Work rights, employability and jobs

In most European societies today, typically both partners in a couple work. One or both partners may take a career break or work part-time for a while, for example to take care of small children, but both members of the couple will typically contribute long-term to the family finances and to their own pension, social security, and savings. This not only allows both partners in a couple to develop a professional identity, sense of self-worth and supportive social networks; it is also often important for the family’s financial security and well-being. Being employed also gives workers access to health insurance and unemployment support.

EUFASA data show that foreign service partners and spouses are, on average, highly educated, and that the vast majority (87% in 2019) want to work. However, regular international relocations, limited access to work permits abroad, and language barriers among other issues make it extremely difficult for partners and spouses to maintain their own employment when accompanying a foreign service officer abroad. Gaps in their employment history make it harder to find a job when returning home, and their sojourns abroad often disqualify them from receiving unemployment assistance, as well. Access to local job markets, employability, and the chance to find a job are therefore essential issues for foreign service partners and spouses. It is also in the interest of Ministries of Foreign Affairs to assist partners and spouses in assuring the right to work, maintenance of employment-related skills, and access to job opportunities in order to be able to recruit and post employees abroad as needed to meet foreign policy goals.

EUFASA advocates for better access to employment opportunities for partners and spouses.


  • MFAs should endeavour to complete legally binding agreements (either bilateral work agreements or similar instruments) with all their posting countries so that partners and spouses have the right to work (also remotely) while abroad. Agreements should cover as many partners/spouses as possible, including unmarried and same-sex partners, and partners/spouses who do not (yet) have citizenship in the sending country.
  • MFAs should provide support for partners/spouses to maintain and foster their employability, including, for example, language training, assistance in translating and recognising foreign qualifications, and career mentoring and connecting partners with local professional networks.
  • MFAs should inform employees of international transfers as soon as possible to allow partners/spouses time to look for a job in the local job market before arrival.
  • MFAs should provide multiple employment supports to partners/spouses, for example:
    • policies enabling and encouraging the hiring partners/spouses at missions whenever possible;
    • active support of spouses’ applications to international organizations;
    • events to assist partners/spouses to apply for and find jobs (job days, CV writing clinics, networking events, courses on self-employment, etc.);
    • support for partners’ portable careers and remote work; and
    • policies allowing employees more flexibility, for example to work part-time, remotely, or in job sharing, or guaranteeing them the option to return to the MFA after a break to raise children.

As the issue is highly complex and partners and spouses have diverse backgrounds, skills, and needs, a variety of supports are essential.