Snapshot: State Department’s Family Member Employment

Kazimir Malevich's impressionist Unemployed Gi...Image via Wikipedia

Below is a comparative snapshot of family member employment from a 2007 report and the latest available report dated June 2009 from the Family Liaison Office of the State Department. The statistics here refer to adult family members of a U.S. government employee assigned to an overseas mission under Chief of Mission authority.

The 2009 data includes reports from 201 posts while the 2007 data included 217 posts. On the gender composition, it went up a percentage this year for female family members and down a percentage for male family members. Female family members still account for 4/5 of the total worldwide population. Also, note that the employment number for those working within the US mission is stagnant at 25%. Family members working outside the mission saw an increased of 2%. This leaves the number of unemployed family members currently at 61%, 2% lower than in 2007.

Quick thoughts (and questions) — first, nothing here indicates the percentage of family members who are actively seeking work and are unable to so do. No data either on family members who have opted to stay-home by choice. I think those are important numbers to know — so we can tell the effectiveness of the agency’s response to clear, articulated needs.

Second, given the stagnant number for those working inside the mission, what happened to the expanded hiring under the Professional Associates program? I remember an official telling me that the expanded PA hiring would up the number of jobs for family members overseas. That did not seem to happen given this stuck-on 25% data. Were jobs slashed before or around the time the expanded hiring occurred? Or — there’s another way of looking at these numbers. Note that the total adult family member population has expanded from 9,243 in 2007 to 9,819 in 2009. Whatever increased in hiring occurred was erased by the expansion in this population.

Finally, I can’t tell from looking at the stats if the 2% bump for those working outside the mission came out because of the SNAP/GEI program or elsewhere. If the 1,397 jobs resulted from SNAP/GEI, is that the best bang for the limited money spent on family member employment? If not, what other alternatives are there?

Current report can be viewed here.

2007
(217 Posts reporting October 2007)

June 2009
(201 Posts)

2007
Family Member Employment Report Statistics
(217 Posts reporting October 2007)

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US Embassy Jakarta’s "Ocean in Focus"

Spectacular Underwater Photos!
“Ocean in Focus” entry entitled “Alien”

via US Embassy Jakarta/Facebook

US Embassy Jakarta’s Facebook page (with fast-growing fans currently at 6,191) has posted the entries to the National Underwater Photography Competition, “Ocean in Focus”. Gorgeous underwater photographs! Check them out here.

Western Sahara: A fight over independence

Lobbying Expenses: Algeria – $416,000; Morocco – $3.4 million

The following is excerpted from Opening the Window on Foreign Lobbying by Anupama Narayanswamy and Luke Rosiak, Sunlight Foundation and Jennifer LaFleur, ProPublica. Reprinted here under Creative Commons.

The Western Sahara [14] is an inhospitable patch of desert about the size of Colorado on Africa’s Atlantic coast, with a population of about 400,000, a GDP of only $900 million, and an economy based on nomadic herding, fishing and phosphorous mining. It is also one of the last colonies in the world — Morocco [15] annexed it a few years after Spain granted it independence in 1975 — and the subject of 34 U.N. Security Council resolutions on the territory since 1999.

In late 2007 and 2008, the desert region was a top priority for Morocco’s hired lobbyists. At issue was Western Sahara’s autonomy, but the story also shows how, in a foreign lobbying arms race, the side with the biggest arsenal can come out on top.

The government of Morocco sought the support of Congress in this lengthy territorial dispute. The region has long demanded independence. An indigenous insurgent group, the Polisario Front [16], waged a guerrilla war against the Moroccan military until the United Nations brokered a cease-fire in 1991.

Part of the terms of that deal included holding a referendum to determine the territory’s final status, but no vote has been held. In 2007, Morocco issued a proposal to grant Western Sahara autonomy within sovereign Morocco. The U.S. initially welcomed the proposal, and direct talks began between Morocco and the Polisario with the involvement of Algeria, which supports self-determination for the Sahrawi tribes from the area.

Toby Moffett, a lobbyist for Morocco who served as a Democratic congressman from Connecticut in the 1970s and ’80s, wrote an op-ed for the April 8, 2007, edition of The Los Angeles Times, explaining how he presented Morocco’s position to an unnamed member of Congress: “Morocco has a good story to tell,” he wrote. “It believes that the long-standing dispute with Algeria and the rebel Polisario group over the Western Sahara must be resolved.

“We tell the congresswoman and her staff that the region is becoming a possible Al Qaeda training area,” he wrote. “Algeria and the Polisario recently hired lobbyists, too, so we’ll have our hands full.”

Indeed, records show the Algerian government’s lobbyists had 36 contacts with members of Congress and staff promoting self-determination for the people of Western Sahara. The Algerians paid a modest $416,000 in lobbying fees.

By comparison, lobbyists for the government of Morocco had 305 contacts with members of Congress and their staff. Morocco paid $3.4 million in lobbying expenses — putting it among the top foreign government spenders for FARA filings in the period.

The intense campaign won converts. A bipartisan group of some 173 House members signed on to a statement supporting Morocco’s offer of autonomy for the region without formal independence. President Bush also expressed support [17] for Morocco’s plan in summer of 2008. And this April, 229 representatives sent a letter to President Obama urging him to back Morocco.

Until Obama reversed Bush’s stance [18] last month, Morocco’s investment worked.

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The Foreign Lobbyist Influence Tracker is a joint project of ProPublica and the Sunlight Foundation. It digitizes information that representatives of foreign governments, political parties and government-controlled entities must disclose to the U.S. Justice Department when they seek to influence U.S. policy. Filings under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) provide details on how lobbyists interact with government officials than those required by the Lobbying Disclosure Act; they contain information on efforts by foreign governments and organizations to influence U.S. policy on trade, taxation, foreign aid, appropriations, human rights and national security.

You may query the database by member of Congress contacted, country, client or lobbying firm. You can also search by “contact issues” as reported by lobbyists.

Read more on Western Sahara here.