The expatriate accompanying partner, non-working by choice or circumstance?

This is a guest post by Louise Wiles, herself an accompanying spouse and founder of Louise together with her colleague Evelyn is currently running a survey Career Choices and the Accompanying Partner which you can access by clicking here. Read the article to discover more:

 When organisations assign employees to overseas postings they often also assign an accompanying partner and family. The experience is usually sold and described by the assigning organisation as a wonderful learning experience for all, and of course for many it is. However what is often overlooked is that relocation abroad can also be a stressful and emotionally charged event for all.

This new school year was our second at the international school that my children attend. I watched as the new parents looked anxiously on during those first few days and weeks. Their greatest concern; will the children fit in, make friends and be happy? There were teething problems for some, but for most the initial tricky period of adjustment was soon over and new routines were established and friendships made.

And so now, children settled, the working partner picks up their new roles, business trips and long working days commence and the accompanying partner begins to mould their new lives. Some join the local international/expatriate clubs, others take up sport, local charity work and some start to scour the local job vacancy listings. Many talk of past careers often in professional and corporate positions with skills, qualifications and experience that currently seem somewhat redundant.

Some partners welcome the career break, the chance to focus for a time simply on their family. But, according to research conducted by the Permits Foundation in 2008, it would seem that not all partners are happy to embrace a non-working lifestyle abroad.

The research found that whilst 90% of partners were working prior to relocating. Post move only 35% stated that they were working in the host location. Of those who were not working 75% stated that they wished to do so.

Of those who were working, two thirds stated that they were either satisfied or very satisfied with their current employment opportunity, with 61% working at a level that was either equivalent or higher than the level of their employment before relocating abroad.

So if those who are working are satisfied to very satisfied with their current roles and employment opportunities abroad, why do the majority of accompanying partners not find employment even though they state that they would like to do so?

These are questions that I, Louise Wiles (Success Abroad Coaching) and my colleague, Evelyn Simpson (The Smart Expat) are keen to answer. We have designed a survey which aims to investigate the partner’s perspective on career choice and employment opportunities whilst abroad.

The Permit Foundation Report found that although 85% of partners would welcome organisational support in respect of career and employment abroad only 18% actually received it.

We hope that by better understanding the views, experiences, hopes and needs of accompanying partners we can then help to promote their needs more effectively with employers.

Families who adjust well and are happy abroad have a positive impact on the expatriate employee. This has important follow on benefits in terms of ability to focus effectively on work issues, preparedness of the family to stay the full contract term, willingness to extend the contract and willingness to accept future assignments.

If you are a working or non-working accompanying partner currently living abroad then we would greatly appreciate your help in completing the survey.

You can access it by going to this link. It is anonymous and takes only 15 minutes to complete. We will happily send the results of the survey to you. All you need to do is click done on the last page of the survey and leave your name and email address. As a sign of our appreciation we will enter your details into a free prize draw with some great coaching packages and books as prizes.

If you are able to forward this article and link on to other accompanying partners we would be very grateful. The greater the number of participants the more reliable, representative and therefore useful the results will be.

Thank you, your help is much appreciated.

If you would like to contact either Louise or Evelyn, they can be reached by email:

One thought on “The expatriate accompanying partner, non-working by choice or circumstance?”

  1. Thanks for supporting the survey, Rachel. Career Choice for accompanying partners can bring up some really challenging issues and we’re aiming to learn as much as we can about the rationale behind those choices. Reading your bio and blog, sounds like you have encountered a bundle of those challenges and conquered them. Keep sharing your experiences – it makes us all a little wiser when we know what we’re up against. Thanks again. Evelyn

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