Macau Matters | Working Holiday Visas

Richard Whitfield

Around the world about 20 countries have reciprocal arrangements to allow their citizens to get visas for working holidays. In Asia these countries include Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Australia. In Europe, it includes Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. And finally, Canada is also a participant.

Generally, if you are a citizen from any of these countries aged 18-31 you can get a working holiday visa to live and work and/or study in any of the other participating countries for up to 1 year. These visas do not allow you to travel with dependents, and you cannot work for the same employer for more than 3-6 months. To me, this seems to be a great system for younger people to see the world and learn what it is like to live and work in different countries. I wish it had been available when I was young.

It is increasingly common for young people to take a “gap year” after finishing high school to decide what they want to do with the rest of their lives. To me, an international working holiday is an excellent way to productively fill this gap. Young people can try out different employment fields, learn about the world, gain confidence and independence, and build a bank-roll for later study. I had a gap year myself in the 1970’s before completing 10 years of university study and never felt it was a waste and, if anything, it reinforced my desire to study at university. (There is nothing like working as a day laborer for a year to make you want to go to university to start a career with better pay for using your brain rather than your brawn.)

I strongly believe in the value of internships as an integral part of university studies as long as they are well managed. The kinds of work that student interns do needs to be carefully designed and monitored so that it is truly a learning experience, and not just cheap labor. And the quality of the student’s performance, and the quality of the mentoring given by the employer, also needs to be properly evaluated. I feel that doing an internship in another country would definitely add a great deal of richness and value to the experience.

I do think that the age range for these working holiday visas is too restrictive – why not also make them available for people over 60? As a semi-retired person, I would be very happy to have the opportunity to live and work in different countries for 3-6 month time periods, while relaxing for the rest of the year. For example, teaching one semester a year, in a different country each year, sounds like a lot of fun to me.

I believe that joining this group of countries offering working holiday visas would be very good for Macau, and especially for young people who have grown up here. What is stopping us?

Categories Opinion