Experiencing expatriation as a couple
Within the next ten years, nearly 4 million of French will experience the expatriation, as a necessary step in their career. And this adventure is very often lived in couple: today, 70% of French expatriates are couples. Thus, one can wonder what is the impact of expatriation on the career of the spouse…
In 2015, the survey “Expat Value”, conducted by Expat Communication from 3.668 couples (making it the largest study to date in France on this subject), allowed to analyse the impact of the international mobility on the couple and establish a precise inventory of the situation of dual careers in expatriation. Here is a summary:
Who is the expatriate spouse?
• 91% of expatriate spouses are women: in other words, on 9 out of 10 cases it is the man who emigrates, and the woman follows…
This can easily be explained: this type of mobility abroad is much more available to men! And when expatriation is offered to women, two thirds of husbands refuse to leave their jobs to follow them.
Thus, women represent only 14% of employees sent abroad. And among this small proportion of women, for whom career is very important, a majority are single.
• 91% of expatriates are married. This figure is above the French national average: 72% of people reporting to be in couples are married (INSEE 2011). This specificity can be explained by the fact that in some countries, it is essential to be married to have a visa.
• 60% of spouses are from 31 to 45 years old.
• 72% of spouses have at least a Master, speak three languages and work, for 40% of them, in the following fields: Purchasing, Sales, Marketing or Project Management.
Finding a job during the expatriation can be a challenge for the spouse…
Initially, 67% of couples say they are optimistic about the opportunity to lead a double career abroad. 80% expat spouses say they are motivated to find a new job once in their countries of expatriation. Unfortunately, only half succeeds!
Finding a job as an expatriate spouse turns out to be an obstacle course, despite a promising profile on paper. And that is often what makes the unemployment-forced expatriation bitter for the spouse.
Many obstacles are the cause of this difficulty, the top five are: - The language barrier, - Poor knowledge of market of local employment codes, - The restricted network (which is responsible for the hiring of 80% of spouses with employment), - Skills that do not correspond to the market, - The absence or the lack of visibility on the length of stay.
It is also important to note that in over half the cases of expatriation, spouses are left with one or more children: for 24% of them, this important detail has had an impact on their job search.
Thus, 75% of spouses with children say that their priority is the home and family, and for those who are childless, 47% consider work as a priority.
Those who find a job…
68% of those who found, have got a paid job (50% of employers are local businesses and medium size), 32% are liberal, independent or entrepreneur.
In the end, spouses who want to work often do not have other choice but to sell themselves short: - 47% have declined in salary compared to their previous position, - 32% have reduced the scope of their job, - 28% were down their hierarchical level, - 19% work only occasionally. ⇒ But 43% of them are getting new skills!
How are they helping?
80% of the spouses did not receive any help for their job search. Only 6% of spouses were helped by the company of the expatriate and this rate rises to 11% if the spouse is a man… 80% of partners, who benefited from this support, found it useful: it allowed them to decode the local market, to adapt their tools, to refine their projects and to support their motivation.
When returning to France, 40% of spouses are helped to find a new job. However, half the time, this assistance is provided by a job centre and is considered too little adapted.
Thus, to appeal and attract great talents abroad, the career of the spouse should count as much as the one of the expatriate: for 69% of international mobility managers, the issue of employment of the wife / partner has more and more impact on the recruitment.
What assessment of expatriation for the spouse?
The impact on career, negative for 62% of spouses, leads a lot of them to review their priorities. For 50% of them (91% women), financial and administrative dependence to their expatriate spouse was difficult to live…
In the end, however, the results of expatriation are positive for 86% of spouses. Expatriation is a rich and exciting experience that often strengthens family ties (work is not everything in life!). It is also an opportunity to reinvent themselves, to get out of its comfort zone, to better know itself and to reassess its priorities!
On their return to France, 74% of spouses have found a job three years after their return from abroad and nearly 46% have completely changed their activity.
Source: Comment les couples conjuguent-ils deux carrières en expatriation? – Expat Value 2016 by Expat Communication