“Dual income families are part of American life and we need that same access and opportunity…If we intend to keep our best and brightest service members in the military… we have to provide an opportunity for military families to have economic stability.”
Elizabeth O’Brien, the senior director of the Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Program, highlights a critical issue: taking care of our service members also means allowing their families to succeed.
Many American families have become increasingly reliant upon two incomes but military spouses have continued to face roadblocks in the path to success.
A new article on Military.com focuses on the issue of military spouse unemployment. With the sacrifices required of military families, from moving every 3-4 years to long deployments to being far away from friends and family members, we’re not doing enough to support military families and encourage “the best and the brightest” to serve in our military.
As a military spouse myself, I’ve encountered many women either working part-time or not at all, because they are struggling to find opportunities that work with the military lifestyle. This is a common experience for military spouses as O’Brien says that military spouse unemployment has remained the same for the last 30 years, keeping steady at about 30%.
At a time when the U.S. economy is booming and the unemployment rate is at its lowest since 1969, this is unacceptable and reflects a broader issue. Military families are struggling and this leads to far-reaching consequences.
One consequence is that “about a third of military spouses aren’t living in the same location as their military service member, likely for financial reasons.”
Asking for separation from family beyond the sacrifice of deployment, is unacceptable for our military families. We need to take tangible steps to help military spouses find jobs so that they can keep their families together.
One important way to do this is to reduce arbitrary requirements for occupational licenses.
Over the last few years, the number of occupational licenses have grown. Today, almost 1-in-4 jobs require an occupational license. Most of these jobs risk neither the health nor the safety of the employees or the public. Instead, the licensing requirements are maintained by the desire of those already working in the licensed professions to limit the competition.
This stifles innovation and entrepreneurial spirit and limits career opportunities for many individuals, including military spouses.
Some states have begun to make headway in breaking down those barriers. Arizona, Montana and Pennsylvania all now recognize out-of-state occupational licenses. This means that if someone holds an occupational license in another state, they will be able to continue to practice their occupation without having to undergo unnecessary and expensive training, taking away both time and money simply because of arbitrary state requirements.
If universal recognition of licenses is adopted by more states, this could help many military spouses find employment in the profession they are trained in. It would provide tangible support to these spouses, reducing obstacles to their success and the broader success of our military families.