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Spousal Employment Problems Still Huge Issue for Military Families


Spouses of military servicemembers continue to face significant professional challenges due to their military affiliation, according to a newly-released survey. In the 2013 Military Family Lifestyle Survey Report, published by Blue Star Families, military families overwhelmingly reported that spouses had faced severe problems in finding and keeping jobs, and in keeping up professionally with non-civilian peers. Furthermore, survey response results indicated that lack of access to quality employment opportunities for spouses is the number one driver of financial stress for military families undergoing financial problems.

All told, more than two thirds of all spouses surveyed – 68 percent – reported that being a military spouse had a negative effect on their ability to engage in careers of their own. Only 8 percent reported that their careers benefitted from their military affiliation.

58 percent of military spouses surveyed – easily a majority – believed they had not been hired or had been treated negatively in the workplace specifically because they were military spouses. Only 7 percent reported benefitting in their job searches from being a military spouse.

39 percent of military spouses are employed, while 61 percent of military spouses do not work outside the home. Of these, 52 percent of them report that they want to work, and another 21 percent reported they were not sure.

26 percent of respondents reported that they were self-employed.

Only 7 percent of military families have been able to supplement retirement savings through a spouse’s 401(k), and only 5 percent report spouses with a defined benefit (traditional) pension plan.

80 percent reported that the reason they are not working is because of poor ‘alignment.’ That is, there is very little demand for their skill set near their military installations where their sponsors are stationed. In some cases, Status of Forces agreements with host nations prohibit them from gaining formal local employment.

39 percent of those surveyed reported that spousal unemployment was the reason they were unable to save, and 13 percent reported frequent moves as the reason.

28 percent of those responding say they are not working because of a recent or imminent PCS move. Interestingly, 13 percent report that they have not seen any improvements in reciprocity even though they lived in states that had passed legislation to make it easier for military spouses to import their professional licenses from one state to another via military spouse license portability laws.

16 percent of spouses report problems with transferring licenses, credentials or certifications to a new state.

53 percent of respondents indicated lack of access to affordable, quality child care options was a reason they were not working. Blue Star Families reported that some spouses are caught in a Catch-22: The shortage of child care available on post means that only spouses with employment can place their children in child care; but many spouses report that they cannot even obtain employment without first having access to child care.

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