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3 PhD positions in Interdisciplinary Social Science

The 3 PhD candidates will be embedded in Dr. Mara Yerkes’ European Research Council (ERC)-Consolidator project CAPABLE, which investigates the role of national and local policies across Europe in shaping men and women’s real opportunities for work-life balance.


The CAPABLE project

Significant work-family policy advancements designed to help men and women more equally combine employment with other spheres of life have been made in recent decades, yet gender inequality persists. Improving gender equality in work-life balance is therefore high on policy agendas throughout Europe. Decades of research in this area have produced key insights but work-family theories fail to sufficiently explain the tenacity of this inequality. To understand why these inequalities have not been overcome necessitates a multi-dimensional approach that captures differences in capabilities - what individuals are effectively able to achieve - and how they are embedded in diverse community and social contexts.

This large-scale research project (CAPABLE) will develop and apply complex models derived from Sen’s (1992) capability approach to generate fundamentally new knowledge on how work-life balance policies impact an individual’s capability to achieve work-life balance in Europe by incorporating the understudied dimension of community. Integrating locality, local relationships and local policies offers new ways of theorising work-family issues, such as gender inequality. The CAPABLE project does this by shifting the focus from outcomes – like gender (in)equality in paid work, or work-family conflict – towards processes that lead to these outcomes.

The central question in this project is: To what extent do work-life balance policies enhance men and women’s capabilities to achieve work-life balance? CAPABLE will progress scientific and policy frontiers using innovative, mixed-methods approaches at multiple policy levels to analyse: 1. the availability, accessibility and design of work-family policies; 2. what these policies mean for men and women’s capabilities to achieve work-life balance given their embeddedness in individual, community and social contexts; 3. whether work-life policies enhance individual wellbeing; and 4. what policy tools are needed for developing sustainable work-life balance policies that enhance gender equal work-life capabilities.

This research project is funded by the European Research Council (ERC). The principal investigator is Associate Professor Dr. Mara A. Yerkes. The research team consists of the principal investigator, a postdoctoral researcher, 3 PhD candidates, and support staff.


Job description

Three PhD positions are available. Each PhD candidate will carry out an in-depth, mixed-methods case study in two cities in a single country. Candidates are asked to apply for a specific case study: 1) the UK (London/Leeds); 2) Slovenia (Ljubljana/Maribor); or 3) Spain (Barcelona/Pamplona). Note that while the PhD candidates will be located in the Netherlands, periods of fieldwork to the country under study are planned and travel is required.

Duties of each PhD candidate include:

  • conducting theoretical and mixed-methods empirical research on the project’s topic, resulting in a PhD dissertation and in journal publications;
  • participating in the teaching and research activities of the Public Health chair within the Department of Interdisciplinary Social Science;
  • completing any necessary coursework required for completion of the PhD.

Because the PhD candidates work in a larger research project, teamwork and communication are essential. In addition to their individual work, the PhD candidates will contribute to regular project team meetings and joint conference presentations and academic publications.



We are looking for candidates who:

  • hold a MA/MSc degree in the Social Sciences, Sociology, Political Science, Public Administration or a related discipline (or are expected to obtain such a degree by 31 July 2019);
  • have an excellent scholastic track record and an obvious curiosity and enthusiasm for academic research;
  • are proficient in either quantitative or qualitative research methods (proficiency in both is an asset);
  • are capable of conducting original research independently as well as working in a team;
  • have appropriate planning skills, the ability to organize one’s own work and related activities, and the ability to meet deadlines;
  • are strong conceptual thinkers;
  • are highly proficient in English (C2 level). Knowledge of other languages (particularly Slovenian or Spanish) is an asset.


Conditions of employment

We offer a 4-year full-time appointment as a PhD candidate. The first year will be a probationary period; following a positive assessment in the first year, the position will be extended for another 3 years.

Remuneration will be according to standard salary levels for PhD candidates in the Netherlands (according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) with a starting gross monthly salary of €2,325. By good performance, the candidate will receive an annual raise, ending with a gross monthly salary of €2,972 (based on a full-time appointment). Each year the standard salary is supplemented with a holiday allowance of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%. We offer a pension scheme, (partly paid) parental leave, collective insurance schemes and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). More information is available at: about working at Utrecht University.

More information
Utrecht University

Any inquiries about the position or the project may be addressed to the principal investigator: Dr. Mara Yerkes (M.A.Yerkes [at]