Permits Foundation welcomes dialogue with policy makers and legislators. Our research and information on best practice regulations has been used by a number of countries when developing business-related migration policy and work permit regulations. If you have any questions, please contact us and we will be pleased to speak to one of your representatives.
What the evidence tells us:
When highly skilled employees relocate internationally, it is the experience of the whole family that can make or break the assignment. The question of whether the partner can work in the host country is often a major factor in deciding whether to accept the job offer. This affects men and women of all nationalities working all over the world. And it impacts employers in both the private and public (diplomatic and inter-governmental) sectors. Our research shows that:
- 96% of the employers we surveyed say that being able to transfer employees internationally is very important to their organisation.
- 96% of employers say that partners of international assignees should be allowed to work for the duration of the assignment.
- 66% of employers say that partner career and employment concerns impact on their ability to attract staff to international assignments.
- 96% of accompanying partners say that countries that enable partners to work are attractive destinations.
- Allowing partners to work promotes equal opportunities as well as integration and affinity with the host location.
- A majority (68-80%) of partners who work during an assignment say that it has a positive impact on adjustment, health or well-being and family relationships. By contrast, some 30-40% of partners who don’t work say that this has a negative impact on these same aspects.
- Almost 60% of partners say they would be unlikely to relocate in future to a country where it is difficult to get a work permit.
- Partners of international assignees are themselves often highly educated. In our survey of 3,000 spouses and partners, 82% had a bachelor degree or higher.
- Partners who work contribute both skills and revenue to the host country economy.
Best international practice
Thirty-five countries now allow accompanying spouses and partners to work freely during an assignment. Many of them recognise unmarried partners and also allow children to work. In addition, some countries have taken a step in this direction with an easier process to get a work permit linked to a specific employer.
Our global overview gives a simplified picture and our resources page has more detailed summaries of the regulations. Our country information page has further links to official websites in many countries.
Assessing the impact
The numbers of business-related transfers are small, making it easy for governments to consider concessions. Here are some figures to help you assess the numbers affected in your country.
- Internationally assigned staff represent only about 1-2% of total manpower, on average, across a wide range of sectors and countries.
- Only 50-65% of international assignees are accompanied by family members.
- Our survey of 3,000 accompanying partners indicated that 84% would like to be employed or self-employed during an assignment. A more global estimate, based on female employment rates in a range of home countries (as most accompanying partners are women), would suggest a lower percentage – around 50-55% of partners across all age groups.
Taken together, these figures indicate that the number of partners who want to work is extremely small, less than one per cent of the total workforce. Moreover, they often bring complementary skills and seek temporary, part-time or self-employed project work that fits their lifestyle, without any negative impact on the longer-term job market. Giving them permission to work does not guarantee a job. They have to compete with qualified citizens who speak the language, know the culture and have locally-recognised qualifications. An employer wants the best person for the job. If that happens to be the partner of an expatriate, this will give most benefit to the company and economy of the country.