WHY EMPLOYMENT IS ONE OF OUR MAIN CONCERNS
Nowadays, dual careers has become the norm in Europe whereby in almost 70% of cases both partners are working. This trend, rising steadily since the 1990s, can be explained on one hand by the willingness to work of both partners and, on the other hand, by financial and economic factors. Indeed, it has become very difficult in Europe to maintain an adequate standard of living with only one income. Furthermore, working does not only play an important role in social integration; it also means access to health insurance, unemployment allowances and pension funds.
- When it comes to families of Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Officers in EU countries, the percentage with a dual income is much lower than the European average, and this is especially the case for families posted abroad. The MFA transfer policy makes the career path of spouses difficult, sometimes barely possible. This issue has to be seen in the context where spouses and partners have a high level of education (60% of female partners hold a university degree) and speak several languages.
- MFAs are aware of this situation; working towards finding solutions for this concern would give MFAs a clear added-value for recruiting and retaining diplomats. But Governments are cost-conscious and budgets are limited. It is up to spouses’ associations such as EUFASA and its members to find appropriate solutions to try and solve this problem.
- In 2007, EUFASA took the decision to add again this topic to the agenda and created a working group “Working Abroad”. The objectives of “Working Abroad” were: 1) to raise the awareness of MFAs for this concern 2) to collect European statistics 3) to share information and best practice 4) to find appropriate solutions It is obvious that spouses and partners of MFA officers actually want to work when they are back in the home country. For this reason, the EUFASA 2009 Prague Conference had the overall theme “Working”.
- In 2010, a working group on “Establishing Links with the private sector” was created to collect ideas and best practice for spouses and associations. The work of this group continued in 2011 and 2012, when it was decided that a “Permanent Working group on Employment” be created and this topic became a permanent feature of EUFASA Annual Conferences. Offering information and guidance is a priority for EUFASA. After all, it is widely acknowledged that spouses and families are a key success factor in foreign assignments.