what the study is about
In this study, our goal is to understand the types of support dual-career spouses need to: (a) reduce dual-career stress; and, (b) ensure their physical, psychological and emotional needs are met. We are interested in stories about dual-career success and failure, how trailing spouses cope when they put a career on hold, and how others have managed to continue their career or find a new one while living abroad.
why it matters
Family expatriation is changing: gone is the notion of an accompanying spouse willing to undertake a “hobby” job or charity work as way of finding something useful to do, and in its place is a new idea that global talent management rests on identifying, selecting, and retaining two individuals in the form of a dual-career A dual-career couple is where each spouse has career responsibilities and aspirations expressed in a strong psychological commitment to a career as well as to the relationship. couple.
Typical of many trailing spouses is that they are college educated, career-focused and independent. But despite that many are unwilling to give up their own careers to support someone else’s, Brookfield* reports that only 15% are gainfully employed once on assignment even though 41% were employed prior to expatriating.
Twenty years ago, when assignments were typically of the “there and back” type, simple solutions were available for trailing spouses to pass the time until repatriation: an allowance to compensate for the loss of one income; company coffee mornings; and buddying newly relocated spouses with the partners of senior expatriates in the same location.
Today that’s not enough. Trailing spouses re-assign more often than they repatriate, and they increasingly desire continuation of their careers and employment opportunities. There’s also the inner life of the trailing spouse to consider. How does one retain purpose and meaning when each move positions one’s life “back to zero,” requiring months of downtime to pack and unpack boxes and re-establish networks in each new city?
* Brookfield Global Relocation Services. (2013). Global relocation trends survey report. Woodridge, IL.