Older IT Workers in Germany

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Question: I will be moving back to Germany in late 2012. In the US, IT workers once they get close to age 40, are pretty much sent out to pasture rather than valued for their experience. Was wondering if the same was the case in the Germany/Munich area? Note: I speak German also, my spouse is a native of the Stuttgart area. Thanks for the reply.

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I have heard it is harder to get hired in a permanent position after reaching a certain age range from 40-50.

 

If you have good skills / experience, freelancing might be an option. www.gulp.de has some information about demographics and seems to indicate that the average freelancer in Germany is around 44 years old.

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I considered myself very lucky to change jobs here at age of 45 - but the new employer already knew me & were looking for what I did.

How long I can hang on (need another 6.5 years)...

 

My previous employer had been throwing just about everyone out who reached 50 so the writing was on the wall.

 

Within IT world there have been a number high profile project that failed - partly due to getting rid of older people with experience & replacing by youngsters (=cheap). Usually a healthly mixture is the best but managements love to repeat history.

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I feel more and more fortunate that I was able to start a new career as software developer at the age of 39... but then, that came after a year of unemployment.

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Colleagues, who were looking for jobs in the last round of lay-offs here, were told by a couple of recruiters that up to 50 with good skills is do-able but after 50, forget it for a permanent job - go free-lancing.

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Sometimes it seems to me you're rather considered old in the business in Germany when you hit 25, not 40...

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I agree with the suggestion that freelancing is the best course of action for older IT workers. I am now 58 and have been freelancing successfully as a programmer for four years now. One drawback is that you need to be ready to work away from home and return at weekends, because contracts simply may not be available where you live, but the pay is normally very good.

 

My present contract ends soon, but recruiters are already approaching me offering me new projects. A good place for freelancers to start is here.

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Question: I will be moving back to Germany in late 2012. In the US, IT workers once they get close to age 40, are pretty much sent out to pasture rather than valued for their experience. ...

 

Your comment surprised me. I always thought the complete opposite was true. In Germany, yes, there is age discrimination, but in the U.S.? But here in Germany, the more experience you have, the better a freelancer you will be and be valued for. But I guess you're kind of German anyhow if you are planning for something a 1 1/2 years in advance :-)

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I have heard it is harder to get hired in a permanent position after reaching a certain age range from 40-50.

There was a saying amongst head hunters in Germany many years ago: with 30 you're old, with 40 you're too old. Given the fact that Germany lacks so many skilled and experienced employees, I'm astonished to hear that this seems to be still valid.

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But here in Germany, the more experience you have, the better a freelancer you will be and be valued for.

 

True. But of course this question tends to be asked by people that want a permanent job.

 

Germany's a gerontocracy. I know a lot of German men (right past 70) who really do earn a lot from self-employment as long as they have good track records. Based on what they tell me I think the two main issues for an immigrant newcomer might be (1) selling their less recognised foreign employer / client credentials as compared to say, the heavy-hitting German / European ones that most people know and (2) the time taken to "bed-in", it took most of them a while.

 

And, as kenlive says, they expect to go where the work is. The also make sure they have good fall backs - they prioritise good networks and relationships with agencies etc. That means they always have sources of work.

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While IT perhaps focuses the issue age discrimination is something across pretty well all disciplines surely?

 

We have the problem that the new skills tend to be with the new graduates and there is a temptation to hire the bright new thing. However as time has gone by there is an ever increasing legacy code base out there that the bright young thing isn't interested in.

 

I would expect that as time goes by the age issue will become less and less. I think there's a bubble of highly skilled people in the 40ish age group who actually know how to keep the ship floating and are very much in need?

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Given the fact that Germany lacks so many skilled and experienced employees, I'm astonished to hear that this seems to be still valid.

It is quite amazing. Those "brain drain" articles have been popping up this week again, telling us that German professionals are leaving Germany in droves and that they're now considering making it easier for engineers and IT specialists from abroad to get their credentials recognized in Germany so they can fill the gaps. I wonder if they're going to drop the ageism as well.

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Sometimes I think that German politicians and corporations haven't understood yet that globalization means competition for talent. Letting local experts go without replacing them with others from abroad is an economical and social disaster waiting to happen. Same for age discrimination. If it continues, it will hurt the country on the long run.

