The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has urged Taiwanese to make proper use of working holiday programs.
The ministry was responding to a report by Chinese-language Apple Daily that at least 1,000 Taiwanese women over the past nine years went to Australia on working holiday visas and engaged in the sex trade because of the lure of higher salaries.
A working holiday program is meant to offer people aged between 18 and 30 an opportunity to travel abroad to experience a different culture and expand their horizons, while allowing them to work to earn their living costs, ministry spokeswoman Anna Kao (高安) said.
Prostitution is legal in Australia and working in the sex industry after entering the country under the program is not illegal.
After receiving information from a Taiwanese backpacker in Australia, the paper said it sent a team to Perth, the capital city of the state of Western Australia, earlier this month and interviewed some Taiwanese women working in the sex industry there.
Taiwanese women were found to be providing sex at massage parlors, karaoke parlors and restaurants in Western Australia, according to a commissioner of Taiwan’s Overseas Community Affairs Council who lives in Australia.
Several of them had been involved in prostitution in Taiwan before going to Australia on working holiday visas, the commissioner said, while others may have been backpackers lured into the sex industry.
Citing data from Australia’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the ministry said that among all the working holiday travelers in the country, Taiwanese account for the second-largest group, behind only those from the UK.
Australia issued more than 35,000 working holiday visas to Taiwanese between July last year and June, an increase of 59 percent from the previous year, it said.
The Taiwan-Australia working holiday program took effect in 2004, allowing Taiwanese to stay for up to two years.
Since then, more than 100,000 Taiwanese have visited Australia under the program.
In Perth, a city with 2 million residents, there are reportedly about 3,000 Taiwanese working holidaymakers.