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Permits Foundation Survey

Expatriate spouses and partners employment, work permits and international mobility


"In my experience most employers prefer to ignore spousal employment issues. However, from my personal observation how well a spouse settles is key in determining how an employee will perform. If spousal employment is important to that couple, then companies ignore it at their peril." *

The spouses and partners of internationally assigned staff are a highly educated and under-utilized talent pool, with diverse professional backgrounds and nationalities. Acknowledging and supporting their employment needs and advocating more flexible work permit regulations will enhance international mobility.

According to accompanying spouses and partners, nearly 25% of international staff had previously turned down an assignment (22%) or terminated an assignment early (7%) because of concerns about the partner's employment or career.

Career Permits Foundation Survey

This is probably the tip of the iceberg since the survey questioned only those who are currently on assignment. Moreover, the responses from the younger age groups and male partners indicate that the problem is likely to increase in the future if nothing is done about it. Over three-quarters of respondents would welcome help with finding employment and certainly with getting a work permit. Less than one fifth felt they had received adequate support in these areas.

The majority of spouses and partners say that their own employment and career was important in the decision to accept the current assignment. This is particularly so among the male spouses, younger age groups, unmarried partners and those with a university degree.

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Thanks again for all your help. Our meeting on Tuesday has given me a new perspective on my job hunt and has certainly given me a confidence boost.

New Zealand Financial Analyst
Moved to Hong Kong from Australia