Taipei, Dec. 29 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged Taiwanese young adults Sunday to make good use of the working holiday program, in response to a local news report that at least 1,000 Taiwanese women have worked as prostitutes in the past nine years after entering Australia on working holiday visas. A working holiday program is meant to offer people aged between 18 and 30 an opportunity to travel to a foreign country to experience a different culture and expand their horizons, while allowing them to work to earn their living costs there, said ministry spokeswoman Anna Kao. Prostitution is legal in Australia and working in the sex industry after entering the country under the program does not violate the law down under. Kao's remarks came after the Chinese-language Apple Daily reported earlier in the day that many Taiwanese women went to Australia on working holiday visas and later engaged in the sex trade because of the lure of higher salaries. After receiving information from a Taiwanese backpacker in Australia, the paper said it sent a team to Perth, 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 were involved in prostitution in Taiwan before going to Australia on working holiday visas, the source said. Some other cases might be Taiwanese backpackers lured into the sex industry by high salaries, the commissioner said. Citing statistics 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 United Kingdom. Australia issued over 35,000 working holiday visas to Taiwanese nationals between July last year and June 2013, an increase of 59 percent from the previous year, it said. The Taiwan-Australia working holiday program took effect in 2004, allowing Taiwanese young adults to stay for one year at a time, or two years after an extension. Since then, more than 100,000 Taiwanese have visited Australia under the program. In Perth, a city with two million residents, there is said to be around 3,000 Taiwanese working holidaymakers.
Taiwan also has similar programs with New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Ireland, Belgium, Canada and the U.K. (By Hsieh Chia-chen, Wang Yi-wen and Elaine Hou)