Comment: Ageism in International Work

10/8/14 – I have received some e-mails from folks who are concerned about ageism, particularly regarding school  library work.  So I thought it might help to post my experience and opinion on this issue.

Ageism can be a concern but I personally know several people currently teaching overseas who are over 60:  a colleague who had to leave Dubai last year because she is 65 is now in Senegal, a couple who is 64 and 62 are in Singapore, and another friend who didn’t think she was going overseas again was hired late and just left for Cameroon.

What is comes down to, in my opinion, is what the employer needs, how flexible you are in regards to location, and your health.

Employer needs – how essential is your position?  Librarians have traditionally been hard to find which has always been good for me!  Is the school facing an impending accreditation?  This is the time they will usually pay for a good and experienced librarian, if you have accreditation experience all the better.

Flexiblity – some schools do have age restrictions because of visa rules for their country.  Kazakhstan is 60 and UAE 62 for example.  I personally do not know of any country that restricts below 60 and it is usually fine if you apply at 59.  I know of several situations where the visa was extended beyond the age limit but this only happens in cases where the institution can prove a need and it costs time and money so you must be worth it.  Anyway, the point is you will need to think a bit wider geographically if you are approaching 60.

Health – this is a huge cost and concern.  If you act and look healthy and can prove it by passing the physical for the visa then this should not be an issue.  Make sure you have a great-looking photo and/or video.  If you have minor health concerns that is OK, much depends on location.  Health was a big discussion when we were in the Marshall Islands, much less so when we were in Abu Dhabi because of the facilities available in the country.

Here is an excerpt from my book where I discuss opportunities based on where you are in your career:

Ageism is a reality in international work and some countries, particularly those in the Middle East, will not generally issue visas to anyone over 60.  However, as I approach the latter half of my career and am naturally focusing on this issue, I am happy to report that there are still opportunities for librarians who have waited a lifetime to have the freedom to explore the world.

Some examples include school libraries (I know a librarian who is over 60 and thus having to leave Dubai who has just signed a contract with a school in Senegal. She is happy to try a new place and they are happy to have her experience.)  Other opportunities include Semester at Sea for those with academic experience, and finally the Peace Corps who does not have an upper age limit.

You can also join IREX’s list of traveling ‘experts’ and check out the Fulbright Specialist program.  For a fee, you can travel as an ambassador with People to People (they are currently offering a trip for librarians to India) or do a volunteer vacation. (See Book Resources for links).

And, finally here is a thread from the International Schools Review blog:

Ageism in International Schools:

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