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Now What? Retired expats still want to work, but laws stop them

Recently, many expatriates working in the public sector who reached the age of 60 were forced to retire. However, being forced to stay at home after a long life career takes its toll on many expats whose lives revolved around work and whose families are also here. According to the law, expat employees working in different fields in Kuwait are required by law to retire at the age of 60. In some fields, however, the age limit is 65.

Jessica, a 73-year-old European expat, dealt with her retirement in a rather unenviable way as she became depressed. Now retired for the last 13 years, she turned into a housewife. She worked as a doctor at a private clinic since 1969 and was happy with her work. Her area of expertise was rare at that time. “My patients were always satisfied with my treatment, especially since I used to avoid opting for surgery whenever I could treat an illness without it.

I was not only looking to make money as some clinics did,” she said. The retirement age at that time was 60 years, and once someone attained that age, his or her medical license was not renewed. “So in January 2000, when I reached the age of 60, my license for practicing medicine expired and I was forced to retire, although I still felt I could be productive and able to work.

I applied to seek an exception to get my license renewed for a year, but the Ministry of Health refused to do so,” said Jessica. She explained that the following year, a new law was issued which allowed the expat doctors working in the private sector to continue working till the age of 65. When the new law came into effect, Jessica reapplied for the license. “The Ministry refused to renew my license without giving any reason, but I am certain that my competitor doctors where behind it,” she said and added that she filed a case against the ministry and it moved in the court for three years. By then I had already reached the age of 65, so in any case I was not able to work. As for me, even today, I feel fit and able to work and contribute to society,” she said, explaining that in Europe people work till they cross 70 as people want to benefit from their long experience, especially in professions such as medicine. After her retirement Jessica felt that she not only lost her job but she also lost her social life because people’s behaviour towards her also changed. “When I was working, I had many relations, and very respectable people from various walks of life were receiving treatment in my clinic.

But after I retired, I became useless for them, so they forgot all about me. Even the pharmacies I was dealing with before stopped giving me discounts,” she said. “The employees working at the airport or the immigration department, who were my patients, act as if they don’t know me, and all of this makes me feel bad. Yet I didn’t think of leaving the country as I have lived my entire life here,” she said. “It has been almost 50 years since I have been here, and I am staying here with my daughter who doesn’t want to leave this country too, as she feels it is her home,” concluded Jessica. Abdulsattar, 72, is another retired expat. He was working as an electrical engineer in the Ministry of Commerce where he spent 30 years. “I came to Kuwait when I was a young man, along with my wife.

I worked at the ministry since 1972. During the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, I was shot at by the Iraqi soldiers as I was at work that day on August 2, 1990. I was not naturalized,” he noted. When he reached 60, he was forced to retire. “I was sad to retire, as I was still able to work and this made me feel as if I had become old and useless. I couldn’t imagine sitting at home. Before the invasion I had a small business in the form of a baqala near my house. I closed it during the invasion, and didn’t open it again. Now I feel weak, especially that I am sick,” he added. He has eight children, all living in Kuwait, while his brother and his family also live here. “I visit my homeland twice a year, but I don’t think of moving back there. I’m sick sometimes as I’m old, but my children are taking care of me.

By Nawara Fattahova

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This article was published on 07/06/2013