Gender specific effects of international mobility on family formation: evidence from the German Diplomatic Service

Stine Waibel, Federal Institute for Population Research, Germany
Julika Hillmann, Federal Institute for Population Research, Germany
Heiko Rüger, Federal Institute for Population Research, Germany
Norbert F. Schneider, Federal Institute for Population Research, Germany

In migration studies there has not been much research into the expanding forms of professional migration that are part of everyday transnational mobility. While the more fluctuating and temporary mobility of students and academics, internationally posted employees, or business travelers is less visible to the public, there is a constant and increasing demand for these forms of global mobility. Demographic developments such as aging populations and increasing female labor force participation challenge employers to think more intensely about the differentiated impacts of international mobility on individuals. So far, little is known about the relationship between family formation and global mobility. Using data from a cross-sectional survey among employees of the German Foreign Service (N = 2.433) this paper investigates how high mobility requirements of diplomats affect family and partnership formation and how this is moderated by gender. The survey was designed to assess how diplomats cope with repeated international assignments while focusing on family, health, and personality factors. As the share of women among German Foreign Service staff is high the data is well suited to answer the research question. Additionally, diplomats enter their profession before partnership and family formation are completed. Thus, we can analyze how family formation progresses for men and women in the course of a highly mobile career. Despite our focus on diplomats it is our goal to shed light on a problem of more general concern as international mobility is a characteristic of many of today’s employment relationships while maintaining partnerships and families becomes a challenging task. Our results show that being single and childless is mainly a “female phenomenon”. Women also experience more often partnership dissolutions because of international relocations. These results have important implications for globally operating industries and consultancies, international and non-governmental organizations as well as national governments.

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Presented in Poster Session 2