Council Meetings (Question): Working Holiday Scheme (2023.06.26)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Chinese): President, Hong Kong has implemented the Working Holiday Scheme (the Scheme) with New Zealand and Australia since 2001 so that bilateral cultural ties as well as tourism promotion and development can be enhanced. Under the Scheme, Hong Kong young people aged between 18 and 30 may visit these countries for holiday and take up short-term employment during their 12-month stay, so as to acquire a better understanding of the cultural and social developments of the host countries, and gain valuable experiences while holidaying and working abroad, thereby strengthening their self-confidence, resilience and inter-personal skills. The Scheme has subsequently been extended to Ireland, Germany, Japan, Canada and South Korea. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the respective numbers of Hong Kong young people who had applied for and been granted approval to participate in the Scheme from 2009 to 2012 (set out in the table below);

(b) of the total number of requests for assistance received by the authorities since the launch of the Scheme from Hong Kong young people while participating in the Scheme, the contents of such requests and the details of the responses made by the authorities;

(c) given that travel insurance in general is valid for six months only and does not cover work injuries and accidents, whether the authorities have reminded participants of the Scheme to take out suitable insurance policies; and

(d) whether it has reviewed the details of the Scheme regularly, requested the Chinese embassies/consulates in the places covered by the Scheme to enhance their assistance to participants of the Scheme, and stepped up publicity to raise participants’ safety awareness; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

SECRETARY FOR LABOUR AND WELFARE (in Chinese): President, our response to the question raised by Mr CHAN Kin-por is as follows:

(a) According to information provided by the host countries, the numbers of Hong Kong young people who had applied for and been granted visas under their respective working holiday schemes with Hong Kong are set out below:

(b) We do not have the requested statistical breakdowns.

(c) and (d) In formulating relevant bilateral arrangements for the Working Holiday Scheme (WHS arrangements), the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government has taken into account the protection to be afforded to the working holidaymakers. Of the eight countries which have already signed a WHS arrangement with Hong Kong, seven of them (including New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, Japan, Canada, South Korea and France) have a compulsory requirement whereby applicants have to take out medical insurance for their entire period of stay failing which they would not be granted working holiday visas.

For Australia, given that all other WHS agreements it has hitherto signed with other jurisdictions do not contain any requirement on insurance, the Australian authorities hold the view that the provisions in the WHS arrangement with Hong Kong should align with them and hence there is no provision requiring the applicants to take out insurance policy during their stay. However, the Australian authorities have included in its application form and other publicity materials a clear reminder to the applicants to take out suitable medical insurance to cover possible costs that may be incurred in Australia. In parallel, the HKSAR Government has, through our websites, pamphlets and briefing sessions at schools, raised participants’ safety awareness and appealed to all participants that, regardless of which country they are going to, they should take out suitable medical insurance to cover possible costs incurred while they are abroad.

Any HKSAR residents, including working holidaymakers, may approach the relevant Chinese Embassy/Consulate for assistance, or call the 24-hour hotline of the Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit (AHU) of the Immigration Department at (852)1868 if they are involved in accidents abroad. The Chinese Embassy/Consulate concerned and AHU will provide assistance as appropriate according to the circumstances of the cases, such as reissuing travel documents, contacting families, referring them to local lawyers, doctors and/or interpreters, and liaising with the local authorities, and so on. AHU would also liaise with other government departments for assistance where necessary.

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