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While IT perhaps focuses the issue age discrimination is something across pretty well all disciplines surely?

 

I agree. I think we're not being cynical enough here... in Germany employers don't have to worry about the potential medical costs of any new hire (like small to mid-size companies do in the US), but they still might prefer younger folks who take out less sick days (no family a plus!). And also just general discrimination against the old.

 

 

We have the problem that the new skills tend to be with the new graduates and there is a temptation to hire the bright new thing.

This has never made sense to me. Who do they think is teaching computer science at universities? In the US at least its old balding Unix guys. If younger folks have new skills its either because those profs are learning new skills or because the students learn it on their own. In reality I think it's a combination of both.

 

I'm not very sympathetic to IT folks who don't keep up with the latest developments. But its certainly unfair to judge this based on age. No matter the age it's a constant challenge, technology is of course always changing and the entire field is full of so many specializations. And often it's hard to judge which specializations will still be relevant in a few years.

 

 

However as time has gone by there is an ever increasing legacy code base out there that the bright young thing isn't interested in.

 

I would expect that as time goes by the age issue will become less and less. I think there's a bubble of highly skilled people in the 40ish age group who actually know how to keep the ship floating and are very much in need?

 

Maintaining legacy systems is sort of just a niche, though certainly one that requires older hands if you don't want to do any training.

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I'm 43 and my hair is white. I don't have insane ninja-like programming skills, and I had no trouble finding a job here. I'm not particularly mature though, so that probably helps? =)

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erm, no problem aside from language barriers and not being close enough to pop in for an interview anytime. Meaning, I think my age was the smallest factor working against me but who knows?

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Maintaining legacy systems is sort of just a niche, though certainly one that requires older hands if you don't want to do any training.

 

Some parts of the industry move at pace and require you to retool all the time. Others like manufacturing , banking and many other sectors move at a far slower pace with systems in place that have been there 10 or 20 years. There are some people who change jobs like they change their underwear, more often in the case of some programmers it seems. Others who work for one company and retool when the company does.

 

In my 20's I thought you had to retool all the time. But I also worked for Microsoft system houses where you were always given the latest shinny thing to play with (hands up of you how many used VB1). Then as time went by I ended up in a company I really like where I want to say.

 

Maybe not everbody is lucky enough, or has a wish to, work for a slower moving codebase company but there are plenty around. And maintaining older code bases is probably no more of a niche than the latest wizz bang technology.

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Well, ten years on from this original post I happened upon today, I suspect Germany will be happy to get mostly anyone who fits the requirements.

Looking at the 2020 demographics https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Germany#/media/File:Germany_population_pyramid.svg

 

As of age 67, Germany will loose around 500K people to retirement, yet slightly less than 400K will join the workforce at age 20.

Fast forward 10 years and we will hit peak retirement at around 700K people, yet still have only around 400K new 20 year olds.

So Germany would need +100K (today) to +300K in 10 years from now, new working aged people.

 

Net migration (https://www.destatis.de/EN/Themes/Society-Environment/Population/Migration/Tables/migration-total.html;jsessionid=5AB0AD8734859ACC3544C31045322347.live742) varies from year to year and is dominated by foreign nationals.

On average 200K-300K the last few years up to 2021. Likely much more in 2022 due to the Ukraine war.

However, likely those leaving are retirees, and those arriving only so many will be adults of working age.

 

My experience from the IT field, is companies struggle to get experienced people and they are highly valued if they have the skill set that company needs.

I would guess there would be huge demand this year (2022) for kindergarden teachers and associated support staff for the influx of Ukrainian people.

As unemployment is historically low, I do not think being older matters that much.

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Making 10 year predictions about the IT needs in any particular country is fraught with error.  Competition between countries and companies redefines "outsourcing" and new languages and new needs bring the IT industry back to its touchstone....continual education.  Change is ts status quo.

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intersting (old) thread !


I am very close to my "official" retirement date - have been working in IT since 1978, mostly on IBM Mainframes, but also 12 years of Windows Client/Server environment - and receive a surprisingly high number of serious job offers.


I won't venture to predict the next 10 years for IT, but I'd dare say the next 3 years will be really good for us "old" folks. I'll be working past my retirement date, reducing the hours and being very picky about the projects I'll consider.

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