Sex workers go to Australia under working holiday cover

TAIPEI - It was recently reported in the media that some local prostitutes travelled to Australia as backpackers under the working holiday programme to engage in the sex industry.

Sources said that starting about a year ago, some local restaurants in west Australia started to hire waitresses to provide "special services," and some of them came from Asian countries, including Taiwan.

According to a Taiwanese person living in Australia, some professional sex workers from Taiwan have enrolled in the working holiday programme to provide sex services in Australia, where they are able to earn a much higher compensation, compared with the pay in Taiwan. According to the reports, the women entered the country specifically to work in the sex industry, and were not simply backpackers opting to make some extra cash.

Reports say that more and more massage businesses started to engage in illegal services, which were promoted under the slogan "Taiwanese girls" to attract business. Although the sex trade is not strictly illegal in Australia, the fact that Taiwanese women are taking part in the trade hurts Taiwan's global image.

Finding Work in Australia

According to statistics released by Australia's immigration office, between July 2012 and June 2013, over 35,000 working holiday visas were issued by the Australian government to Taiwanese, which is an increase of 59 per cent year-on-year. The number of workers from Taiwan was second only to those from Great Britain.

It has become increasingly difficult for backpackers to find jobs in Australia. Many are so eager to find work that they enter into base-level jobs at places such as restaurants, farms and meat processing factories, oftentimes at lower than minimum wage and without proper insurance.

Many jobs at farms or orchards are seasonal and not available year-round. Nevertheless, with a minimum wage much higher than that of Taiwan, traveling to Australia to earn money has become a trend for many local young people in recent years. Compared with base-level employment, sex services are a way to generate a higher income.

Misuse of Program

According to Anna Kao, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the working holiday programme set up between the governments was originally intended to broaden Taiwanese young people' horizons, enhance their international competitiveness, encourage cultural exchanges and so on.

Kao said that the working holiday platform allows young people without substantial financial means to travel abroad for an extended period of time. Young people who are enrolled in the programme ought to solicit help from legitimate employment agencies, and watch for work details before signing any work contracts. It is also highly advised that young people abide by local laws, and ensure their workplace and travel safety, Kao added.