Not just waiting to die


When we talk demographics in this country, it is the 70 percent plus of the population that is under the age of 30 that attracts attention. They are the sizeable force for which the Kingdom’s various branches of government must cater. But what about the remaining lot?

A sizeable number of these Saudis fall into the retiree category. People who have served their time, be it in government or in the private sector and now are part of the idle force. I ran into one such individual who packed his bags and belongings and moved on to reside in an Asian country.

He tells me that tens of thousands of Saudi retirees have emigrated and come to the Kingdom only for the purpose of renewing their identity documents, or to complete their banking transactions. He said that according to statistics and actual studies, these migrating thousands, many with their immediate family in tow, usually return to the Kingdom only to perform Umrah or Haj, to attend the joys and festivities of their family’s weddings, to share in the sorrows of funerals or to update some paperwork required by the government or a financial institution.

The retiree, whose name is Hussein, adds that this migration phenomenon deserves a careful and in-depth study to understand the severity of its negative impact on our society and our economy, before there is a further explosion which may include all of our retirees, and before we become the only country in the world without retired people!

Hussein says, “If you ask any pensioner about the reasons for his emigration, his answer will be that he is not required to die without moving (“moot wa inta qai’d,” loosely translated as “die while you are sitting”).

Hussein said that his emigration provided him with full mobility and raised his spirits in all fields. This helps him to earn his pension abroad, not at home and it helps in countries that have devalued their currency in comparison with the Saudi riyal. Abroad he can afford to own luxury accommodation in paid installments that are really convenient. “Banks also finance it without the humiliation and exhaustion which our banks cause because of the age of the retiree and the concept that for them death is near. Retirees also can establish a business with the availability of plenty of local labor without the need to provide accommodation, Iqama fees, renewal fees, and other expenses.”

He surmises that many escape to enjoy unrestricted entertainment that has been banned in this country for many years. “Innocent family entertainment is almost nonexistent at home for those of our age. I like to go out with my family to a circus or a music show or whatever, as one unit and not be forced to sit away from them. I am at an age where I don’t have to accept such unnatural conditions which separate a family unit because of their gender.”

For some retirees, there is also the freedom to take on a second wife, and a much younger one. “And between me and you, and do not tell anyone, a retiree can marry a beautiful girl in the country of immigration without being criticized as he is at home. You will not be humiliated if you choose to marry a girl your daughter's age, although I personally feel that such men have been misguided. In short, the retiree who moved decided not to die sitting, but became a migrant and renewed his life and enjoyed the moment. Is it wrong?” Hussein asks.

Some chastise Saudi society for its lack of empathy toward Saudi retirees. Look around you and tell me if you see one sign that favors senior citizens. Where are our retirees? Holed up in their homes and getting older by the minute, some just staring at blank walls. In other countries they are respected, they are given certain privileges, there are clubs and associations that cater to their interests and retirees can take advantage of many discounts because of their status.

Isn’t it time we started doing the same for our retirees? One day we will all be heading down that retirement road. It would be a shame if we were left sitting there just waiting to die.

— The author can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena