Social rights, pensions and health insurance

Partners often are unable to work when accompanying foreign service officers on repeated foreign missions, resulting in an inability to fully contribute to their ‘home’-based pension and unemployment schemes. In European countries with a high minimum number of years of required pension contributions or with no provisions at all for foreign service partners, the partner or spouse will, in effect, never be able to receive a pension if they accompany their MFA partner abroad. Furthermore, some states limit partners’ health insurance, for example if they become employed while abroad. Last but not least, many states require long minimum residency periods to qualify for unemployment assistance, which make foreign service spouses ineligible for unemployment support upon their return home. This loss of income, pension contributions, and other support greatly impacts partners’ and spouses’ savings and retirement income, and creates a significant financial dependence on the foreign service officer. The social rights of partners and spouses are therefore often fundamentally undermined by accompanying a foreign service officer on postings abroad. This can result in dire financial consequences for the partner or spouse if, for example, the relationship ends in divorce.

The EUFASA Research Department has recently published a report on foreign service spouses’ pensions in European systems, and has made recommendations to MFAs in this area. Read the report here.


  • While the potential earnings lost while accompanying a foreign service officer abroad may be difficult to estimate or replace, partners and spouses should, at a minimum, receive pension contributions when they are un- or underemployed due to international transfers, irrespective of their previous work experience.
  • Pension contributions for partners/spouses should be sufficient to ensure a dignified pension income above the poverty line.
  • MFAs should endeavour to secure unemployment benefits for partners/spouses when minimum periods of employment to qualify for assistance prevent spouses from accessing unemployment support.