Exploring the unemployment and underemployment of military spouses in America
This Labor Day, we’re diving deep into the complicated relationship between military spouses and the workforce.
A cause near to our hearts, we founded R. Riveter to support military spouses and families by providing steady, long-term employment for military spouses. With staggeringly high unemployment and underemployment rates, military spouses and families need all the support they can get to establish stable, long-term careers.
Today we’re exploring the eye-opening statistics about military spouse employment, the common causes behind the struggle to build a satisfying career, and hopeful trends for the future.
A long-time struggle for military spouses everywhere, it's an issue not often understood by Americans and those outside the military. We hope this article helps our readers and shoppers better understand the importance of the R. Riveter mission and why we are so steadfastly dedicated to supporting military spouses and families. Together we can make a difference in the lives of those who sacrifice so much for our country!
The current state of military spouse employment
Often subject to changing schedules, frequent moves, and biases in the workforce, military spouses have long struggled with unemployment and underemployment. Statistics have remained mostly unchanged since they were first tracked at the turn of the century.
Military spouses are often well-educated and well-qualified for full-time employment – 89% have some college education and 45% have a four-year degree or an advanced degree. But despite their qualifications and education, they face an unemployment rate of over 30%, which is four to six times higher than the national average.
Like national unemployment statistics, military spouses felt the effects of the pandemic. Even with the uptick of non-profit support and employers committed to assisting military spouses in their career growth over the last decade, spouse unemployment increased to closer to 35% during the COVID pandemic.
Out of spouses with stable employment, 30-50% identify as being underemployed – either holding a position they were overqualified for or working fewer hours than preferred. Even when military spouses find employment, it's often unfulfilling and lacking in growth opportunities.
Factors that contribute to employment struggles
Several factors common to military life contribute to military spouses’ struggles with employment. Unpredictable military schedules make it more difficult for spouses to accept traditional 9-5 office jobs. Since a disproportionate share of family, household, and child-raising responsibilities often falls on spouses’ shoulders, many spouses must maintain schedule flexibility which conflicts with rigid job requirements.
Similarly, extraordinary childcare expenses mean that taking a full-time position is not always financially sound, especially if the position involves low pay and long hours. And with the closing of childcare facilities and schools during COVID, many military spouses left their jobs to serve as primary caregivers for their children as their military spouses continued to deploy and train.
On average, military families move every two years, disrupting regular, long-term employment. Moving, finding new accommodations, settling the family in, and setting up the household in a new location take time and can keep military spouses from immediately seeking employment with every move. Move schedules are also difficult to predict – often coming up suddenly with little time to plan, leaving military spouses with little to no time to search for future employment opportunities or to network with others in their future locations.
Unpredictable military schedules, family responsibilities, and frequent moves often lead to resume gaps and make employers think twice before hiring a military spouse. And often, spouses take whatever job they can get – leading to underemployment and little room for advancement or building a career.
Opportunities for growth and change
New legislation, committed employers, and the changing landscape of office jobs all provide hope for a better future for military spouse employment. To start, a bill designed to reduce the unemployment rate among military spouses was introduced in the Senate this year. The Military Spouse Hiring Act would expand a tax credit to cover a new target group for military spouses.
Committed employers, like R. Riveter and other military spouse-friendly employers, continue to help spouses establish careers. We hope to see more employers commit to the cause in 2022 and beyond. Reducing the stigma against military spouses by continuing to hire them is a great way to help improve unemployment levels.
The many changes in the workplace due to the pandemic actually offer many benefits for military spouses. An uptick in remote work and flexible schedules mesh better with unpredictable military lifestyles and frequent moves than traditional office work. We hope to see unemployment and underemployment levels drop over the next few years as more spouses are able to attain and settle into long-term remote and flexible roles.
How R. Riveter supports military spouse employment
We founded R. Riveter to support military families by providing stable, long-term employment to military spouses across the nation. Our own military spouse experiences opened our eyes to the difficulty of holding long-term employment and growing a fulfilling career while juggling our spouses’ schedules, raising children, frequent moves, and unpredictable lifestyles.
Riveter provides mobile, flexible income to “Riveters” to help build each accessory that you purchase from our shop. Each R. Riveter bag, pouch, or purse journeys across the fifty states before arriving on your doorstep. Military spouses across the nation craft individual components and ship them to our Fabshop where our in-house team then assembles each piece into a one-of-a-kind product crafted with love, honor, and pride in our country.
Our network of Riveters is resilient, committed, adaptable, and hard-working, and we couldn’t do what we do without them. Each R. Riveter purchase supports military families by allowing spouses to establish and grow a stable and fulfilling career.Thank you for helping support military spouses and families! Together we can help reduce military spouse unemployment and underemployment.