Work and Family Interface in the International Career Context by Liisa Mäkelä & Vesa Suutari

Work and Family Interface in the International Career Context by Liisa Mäkelä & Vesa Suutari

Author:Liisa Mäkelä & Vesa Suutari
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Springer International Publishing, Cham

Discussion and Future Research Agenda

This chapter reviewed existing literature and research on dual-income and dual-career couples in an international context. The review encompassed all the different stages of international assignment, from expatriation decision making to adjustment abroad and finally repatriation back to the home country. It reviewed key aspects of these issues with a specific focus on the challenges facing dual-income and dual-career couples and also on the policies and practices available to international organizations to support dual-career expatriation. The empirical evidence from existing literature presented in the chapter confirms the significance of the issue, and calls for researchers to address the gaps in our understanding.

First, the research reviewed is largely empirical in nature and little theory building has been practiced to date. Earlier studies have primarily used cross-sectional data collection methods, including qualitative research (e.g., Känsälä et al. 2012) and small scale quantitative research (e.g., Cole 2011). More longitudinal research is merited because expatriation is becoming less of a once in a lifetime experience and is increasingly just one of the steps taken by global careerists and their families (Suutari and Brewster 2003; Doherty and Dickmann 2009; Kraimer et al. 2009). Furthermore, as has been reported in the available literature (Hughes 2013), the application of dual-income and dual-career conditions to research phenomena has not been consistent enough to allow for the generalization of findings between various research streams. Analysis of the literature also reveals differences in the adjustment and repatriation challenges faced by dual-career spouses who found employment as compared to those who wanted to, but were unsuccessful (Copeland 2004). The acute differences in those situations call for more discipline in sourcing respondents and the systematic identification of such differences in future research.

Simultaneously, the landscape of international work is changing rapidly, as evidenced by the observed reduction in repatriate retention rates and the increased incidence of self-initiated and female expatriates accompanied by their male spouses (Mäkelä and Suutari 2013; Brookfield 2013). At the same time, the recent trend among Asian companies of rapid expansion in their global operations and deterioration of job markets in some parts of the world render the prevailing body of literature focused on US expatriates less relevant than it once was (Friedman 2005; Szkudlarek 2010; Andresen and Walther 2012). The above listed factors; the need for more modern theory building, the lack of discipline in correctly identifying dual-career couples in samples, and research becoming outdated owing to the evolution of job markets warrant a comprehensive contemporary refreshing of the research on dual-career couple expatriation. New, better-controlled theoretical contexts would be welcome. Empirical investigation, theory building, and quantitative validation of these theories will advance the state of science and benefit international human resource managers.

While the phases of expatriation decision making and adjustment on assignment are becoming better understood, the most pressing research gap is in the area of dual-income and dual-career couple repatriation, where a comprehensive narrative literature review did not reveal specific literature (Szkudlarek 2010). There is an opportunity to build an understanding of the


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