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Too Old to Work in the UAE | Tom O'Hara

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Too Old to Work in the UAE | Tom O'Hara

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Too Old to Work in the UAE
Monday, July 09, 2012 — Tom O'Hara

Unlike Florida, the United Arab Emirates is not trying to lure old people to massive condo communities with security gates and huge clubhouses. In fact, the Emiratis have thrown me out of the country because I turn 65 on July 15.

I wasn’t upset by the decision. In fact, my employer, The National newspaper, gives retirees a nice financial bonus not given to people who just resign. Besides, I’m excited about collecting my Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Not only am I getting sent away because I’m old, but I discovered soon after I got here in June 2010 that I had been hired illegally. I was 62 at the time and companies are not allowed to hire ex-pats who are older than 60. In my case, it appears a series of bureaucrats failed to take note of my date of birth, which was on all sorts of documents.

I had another ageism thrill soon after I arrived. I had applied to open a bank account at the local HSBC branch. A cheerful representative arrived at the newspaper to help me and two younger colleagues navigate the paperwork.

All three of us wanted HSBC credit cards. The bank wouldn’t give me one.

“Oh, I see you’re over age 60,” the young man said. “The bank is not allowed to issue credit cards to anyone over 60.” 

I was mystified.

“Young people are the ones who don’t pay their credit-card bills,” I pointed out. 

“It’s the law,” the fellow told me.

Like with so many other laws and policies in the UAE, you can’t find anyone who can explain the purpose. I assume the Emiratis won’t let companies hire people over 60 – and forcibly retire those who reach 65 – because they are worried that old workers will get sick and cost them money.

But I’ve never understood the logic of the old-person ban on issuing credit cards.

I suppose some of the age discrimination stems from the nation’s campaign to get young Emiratis to grow up and become something other than a cop or a soldier.

Most Emirati men drop out of high school. They have little incentive to pursue higher education because the police and military jobs pay well and require little work. That explains why so many young Emiratis in Mercedes and Jaguars roar past us ex-pats who are driving Honda Civics.

I eventually got an HSBC credit card. After pestering the bank for a few weeks, one of the bankers said I could have a card if I put roughly $4,000 in a special account. Every month the bank paid my credit-card bill from that account and then restored it to its limit with money from my primary account. Seemed like a convoluted solution, but I was happy to comply.

I went to the bank the other day to close my accounts before returning to the United States. I mentioned to the nice young banker from India how bizarre it was that the UAE would not let banks issue cards to people over 60. He agreed and then smiled.

“They raised the age to 65.”

Of course, he had no idea why.

A former managing editor of The Palm Beach Post, Tom O'Hara has been a senior editor with The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi and a Middle East columnist for Florida Voices.

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Not so fast Big Tom. If you were born between 1943 and 1954 you can't collect full SS benefits until age 66. I've been collecting 90 percent since age 63 back in 1998 whem my wife collected 60 percent of what I would have earned at age 65 even though she had had and earn ings with withholding since we wed in 1963. My pension and IRA keep us in the middle class. So keep freelancing and get married and do it to the government before it goes broke.

by Dr. Radut.