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expat spouse

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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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Career Planning for Expat Spouses

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Career Planning for Expat Spouses

Looking at ways how companies support expatriate spouses, “the top three choices were language training, educational assistance, and company-sponsored work permits. Furthermore this year, “assistance with career planning” moved up from sixth to fourth position. (The quotation is taken from the current Brookfield Global Relocation Survey. For a link to the survey, please click on the image.)

Career planning, not having a job, or wanting a new one causes levels of stress that can be diminished by an appropriate coaching process. An international assignment often presents itself as the perfect moment to take stock and figure out what they truly want to do for many spouses.

The work we choose and why we choose it says a lot about ourselves and our attitude to work in general. We are more likely to accept a fulfilling and deserving position when we believe in ourselves and in our strengths. At the same time, limiting beliefs like “time is money,” “only the early bird catches the worm,” and “hard work never hurt anyone” influence our attitudes.

Both career and life coaching involve further dimensions and layers of complexity when dealing with change across different cultures. Taking the example of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, adults simply aren’t used to operating on the levels of basic uncertainties like security and belonging, but those are exactly the ones they find themselves in when moving internationally. Most expats experience that the understanding of one’s own identity is brought into question, be it due to change in roles within the relationship or the inability to communicate with locals.

If you have any question about adapting internationally and planning your career, please leave a comment, drop me a line or call me. If you’re interested in finding out more about how coaching can help you or your spouse adapt to a new culture while planning a new career, you can read some more about how we could tackle that together, here.

Thanks and til next time!

 

Image by Denis Vrublevski, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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