Can I find a job abroad if I'm over 50?

  • senior employee at office
Published on 2024-02-20 at 14:00 by Asaël Häzaq
On one side, labor shortages are driving many countries to seek foreign workers. On the other side, increased life expectancy and extended working lives are causing many older people to remain in the workforce. So, what opportunities exist, and under what conditions can senior expatriates secure or retain employment?

What kind of job market is there for senior expats?

All nations undertaking immigration reforms prioritize young foreign talent, with clear rules and well-defined age limits. In countries like the UK, Canada, and Australia, you can even lose points for immigration eligibility beyond a certain age. Applying after the age of 55 or 60 may not always be possible. The points-based systems in these countries aim to attract foreign talent capable of contributing to the national economy, and unfortunately, age can be a disadvantage. While senior citizens may possess extensive experience and qualifications, their age may work against them in the eyes of immigration policies. It's also a matter of securing the future, and favoring younger expatriates is seen as a way to address demographic decline. This is the case in Canada, which depends on immigration. Japan and South Korea are also turning to immigration to boost their birth rates.

The only seniors who manage to navigate around the system are directors, top executives, and highly qualified professionals. They possess the necessary networks, expertise, qualifications, and financial resources. Their career paths bear little resemblance to those of other older workers. However, the situation remains challenging, both nationally and for potential expatriates. With people living longer, the employment of people over 50 has become a pressing political issue. In Canada, for example, highly qualified seniors face more limited access to the job market compared to their younger counterparts. According to a 2020 study by the NGO World Education Services, as reported by the Toronto Star newspaper, Canada tends to favor young foreign talent. Skilled foreign professionals with at least 15 years of experience have an employment rate of 72.1%, compared to 82.1% for skilled foreigners with less than 5 years of experience.

Remaining employed as a senior foreign worker

While the job market presents more challenges for individuals aged 50 and over, the demand for their skills and experience is evident. To address labor shortages, certain companies are actively seeking older workers. This is the case for the SNCF railway company, the French Post Office and EDF in France. Swedish giant IKEA is also welcoming workers over 50. Various sectors, including digital, health, construction, retail, commerce, marketing, finance, and banking, are actively recruiting senior workers. However, it's essential for national legislation to keep up with these evolving trends.

In France, the turbulence of pension reform is now behind us. The law, which was enacted in September, will gradually raise the legal retirement age. According to a study by the Direction de l'Animation de la Recherche, des Études et des Statistiques (Dares) on "Seniors on the job market in 2021," the employment rate for seniors in France stands at 56%. While this is a slight increase, it still falls significantly below the 81.8% rate for workers aged 25 to 49. The French government is actively promoting a more inclusive approach by encouraging companies to be more open to the employment of people aged 50 and over.

Older employees prove to be a valuable asset during labor shortages. They can swiftly become operational, drawing on their extensive experience in the company and the profession. If training is required, their experience serves as an advantage. Additionally, they can play a role in mentoring younger individuals, leading to better team cohesion. Their calm demeanor, thoughtful approach, and organizational skills contribute to a more harmonious work environment. While Canada favors profiles of young, qualified immigrants, it doesn't wholly exclude older professionals. Even if they don't earn points in the "age" category of the Canadian Global Ranking System, part of the Express Entry immigration system, or in the Skilled Worker Program, older candidates can still accumulate points in other areas, such as language skills and work experience.

Can senior expats obtain jobs open to local seniors?

Nothing as such can prevent an expatriate from applying for a specific type of job. The only restrictions typically concern regulated professions, government and civil service positions, and specific state reforms. Regulated jobs, such as those in the medical or legal fields, require specific diplomas and qualifications; the primary limitation lies in meeting these requirements. Government-regulated jobs might have nationality requirements, and there are sectors, like defense or tax services, where foreigners, regardless of age, cannot work. State legislation can also restrict the number of jobs available to foreigners. Kuwait, for example, is actively pursuing a policy of Kuwaitiization to replace foreign labor with local workers.

Foreign seniors to support growth

Some countries have chosen to capitalize on the expertise of senior expatriates in spite of their job nationalization policies. Oman, for example, has abolished age limits to enable companies to recruit individuals over 60. This measure, effective since January 2022, aims to retain foreign talent. Companies argue that the experience and expertise of seniors act as an accelerator for growth and should not be underestimated.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) shares a similar perspective. The country is not ready to let go of foreign talent simply because individuals have reached retirement age. Instead, it relies on their skills and expertise to boost growth. In the UAE, the legal retirement age is 60. Nevertheless, companies can seek permission to retain their foreign nationals, which requires approval from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (MOHRE).

Several countries, including South Korea, Australia, Belgium, and France, are implementing various initiatives to facilitate the employment of seniors. However, it's important to note that governments focus their policies on locals. While expatriates are not explicitly excluded from job opportunities, they are not the primary focus of government awareness campaigns.

In Japan, active seniors are crucial

In Japan, the concern about the aging population is leading workers to extend their careers. Here also, job opportunities are available to both locals and foreigners. Companies like the Hinomaru Kotsu taxi company actively depend on foreign workers, considering them a valuable asset. Recruitment efforts for foreign drivers have intensified, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and in anticipation of the 2020 Olympic Games.

Despite the impact of the health crisis on the sector, its recovery has gained momentum with the reopening of borders and the return of tourists. Demand is surging again, but there's a notable shortage of drivers, particularly in rural areas. The industry is facing challenges in attracting young people. As a result, foreign drivers, both young and old, are being employed to meet the growing demand. To address the persistent shortages, especially in remote regions, the Japanese government has allowed drivers to work until the age of 80 since October 2023.

Based on information from the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare reported by Nikkei Asia newspaper, nearly 40% of Japanese companies employed people aged 70 and over in 2022, which is almost double the figure from 2012. Some companies have chosen to abolish the retirement age limit to retain their older workforce. These measures are beneficial for seniors, as they contribute to an increase in purchasing power while enabling continued engagement in society. In Japan, issues such as modest pensions and job insecurity are significant social concerns. Currently, 9 million senior citizens are part of the workforce, in a total population of 124 million. Working seniors are found in sectors facing shortages, including healthcare, catering, food processing, and transportation.

Finding work abroad as a senior expat

It's important to note that immigration procedures can be long and tedious, and obstacles to the employment of older workers still exist. However, senior workers bring valuable assets to the table. Companies recognize this and are increasingly relying on their experience and skills.

To enhance their chances, expatriate candidates would do well to call their professional network. If they hold positions as directors or senior executives, they may find it easier to access job opportunities abroad that align with their qualifications. Their connections also open doors to foreign companies. Networking remains an excellent way to secure employment abroad, even for individuals aged 50 and above.

Entrepreneurs can also try their luck abroad. In this context, their local knowledge, experience, and contacts become valuable assets contributing to the project's success. Additionally, specialized agencies exist for recruiting foreign workers. In all cases, ongoing training will keep you updated with the latest developments in your business sector.