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One of the reasons for the increasing number of applications is the flagging French economy since the European debt crisis in 2009. Alex Hiran, is a 30-year-old Frenchman who has been using working visa arrangements to work abroad for several years. In 2009, he had just finished his studies and received his diploma in environmental studies, but he was unable to find a job in France after searching for half a year. So he went first to New Zealand and then Australia for a working holiday.

Last February, Hiran came to Hong Kong as a tourist and then decided to apply for a working holiday visa. It was granted after two months and he now works in a non-government organisation that focuses on glass recycling, which he found out about in an article in the New York Times.

Hiran fell in love with Hong Kong after he first visited the city but it is the economic environment here that attracts him to come to work.

“There are more working opportunities in Hong Kong in general, [more opportunities] for work, to find a job, to have a business,” he says.

Hiran’s working holiday is more about working than holiday. Other than working in the glass recycling organisation, he also works from 9 pm till 11 pm at the hostel where he lives, in exchange for free accommodation. This gives little time to explore Hong Kong.

“I am very busy, I work from Monday to Saturday, and I work here [the hostel] on Sunday, I do the cleaning, and I work five nights a week. I have some time but I don’t have much,” says Hiran.
He is not planning to return to France. After his visa expires in April, he will go to the Mainland to look for other working opportunities.

Although some who come to Hong Kong on working holidays are mainly looking for job opportunities, others are still coming to travel and experience Hong Kong’s culture. Benjamin Chiu, the owner of a chess training centre has hired three working holiday visa holders, two of them are British and the other one is Canadian.

Chiu says as the working hours of a chess coach are short, the job suits people who are on working holidays. He says he does not specifically set out to recruit working holiday visa holders, in fact he did not know about the working holiday scheme, until he hired his first coach who had the visa.

Since then, whenever he advertises jobs, he states that he welcomes working holiday visa holders to apply. Chiu says being a chess tutor may not be an attractive long-term job for a local, but those who are on working holidays only work for a short period of time. It seems it may be a good move for a working holiday visa holder who wants to work and play.

Edited by Emily Man