In May, Edelman Intelligence (EI) launched the research for Edelman’s third annual Veterans’ Well-Being Survey, a broad study conducted among nearly 5,000 veterans, non-veterans, employers, and educators that examines perceptions of veterans’ mental and physical health, financial stability, quality of relationships, and ability to find and maintain a desirable job and career.
Each year, we update the survey to explore a few new topics and issues. This year we talked to a new audience: military spouses.
Our survey conclusively shows that military spouses have employment issues of their own:
- Nearly half (49%) of military spouses left their previous job position due to their spouse’s relocation with the military.
- Nearly 40% of military spouses are not currently working in a field they want to be in, with the number one reason being frequent moves with the military make it difficult for them to find jobs in their preferred fields.
- Of those who aren’t working in a field they want to be in, nearly a third (30%) say their current position was the only job they could find.
- Half of spouses (50%) surveyed are looking for new job opportunities.
According to our findings, 70 percent of military spouses and 74 percent of married current service members say employers could help spouses find meaningful work by allowing for remote jobs and more flexible work schedules. But just 32 percent of the employers we surveyed agree that their companies have remote work options that could be used by military spouses who might need to relocate. Only one in three (34%) military spouses has a salaried position, with the majority (56%) working in hourly positions.
Compounding these issues is employers’ limited understanding about the benefits of hiring military spouses: while 64 percent of employers say that hiring military spouses is a priority for their companies, over half (53%) admit that their companies do not understand the benefits of hiring military spouses. Nearly 30% of employers agree that their company might hesitate to hire military spouses because they might need to relocate, and one in four employers say that military spouses are better suited for part-time work than full-time work.
This data couldn’t help but resonate with me. I’m not only an active researcher involved in this study from beginning to end – I’m also a military spouse myself. While I’ve only been an “official” military spouse since April—when I married my husband who is active-duty Army—I’ve been a part of the military community for a couple years now. In this short time, I have played witness to some of these employment and hiring challenges first-hand. When I moved to a well-known military base in El Paso, Texas while my husband (then fiancé) was stationed there, I found myself in an interview with a potential employer who asked me directly how long I expected to live in El Paso. It was a question I could not definitively answer. The experience made me acutely aware of some of the job search challenges military spouses face every day.
The findings from the research point to clear areas of opportunity from which all employers can learn:
- Advocating and providing for more work flexibility and remote work opportunities, especially for military spouses;
- Offering internships or apprenticeships tailored toward military spouses to help improve their employment prospects; and,
- Better educating employers, recruiters, and hiring managers about the benefits of employing military spouses in their companies.
The data is clear: military spouses need more employment opportunities and work flexibility, and employers can greatly benefit from having military spouses as part of their workforces. Understanding the employment needs of military spouses and the opportunities for employers gets us closer to fulfilling the needs of both and helps us strengthen the overall health of military families.
Stephanie Lesser is a Director in our Washington, D.C. office. She has worked at Edelman Intelligence for 4 years and is a researcher on the 2018 Edelman Veterans’ Well-Being Survey. She has been part of the military community for more than 2 years, and an active military spouse for 5 months.