Why you should avoid Japa if you are older than 40 years old

Key highlights

  • Migration rates have been increasing over the years, and this trend is likely to continue as globalization takes hold and income disparities between rich and poor countries widen.
  • Immigrating to developed countries can be challenging, especially for individuals who are above 40 years old and already have a job in their home country.
  • Some Nigerians who have left their jobs in search of better opportunities have regretted their decision, as they may struggle to find relevant jobs due to a lack of qualifications or face discrimination based on their race or immigration status.
  • There are other challenges to contend with for immigrants such as income inequality, bias in criminal justice, and lack of proper documentation affecting the ability to get proper jobs.

Black immigrants in rich western nations tend to have lower incomes and higher rates of poverty and unemployment compared to other immigrant groups, despite having similar levels of education.

Becoming an ethnic minority in a new country can be traumatic, and discrimination based on features or skin color can be a challenge for many immigrants, especially in social settings such as school.

As technology makes the world smaller, migration among humans has become an inevitable trend; although for the most part, it has been unidirectional over the decades.

For example, in 1970, one in hundred Black Americans was an immigrant, today, they are one in 10 while another one in ten is children of immigrants.

This increase in immigration rates is likely to continue as globalization takes hold and the income disparity between rich and poor countries widens.

Research shows that immigration speeds up usually when countries find themselves in the throes of war, and when there are economic crises. For these two reasons, Immigration to occidental lands has assumed a much faster pace over the last two decades.

Nigeria’s economic woes in the last 8 years have by far made it one of the largest sources of black immigrants in the US, Canada, and the UK. But while more and more Nigerians consider migrating for a better standard of living, experience has shown the grass is often not always greener on the other side, at least not for everyone.

Immigrants’ take

Livinus Pella, a Nigerian-American, told Nairametrics that one’s vulnerability to living in the USA without a social security number starts with the class of visa s/he gets when travelling to that country.

He said with a visitor’s visa, a migrant may not have enough time to stay in the USA and get properly documented. Pella said any visa that is valid for up to four years gives the owner enough time to be adopted in the new country.

Another Nigerian-American, Gbenga Odulaja, who lives in the United Kingdom, implied that migrating to Europe or America should be carefully considered, especially for those past 40 years old who already have a job in Nigeria. According to him, life in these countries can be tough, and it may be better to stick to one’s current job in Nigeria. Some Nigerians who have left their jobs in search of greener pastures have regretted their decision.

  • “I can understand that people want to migrate to Europe and America due to the economic situation back home. However, except you are coming with your spouse with whom you can work together to earn a living, I advise you don’t come, especially if you are past 40 years old.”
  • “If you are past 40 and already have a job you’re doing in Nigeria, it’s better you stick to it, because life here is tough.” He added that some Nigerians have left their fairly good jobs back home in search of greener pastures and regretted the move.”

It is also important to note that individual experiences can vary widely, and the decision to migrate should be based on a careful evaluation of one’s personal circumstances, including job prospects, education, language skills, and social support networks. However, Odulaja’s comments will resonate with a lot of Nigerians in this age bracket who have struggled to adapt.

Another Nigerian immigrant who spoke to Nairametrics on the condition of anonymity, reveals his regret for migrating at the peak of his career. According to him, he left the country at 44 when the opportunity to exit showed up.

He sold his house, cars, and nearly every asset he had mopping up all the cash he could lay his hands on to give his family a softer landing. However, he had to contend with firesale prices for his assets (since buyers knew he was desperate) getting much lower than he would have received had the buyers not known he was exiting the country.

The biggest challenge was having the climb up the social ladder as a lack of relevant qualifications for highly sought-after jobs, meant he had to settle for menial jobs. At some points, he thought to return to the country but that also meant starting all over again as he had sold his entire assets.

Other challenges to contend with

Economic inequality – A report by Pew Research Center says Black immigrant households make $8,000 less than the average U.S. household and $4,200 less than the average immigrant household.

They are also more likely to live under the federal poverty line and be unemployed. The reason does not lie in education. Black immigrants have similar levels of education as all immigrants on average, and sub-Saharan African immigrants are the best educated of any immigrant group.

A partial explanation is that highly-educated immigrants can have difficulty finding work in their field because of barriers to transferring skills and accreditation from their home country.

Becoming a minority – Another fact to note is that immigrants must often adjust to becoming an ethnic minority for the first time when they travel abroad.

For many, it is the first time in their lives they face discrimination based simply on their features or skin color, and it can be traumatic. Most Black immigrants come from countries of origin in Africa or the Caribbean, where they are in the racial majority.

This can be particularly noticeable in social settings such as school. Many Black immigrant students report struggling with becoming the “other” for the first time.

Bias in Criminal Justice – A UN report says when the vulnerabilities of race and immigration status intersect, they form a “prison to deportation pipeline,” a term used to describe a system that works to funnel Black and Latino immigrants from the criminal court system into Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) custody.

Black immigrants are more likely to be detained, returned to their home country, and prevented from returning than immigrants of other races or ethnicities. Black people are equally likely as other Americans to commit crimes, but they are significantly more likely to be stopped, questioned, arrested, charged, denied bail, convicted, and serve longer sentences.

Black and Latino residents in the United States are more likely to be stopped by police than white residents, and when stopped, police are twice as likely to threaten or use force against them.

Proper documentation – Like the USA, to live and freely buy and sell in most Western economies, you must have a social security number akin to Nigeria’s National Identity Number (NIN).

Without that proper documentation, an immigrant may not be able to procure a driver’s license, pay taxes, or get a grant or loan for school fees, which is difficult to do out of pocket. It is also difficult to get a job without proper immigration documents.

Without a social security number, it is also difficult to rent an apartment, all of which befall illegal migrants. Illegal migration applies to people who illegally enter another country without permission (visa), or overstay their visa expiration date.

However, that doesn’t apply to many Nigerians, who, immigrate as professionals or students to a higher educational institution and adopt the host country as home.

A symbiosis relationship

The Japa trend is a symbiotic development for obvious reasons. Economic migration often has considerable benefits for both origin and destination countries.

It is “the most effective way to reduce poverty and share prosperity”, according to a World Bank report, and can support economic growth by helping address labour shortages in destination countries.

While most cross-border migration takes place between low- and middle-income countries, 83% of non-migrant residents in the 22 richest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries have experienced net economic gains from the influx of migrants.

In addition, black immigrants make significant contributions to their host countries and home. For example, in 2018, black immigrant households earned $133.6 billion in income in the United States economy, paying $22.8 billion in federal income taxes and $13.2 billion in state and local taxes.

Last year, Diasporan Nigerians contributed $22 billion to the Nigerian economy in terms of diaspora remittances.


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