Europe is missing out on a potentially large number of high-skilled workers by provisionally not allowing the spouses of migrant workers to join their partners and also seek employment in the EU, Kathleen van der Wilk-Carlton, a board member at the Permits Foundation, told EurActiv in an interview.While 85% of unskilled labour migration goes to the EU and 5% to the US, only 5% of skilled labour lands in the EU, recent surveys show. According to a Permit Foundation survey, a quarter of international staff are said to have turned down jobs due to concerns over their partner's chances of working in the host country.
The research flips around conventional wisdom that the United States suffers economically from its family reunification immigration policy. At least, I've made the critique here relative to policy innovations such as the EU Blue Card. That's not an endorsement of the H-1B visa program, which is so dysfunctional that no one thinks it is a good idea.
Spending a decade as an undergraduate and graduate student, I'm familiar with the trailing spouse problem. One professor even suggested to avoid getting involved with other academics because of the logistical problems associated with managing two similar career tracks. Some very talented scholars rejected job offers thanks to fears about the significant other failing to find a good job in that region. Few places can offer viable options for both members of the couple.
I've translated the above observations to the return home of prodigal sons and daughters. It's hard enough to find gainful employment for one person in an area desperately seeking to attract expatriates. But what about the spouse? A household might be anxious to move back, but the job prospects for the couple are poor to nonexistent. I don't know much about the talent recruiting industry. Are there agencies that specialize in trailing spouses? A policy aimed at this dynamic might prove to be a winner in the war for talent.