Dual-Career Challenges for the Expat Family: Why Expat Employers Should Be Concerned

Following an interesting article from the Huffington post about 94 % of American expats turning down job opportunities due to spouses refusal to give up their job or career. A major concern for Multinational companies you would say. Although most efforts by Multinationals  have been concentrated  resolving the working permits challenges  there are also other problems mentioned such as the lack of professional networks, facing language and cultural barriers, possess job qualifications and/or licenses which are not recognized in the host country.

On the positive side the good news is that developments on the Internet in the past five years have opened up many new opportunities for the accompanying spouse. Online jobs are an increasing possibility, as well as online learning. Also  several job site websites targeting expat populations have been created in the past few years and are mentioned in the article.

Many reasons to be concerned but in my opinion some more career searching and/or coaching  support from the Multi-nationals to help the trailing spouses look for suitable opportunities could be a first step. Researches also show many spouses do not necessarily want to continue their career but do want to find a job or a fulfilling activity.  If spouses are willing to be  flexible  and  are open for  new opportunities  more options will be available to them.

Dual-Career Challenges for the Expat Family: Why Expat Employers Should Be Concerned

Posted: 12/11/2013 1:21 pm

Most people believe that an international assignment with a multinational footing the bill is highly sought-after amongst corporate executives. However, this is far from the truth. Americans turn down expat posts at a rate of 94%, with 70% of these refusals due to a spouse’s refusal to give up their job or career. Therefore, in an increasingly competitive global economy, multi-nationals have a vested interest that solutions are found to what in global mobility jargon is referred to as the “dual-career challenge.”

According to the Permits Foundation, 90% of spouses are employed before an international move with only 35% employed afterwards, even though ¾ of these spouses wish to work. While the most obvious obstacle for accompanying spouses in finding a job abroad is obtaining a work permit, the work permit question is always a catch-22 situation. One cannot get a work permit without a job offer, but one cannot get a job offer without a work permit. For this reason, most efforts by multi-nationals in the past decades have concentrated on resolving the work permit challenge, believing this to be a cure-all solution.

Unfortunately, the work-permit issue is only the first of many obstacles the trailing spouse faces in her (or his) efforts to find a job or maintain a career abroad. These expats lack professional networks, face language and cultural barriers, possess job qualifications and/or licenses which are not recognized in the host country and very few local companies are willing to hire trailing spouses who might be forced to move from the host country at a moment’s notice.

To make matters worse for the job-seeking spouse, career assistance is rarely forthcoming from expat employers, leaving expat spouses to fend for themselves in finding a job abroad. As stated in Permits Foundation’s International Survey Summary Report, “most employers prefer to ignore spousal employment issues.”

The good news is that developments on the Internet in the past five years have opened up many new opportunities for the accompanying spouse. Online jobs are an increasing possibility, as well as online learning. And, for those who possess an entrepreneurial spirit, networking on the Internet has opened up a whole new world of opportunities.

Furthermore, for those looking for a traditional corporate job, several job search websites targeting expat populations have been created in the past few years. One such company is Expat Network, a UK-based organization for expats seeking work and assistance overseas, whose services cover “from showcasing the best jobs across the globe to sending the mother-in-law on a spa weekend.” Other such websites are Expat Exchange, a job search and networking site which boast a growing community of hundreds of thousands of expats across the globe; Expat Careers which “addresses the genuine needs of employers and recruiters who required a single site to advertise managerial, executive and expatriate positions from all industries and locations within a single job search platform;” and Overseas Jobs which “has been working for well over a decade to provide employers easy access to a wide, targeted audience of job seekers.”

While the aforementioned have improved the situation for trailing spouses in finding jobs abroad, they do not address the emotional challenges trailing spouses face. As Robin Pascoe writes in A Moveable Marriage: “We’ve always associated grief with the loss of a loved one, not with the loss of something intangible like a career or an identity. But make no mistake. Grief is all about loss, and who can deny how much is lost when a career is abandoned? During a relocation, a healthy woman will experience the different stages of the grief spectrum.”