Why 1 Out of Every 3 Military Spouses Are Unemployed

Our men and women in uniform sacrifice much of themselves – spending months, sometimes years away from their loved ones. Military families move often, which means spouses are frequently left looking for a job.

“I left my family in Puerto Rico, my country, my friends, my career,” said Edna Caro. “I’m here because of him, so it is a sacrifice for us too.”

Caro and her family are currently stationed in San Antonio, Texas. She and her daughters have picked up and moved all over the country throughout her husband’s 14-year career in the Army.

“He went to Iraq in 2003 for a year. I was in Fort Hood with my two daughters by myself. It was difficult.”

Caro has three degrees, including a Masters in Psychology, but has been unemployed for the past four years. At one point she applied to fifteen different jobs.

“When I go to the interview they know I’m in the military with my husband. I think that’s something they consider, maybe they say ‘no this lady is going to leave us in a year or less,’ so that’s one problem.”

And there are many other spouses facing the same situation. A recent report out by MOAA shows female spouses between the ages 25-44 have an unemployment rate of 15 percent, three times higher than civilians the same age. For younger spouses, 18-24, it’s even worse at 30 percent. Ninety percent of women who responded to the study also reported being underemployed, meaning they have more education and experience than needed for their current position.

“We are not in one place for a long time. And I think that is a big barrier between the company and the military spouse to find a job,” said Janet Sanchez, a military spouse herself and founder of Esposas Militares Hispanas USA, an organization dedicated to supporting military wives across the country. “I know spouses that decide to stay in one place so they can keep their jobs and that takes a toll on their family.”

Sanchez’s organization also works with language barriers – offering translation services and resources for spouses to learn English.

Another issue — 50 percent of military spouses work in career fields that require licenses or certifications, and they often have to get re-certified to work in new states.”

“Nurses, beauticians, teachers, lawyers – there’s so many, every state has a different criteria, different rules and regulations. So you have to re-certify and that comes out of the military spouse’s pocket,” said Sanchez. “There are laws that are being done in very state that are helping military spouses with those credentials but it’s not all the way there yet. There’s still work and there’s still progress to make.”

As for Caro, she’s certified and ready to start working.

“I know that someday I’m going to find a job. In the meantime, it’s frustrating.”


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