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Only 9 % of Expat Spouses are employed during their assignment

Pic credit: stockphoto

Pic credit: stockphoto

Brookfield Global Relocation Trends Survey shows that for relocating couples, 50 % of spouses were employed before the move, and only 9 % also during (2009). In other words, when considering the option to support their partner’s career, four out of five spouses do so at the cost of their own. 

Here are two mitigating circumstances that might make those numbers seem a little less scary:

  1. Some spouses might be unemployed because they cannot find suitable work due to economic challenges. It’s true, the labor market has been difficult to get into, especially in 2009 when this survey was taken. At the risk of sounding spoilt, I know from personal experience that working in another country is especially unappealing when the wages range at about 1/10th of what you’re used to earning.
  2. Other spouses might welcome the break in their working life and use the time abroad to pursue secondary education or start a family. In fact, I would love for Brookfield to add this distinction to their next survey, because I feel it makes a huge difference to the self-esteem of the spouse (and in consequence to the well-being of the family) if they have a choice.

Having said that, it is more likely that the spouse simply did not receive a work permit, because the sad fact is that obtaining such paperwork is costly and - in most countries - a bureaucratic nightmare. Still, 34 % of responding companies reported actually sponsoring spouse work permits.

Given that family issues and spouse career and resistance are the top reasons cited for both “critical family challenges” and “top reasons for assignment refusal,” the report points out:

With such widespread agreement about the nature of these challenges over such a long period of time, the lack of apparent success in addressing them is puzzling and they continue to appear year after year.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself, in fact, I’ve been wondering about this very same thing for some time now.

So, are you one of the four or the one who’s continuing to work? What were your choices? If you are one of the four who do not work anymore, which tips do you have for other readers to make the most of their time? Would you recommend volunteering? Why or why not?

(from the archives, first published in 2010) 

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Survey: Expat spouses and employment

clipboards_Yet another couple of expat survey findings have been published that caught my attention. As you know from this post, I love each and every one of them. Surveys are necessary, helpful, informative; they shed light into detailed international corners where our individual flashlights don't reach, and they remind us that expats and their families are people, not commodities. Still, I can't help but wonder: how much more evidence does the world need that a happy expat spouse can make or break the assignment?

I don't have a brilliant and witty argument in reply to that question, instead I could go on about the perils of disregarding the spouse's needs. Employment opportunity is one aspect of the bigger picture, and no doubt an important one. The lack of it can lead to identity crises, boredom, resentment, strained communication, stress, marital breakdown, and depression.

"[The Permit Foundation's latest survey Expatriate spouses and partners employment, work permits and international mobility] provides evidence that a lack of spouse or partner employment opportunities adversely affects global mobility of highly skilled international employees." Well, what is it that is stopping the movers and shakers from providing excellent service to the entire expat family? Money? Time? Really? Could it be that simple?  'Cos that's what I'm here for! Contact me for a chat about how I can support your people! I can't give out work permits (wouldn't that be the day...), but I can make sure your guys at least have a more rounded understanding of the emotional roller coaster they're getting themselves into; and if they're stuck, we can figure out alternative courses of action that may just make the difference between early termination and finishing the assignment. And that, surely, is worth looking at, right?

If you have other ideas, let me repeat the question: what is it that is stopping the movers and shakers from providing excellent service to the entire expat family? Let's see if we can get a discussion going in the comments-section. I'll also be sure to bring it up at the FIGT Conference in March and report back. FIGT, of course, stands for Families in Global Transition, and yours truly is looking forward to giving a presentation as well as soaking in the general atmosphere of "expat families deserve all the support they can get". Can't wait. Why don't you drop by and we can share a cuppa? Early bird registration is still available until January 31st!

Expatica has awarded the ORC's survey on expat's work-life balance first place in their "Top 5 Industry Survey Awards". You can read about its main findings in this article. And another shameless plug while we're at it: find me on their expert's panel for personal coaching questions on Expatica Germany.

Wishing all of us in the US a happy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. / National Service Day  (hear and read about it here and here) and happy (and glorious) inauguration. Til next week, have a good one!

Thanks to flickr's hownowdesign for the photo under Creative Commons License.

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