Trailing spouses, particularly those who've left a career behind to relocate for their spouse's job, are some of the unhappiest expats. As the number of couples with two working partners continues to rise, those trailing spouses shouldn't be ignored.
In her Wall Street Journal Expat blog article New Expat Survey: Top Countries, Trailing Spouse Woes and More, writer Debra Bruno explores the results of a recent survey by InterNations. The survey, Expat Insider 2015, inquires into the lives and happiness of expatriates around the world.
In the article, InterNations co-founder Malte Zeeck is quoted on the topic:
“'It’s very difficult for a traveling spouse to find an adequate job with payment options that are appropriate,' adds Mr. Zeeck. In addition, the survey found that around 50 percent of those spouses have a post-graduate degree. 'They’re highly educated, but a high share of them are staying home and not working,' Mr. Zeeck says. The survey notes that 20 percent of the traveling spouses are looking for work and another 20 percent are working part-time."
While the article provides a nice look at which expats are happy and which are struggling, it doesn't go into solutions. However, our whitepaper on dual-career assistance can provide a good start if you're looking for more information.
Another particularly interesting point in the article about expat unhappiness may speak to relocation managers and HR departments who are trying to get their relocation programs right:
"One reason [for unhappiness] might be a sense of not getting much help from employers. 'There’s a high share of people who receive help with things like visa and work permits,' says Mr. Zeeck. Another 50 percent get some form of assistance with relocation costs. 'But then anything else – like housing or help with finding housing, health care, organizing the move, language classes – and the numbers go significantly down,' he says."
The overall takeaway here? If you want to reduce failed assignments and keep your globally relocating employees happy, help them beyond simply getting them to their destination. Take into account all aspects of a relocation, and provide what you can to account for any discomfort that may be caused by an international move.
That may include the addition of dual-career assistance to your policies.
Maybe it's time to add real estate services, family transition services and/or ongoing support.