More Taiwanese young people are heading overseas on "work holidays", enticed by the prospect of higher pay and foreign pastures.
Some 27,000 Taiwanese aged between 18 and 35 travelled to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Britain, Germany, and South Korea last year on year-long stays combining work with travel. The number was 60 per cent higher than in 2011.
Mr Kao Yueh-sheng, co-founder of YEC International, an agency which plans trips for clients bound for Australia, said it had more than 600 customers last year, a 20 per cent increase over 2011.
"The demand for working holidays has been rising in the past two or three years," said Mr Kao. "The main reason is that salary levels in Taiwan are too low, just about one-third or one-quarter of those in Australia."
One can easily earn A$30,000 (S$35,000) for a year's work in Australia, he added.
So eager are some young people to venture abroad that they even go into debt to finance their trips. Last year, some 812 Taiwanese borrowed a total of NT$95 million (S$4 million) - both sets of figures nearly double those in 2011 - under a government-endorsed loan scheme.
Most, like Ms Joy Chen, got their money from saving every cent or borrowing from their families.
Ms Chen, 25, worked in five part-time jobs for nearly a year before flying to Australia in 2010 for a two-year stint, immediately after graduating from university with a degree in early childhood education.
"I've always wanted to go abroad to learn English. My mum was supportive - she said working holidays are one way ordinary people like us can see the world."
After studying English at a language school in Melbourne for two months, Ms Chen worked successively as a strawberry packer, a meat packer, and a waitress in Brisbane and Sydney. Between jobs, she holidayed in Tasmania, the Great Barrier Reef and the nearby island of Fiji.