.