The JGM BitBlog: No news, good news? Exploring specific work-life issues of single and childless female expatriates

Journal of Global Mobility

Xavier Salamin, HES-SO Valais Wallis, Sierre, Switzerland

What do the work-life experiences of single and childless female expatriates look like? Past research in the expatriation context provides to date very little information to answer this question, despite the fact that it is today well acknowledged that both private and professional spheres are impacted by the relocation, and that, especially for women, work and private life issues can be particularly exacerbated abroad.

Yes, while our knowledge on the work-life interface of (female) expatriates relocating with a partner and/or children has substantially increased in past years (an interest which is absolutely needed), we still know very little about the work-life experiences of single and childless individuals in the international context. As work–life research traditionally focused more specifically on the relationship between work and family domains, where family is understood as the presence of a partner and/or dependent children, people who are not involved in such a family configuration have been largely excluded from work–life research. So, no news, good news? Does this mean that single and childless female expatriates do not experience any particular work-life issues?

In line with more recent research which initiated a shift from the examination of “work–family” to “work–life” interface in order to take various life spheres into account beyond work and one’s immediate family, this study aims at investigating the specific work-life experiences of single and childless female expatriates in the French speaking part of Switzerland. The following research questions are thus addressed in this article: How does their single and childless status influence their work-life interface? What are the specific factors that contribute to work interfering with nonwork (and vice versa), as well as the factors contributing to work enriching nonwork (and vice versa)? What sources and types of social support do they rely upon ?

Our findings identify a set of personal, work-related, and social and cultural factors contributing to single and childless female expatriates’ conflict and enrichment between work and nonwork spheres. These relate to different elements including the influence of particular features of the Swiss context, the relationship between the single status and workload from individual and organizational perspectives, individual and social pressures related to the single status at the work, safety and harassment issues for women abroad, as well as perceptions related to independence and freedom. Our results also identify a broad range of sources and types of social support they rely upon, which is particularly relevant as social support has been found by past research to be essential in both buffering conflicts and enhancing enrichment.

Overall, this study is the first dedicated to the examination of specific work–life issues of single and childless women in the expatriate context. By revealing the specificities of their work–life experiences, this study contributes to the fields of (female) expatriate research and work–life research and advances current knowledge on nontraditional expatriates. It calls for a stronger consideration of this population and their particular work-life experiences in the international context.  

To read the full article, please see the Journal of Global Mobility publication:

Salamin, X. (2021), "Specific work-life issues of single and childless female expatriates: an exploratory study in the Swiss context", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 166-190.