Age Diversity Age Diversity Age Diversity

Older Chinese Nationals in the United Kingdom: Strategies for maintaining employability

In the UK, as in most parts of Europe, government is seeking to raise real retirement ages by raising pension ages, restricting social benefits and encouraging employers to provide work opportunities for older workers. This agenda presents three major challenges for the Chinese community, particularly first generation Cantonese. First, many within the community are employed in the catering sector in physically demanding and stressful work in which the expectation is for very early retirement (before 55). Second, a large proportion have spent most of their careers self-employed, usually owning and running family businesses. Consequently, they cannot rely on employers to provide access to retraining, flexible working and phased retirement which could help workers delay retirement. Third, first generation Chinese often lack sufficient English skills to either find re-employment or participate in government sponsored training.

At the same time, the Chinese community faces significant skills shortages, with many of the elderly requiring carers who not only have formal qualifications, but also are proficient in Chinese and understand their culture. There is an obvious match between a group of workers who need jobs and a sector which needs employees. However, older Chinese nationals who may be considering second careers in caring.

As part of a collaborative project, Wai-Yin, a community centred organisation in Manchester, and the Centre for Research into the Older Workforce collaborated on an action research based project to learn what kind of work opportunities would persuade older Chinese nationals to delay retirement; what obstacles they face in gaining such employment; and specifically the support which they would need to pursue second careers in caring.

This project is part of a larger
ESRC project on work and retirement in the UK and Hong Kong.