Report: 90 Percent of Military Spouses Underemployed

New research by a military officers’ group reveals that military spouses—most of them women—face challenges in finding and keeping employment, and many who are employed are overqualified for their jobs.

The results of the ‘2013 Military Spouse Employment Survey’ demonstrate a need for concerted efforts to improve the employment issues currently faced by military spouses.

A majority of female military spouses are underemployed, according to a new study by the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA).

Conducted in partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, the survey found that 90 percent of wives of active-duty service members possess more education or experience than is required in their jobs.

“The results of the ‘2013 Military Spouse Employment Survey’ demonstrate a need for concerted efforts to improve the employment issues currently faced by military spouses,” MOAA President Vice Adm. Norb Ryan said in a statement.

The survey also cited data from the 2012 American Community Survey via the U.S. Census Bureau that found military spouses are 30 percent more likely to be unemployed and earn on average 38 percent less than their civilian counterparts.

“The overarching objective of this research project was to evaluate the cumulative economic impact on Armed Forces/veteran spouses who may be unable to sustain employment due to permanent change of station (PCS) moves, licensure constraints, and lack of career–enhancing opportunities,” the report noted [PDF].

Female respondents with an active-duty spouse made up about 78 percent of respondents to the MOAA survey. Of this group, more than 79 percent made a PCS move across state lines or abroad in the last five years. The survey also captured a correlation between number of PCS moves and number of jobs held.

“This is a part of the military lifestyle which, through assignment and training policy, can be lessened (fewer moves, and, thus, fewer job changes) but cannot be eliminated,” according to the report. “Of course, these PCS moves can adversely affect total personal income and career advancement, as well as create tendencies for higher unemployment.”

Fifty-five percent of the 2,644 respondents also reported that it was difficult to find their current or most recent job, and 85 percent reported it is difficult in general for military spouses to get hired. The survey found that 95 percent of active-duty military spouses are female. Active-duty military spouses are significantly younger than their civilian counterparts; are more likely to have children 18 and under at home; and are more likely to have moved within states, across states, or abroad than their civilian counterparts.

A recent proposal [PDF] by the Office of Personnel Management could make it easier for military spouses who frequently move or leave the job market to become “permanent” federal employees. Last month, OPM proposed that military spouses be given career status after three years of service with the government; it would eliminate the requirement that the three years be continuous, the Washington Post reported.

As part of the Military Spouse Preference Program, military spouses are also supposed to be given employment preference by the Department of Defense. But even with this program, disabled veterans, employees in the Equal Employment Opportunity program, and workers returning from overseas are all given preference over military spouses, according to the Post.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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