Playing the long game for Global Mobility

The non-profit organisation Permits Foundation must leave no stone unturned when lobbying governments to make legislative changes that would allow accompanying spouses / partners to work.

A triple win

Since being established 20 years ago, Permit Foundation’s surveys have consistently highlighted that when partners of highly-skilled employees on an international assignment can work it’s a ‘triple win’. Host countries attract highly skilled mobile employees associated with international business, investment and development; multinationals can source and assign the best talent; while accompanying spouses from dual-income families get to continue their own careers.

Making inroads

While this ‘triple win’ scenario makes for a simple elevator pitch, advocating for this change requires a huge amount of research and preparation. “We have to be patient but we have seen how the long game plays dividends,” says Michael Ephgrave, a board member of Permits Foundation and Head of Global Mobility at Novartis. “Thirty-five countries now allow accompanying spouses or partners to work and we’re really excited about progress and opportunity in major markets, such as India and China.”

Unlocking potential

Having personally worked in the US, UK, the EU and Switzerland, Ephgrave has seen how the movement of critical talent can help multinationals and host countries alike to seize opportunities for growth and development: “That’s why I was so excited to join the board of Permits Foundation in December 2019. If something can be done to further unlock the potential of dual-career families worldwide, I really wanted to be a part of it.”

The starting point

Besides monitoring legislative changes around the world, conducting surveys, reviewing best practices and promoting policies that enable dual careers in the global workplace, Permits Foundation also seeks to raise awareness and coordinate support from employer organisations and governments. But, according to Ephgrave, each individual lobbying effort is anchored in their collective network.

Seat at the table

“We always need to identify the right person to approach, someone who recognises that encouraging the movement of critical talent has a positive impact on growth and development, and also someone who can get us a ‘seat at the table’. Of course, as every country has its own distinct culture, political framework and immigration policies, there’s no ‘blanket approach’. In each case, we have to do our homework and perform due diligence before face-to-face meetings can happen,” says Ephgrave, who joined the board just before Covid-19 emerged.

Digital lobbying

“Thankfully in the digital world so much of what we do can  continue – even in a pandemic. Over the last 12 months, we have been working hard to make sure the headwinds that we have generated are maintained,” says Ephgrave, who agrees that Covid-19 has only underscored the long-term value of Permits Foundation’s contribution to international mobility.

More cause for celebration

“Permits Foundation will be marking its 20th anniversary at the end of 2021 and, with vaccines now rolling out, I am optimistic global movements will be normalised and we will be able to meet up in person to celebrate. But regardless we will continue to build on the great work we have accomplished to enable dual-careers in many more countries and boost global mobility.”

Check out Permits Foundation’s new interactive map to see which countries allow accompanying spouses / partners to work.

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