It’s not uncommon to hear civilian and military outsiders weighing in on the lifestyles of military families. This really can range from family size, to where we live, or how we spend our time and money; someone always has an opinion. And rarely is it very flattering.
That’s why it’s a shame that the topic of unemployment and underemployment of military spouses is usually spoken in whispers. The employment or rather lack of employment facing our military spouses directly affects the well being of military children as well as the career opportunities facing our men and women upon leaving the service.
For this reason, it’s time to open the floodgates and take a look at this often ignored, but very important issue. First, let’s look at the driving force behind the under/unemployed military spouses.
Length of time at each duty station
Active duty service members typically receive orders for relocation every two to three years. Employers are hesitant to offer positions to military spouses because they are likely to move alongside their servicemember shortly after learning their position and/or receiving the proper training/education necessary to be successful in that job.
Lack of experience
Opportunities for future positions or growth outside of frequent moving, stems primarily from age (the percentage of spouses under the age of 34 is 61.8%) or education (65.7% of military spouses have acknowledged having more than a high school education but not a 4 year degree).
Location, Location, Location
Most military spouses love the idea of traveling from one side of the world to the other, but let’s be honest; cultural norms, language barriers and limited knowledge of the area impacts the types of positions available… especially when the spouse is young with a lack of education and/or job skills. Couple that with license portability issues and this is a huge challenge facing our spouses today.
Supporting the Home Front
Demands may differ between spouses who have children compared to those without, but most share many of the duties necessary to keep the home fires burning in our armed forces. Let’s look at volunteerism within the unit to help organize events: as much as I love my husband and the things he does for me, I promise you, he has never organized a party for me and my coworkers, no matter how awesome we truly are. How about spouses who completely manage the household from errands, household chores, or even banking because the servicemember is off training or deployed and is unable to help.
Military spouses are needed at a moment’s notice and step in to assist to support their partner. I’m just scratching the surface of needs that arise at home, but I’d offer that with all the military spouse obligations, they may very well tell you they “don’t remember promising this in their wedding vows”. While these tasks are often small, the amount of time spent taking care of family and commitments can add up quickly, taking away time where they may be available for work.
- In 2012, 18-24 year-old Armed Forces female spouses had the highest unemployment rates at 30 percent (which is almost three times higher than their civilian counterparts at 11 percent).
- 25-44 year-old Armed Forces female spouses had the second highest unemployment rates at 15 percent (almost three times higher than their civilian counterparts at 6 percent).
- Over 50% of respondents indicated their chosen career field requires licensing or certification and 73% requires renewal/reissuing after a PCS move, costing an average of $223.03
- Respondents reported being underemployed with respect to education (33%), experience (10%), or both (47%).
- Income significantly differs based on educational attainment and whether the military spouse is working in their preferred career field.”
The information is out there — we’ve linked to the amazing infographic released by MOAA and IVMF with the data collected below.
Now it’s time to talk. What is your experience with this? What do you suggest for improving the opportunities for future military spouses and their families? I’m excited to hear your input on this!