An American friend asked me recently whether Dutch universities have a practice of accommodating spouses when they offer an academic a job. Spousal accommodation could take many forms – either offering a job to the spouse, or making a serious effort in finding a job for the spouse, or supporting the spouse in his or her own job search. Yet I have never heard that there is a practice of spousal accommodation at European universities—whereas it does happen in the US.
Is the impression I have correct? Are there any signs this is changing in Europe? And is it in the US only a matter for certain academic jobs – say: you want to make an offer s/he can’t refuse to a brilliant established professor, or does it also occur at entry-level positions? I’d love to read your views and experiences.
As to the desirability of the practice of spousal accommodation, I have not made up my mind yet. One the one hand, I see around me excellent young academics who are virtually unemployed because their spouse is in a place where there is no job for them, and they don’t want to be living far away from their family; on the other hand we tend to think that jobs should be allocated on a fair equality of opportunities principle—and it is unclear whether spousal accommodation meets this principle. It probably depends on the exact nature of the spousal accommodation: if it merely entails supporting one’s job search on the existing job market, then it seems fine; if it is the actual creation of a job for a spouse, or the striking of a deal with another department that they hire the spouse for a vacancy that is about to be opened, it seems more problematic.