June is graduation time in Taiwan and while many young people will be looking for jobs at home, others are opting for working holidays to give them a taste of the world.
The government has signed bilateral agreements with nine countries that allow young Taiwanese and their foreign counterparts to travel and work in each other’s countries. Agreements are in place with New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Canada, Germany, South Korea, Ireland, Belgium and the UK.
According to some of those who have joined the programs, their choice of destination was often influenced by the regulations each country has in place.
For example, Canberra places no restrictions on the number of young Taiwanese working in the country, according to the Australian Office Taipei. So, probably unsurprisingly, Australia tops the list of countries young Taiwanese have visited for working holidays.
Between 2011 and last year, 22,000 young Taiwanese visited Australia, up 73 percent from 2010, the office said.
By contrast, Canada offers 1,000 slots for working holiday applicants and operates on a “first come, first served” basis, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
However, Canada has a higher age cap, at 35, compared with other countries, which place it at 30 years of age, the ministry said.
South Korea began its program with Taiwan in 2010.
The Korean Mission in Taipei said it provides 400 openings for Taiwanese aged between 18 and 30 to work in South Korea, adding that an increasing number of Taiwanese are joining the program.
In 2011, 188 Taiwanese applied for the program. The figure rose to 303 last year, and as of May this year, more than 200 people have signed up, it said. The office expects the number to reach 400 this year.
Tseng Yen-shih (曾晏詩), a former student at National Chengchi University’s Department of Korean Language and Culture who worked at a South Korean home-stay in 2011, said that young workers need to be aware that reality may differ from their expectations.
For example, many of her friends are fans of South Korean soap operas, but they should realize that everyday life is different from TV shows, Tseng said.
She added that her experience working in Seoul left her with the impression that it is not so very different from Taipei.
Belgium, which signed a working holiday program with Taiwan earlier this year, offers 200 slots for young people aged between 18 and 30 to work there for a year.
Since the implementation of the program on March 29, more than 60 Taiwanese have signed up.
Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Vanessa Shih (史亞平) said the ministry hopes that through these working holiday programs, young Taiwanese will be able to go abroad and experience the world.
Building friendships abroad is fun and the experience could help open up the young people’s minds and broaden their global perspectives, she said.