Friday, April 09, 2010

Which Brings Us To Our Next Question

Spousal employment.

What's an EFM to do?

According to DiploPundit, the FLO says that the answer to that question is seldom "work" (that is, for pay). Of the 10,000 or so EFMs going to post, 75% want to work, and only about a third of them get to. And the jobs they get? Well, I am sure that there are folks out there dying to be the CLO, but I wasn't one of them.

Of course, the situation I was in would be different today. As a same-sex partner of a diplomat, I wasn't entitled to EVEN APPLY for the CLO job until after all the EFMs at post had decided they didn't want it. And then I would get no preference over random ex-pats no associated with the mission and would likely be paid at the same rate as an FSN, which is often far lower than an American is paid for the same job at that post. I also wasn't entitled to a diplomatic passport and protections. So I left archaeology (a career I loved) and joined the service to be with the person I loved.

Plenty of folks can't or don't want to make that choice. Luckily they don't have to as often now.

I can't speak to what other folks have done, so I would really like for people to weigh in. What did you or your spouse do at post? Ryan and Lori's Exciting Adventures wondered how many folks choose posts based on spousal employment and how many leave the service for a lack of it. I wonder too, and I bet Ryan and Lori are correct in that the numbers are high. We live in a world where it is more common than not that both partners work, and many therefore take the duel household income hit of a salary cut and a sudden lack of spousal salary in order to serve the country. I wonder how many dedicated public servants leave because the cost is ultimately too high.

I do suspect those numbers would be hard to come by, since the Department does not count in its tally of attrition people who leave the service but stay in the employ of the Federal Government. So those folks who transition to Civil Service in the Department or who go to another agency aren't counted.

So what has your experience been? Have you been able to work and at what kind of work. If not, how has the absense of your salary affected your family?


Stephanie said...

I've enjoyed my job as CLO, but I'm not anxious to do it again any time soon. For me, it's better than any administrative assistant job but I'm burnt out on it now. We've decided that for my next post, I'm not going to apply for any jobs that I don't really want. I don't want to work just for the sake of it. They key point is, it's a decision we've made together, just like my husband's joining the foreign service was a decision we made together. We knew it wouldn't be easy for me to continue working and I never felt State was falsely advertising the plight of EFM employment. Regardless of improvements it's going to be impossible for every spouse to find employment in the field of their choice. That's the nature of the overseas lifestyle.

Jen said...

I think Stephanie said this quite well. It was also a joint decision for us, and we knew that 'sometimes' unemployment may be an issue. It was far more of an issue when we first joined, and I have really changed my way of thinking since then. Will probably do a blog post on this at some point, so won't drag the comment out too long, but in a nutshell, I am not unhappy with the options for my employment overseas. In fact, all things considered, I think things are quite good, and it is really a matter of perspective.

Jill said...

It's definitely post specific... at our first two posts, the options were VERY limited for spouses at the Embassy, but not in the community. People were fighting for 2 or 3 open positions a year ... and if they didn't get anything, they took something local.

Here in India, there are far more open jobs than spouses to fill them. BUT, there's pretty much nothing available in the community.

I gave up a great job at J&J before we went overseas - where I was the breadwinner. The transition from two paychecks to one, along with my feelings of anxiousness were hard to deal with that first year... But now that we're in a routine, we've managed our money well, and I'm enjoying staying at home, we're fine.

But I run into a LOT of people who aren't happy being a stay-at-home-mom/dad/spouse.