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Asia OEs on the horizon for many young Kiwis

Asia OEs on the horizon for many young Kiwis

Young New Zealanders are increasingly looking beyond London to Asia for their OEs, according to new research commissioned by the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

The Travel to Asia research report found that 42 percent of young New Zealanders were considering embarking on an overseas experience in the next year. Of that group, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) said they would consider an Asian country as their destination.

But the research also identified low awareness of the opportunities available through working holiday schemes. Only one in 10 of those surveyed were aware of at least one Asian country that offered working holiday visas to young New Zealanders. This is consistent with reporting from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade regarding the low uptake of working holiday schemes by New Zealanders.

New Zealand has working holiday visa schemes with Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation commissioned the Travel to Asia research from Colmar Brunton, which surveyed 500 New Zealanders aged between 18 and 30.

More than half (53 percent) of the respondents said they felt confident about travelling in Asia, while 43 percent said they lacked confidence – symptomatic of a wider lack of confidence among New Zealanders in engaging with Asia. More than a third of those who did not feel confident said it was because of language barriers.

Asia New Zealand Foundation executive director Simon Draper says: “Asia’s importance to New Zealand is growing all the time, and it’s great to see many young people are interested in opportunities in the region. In the future, most New Zealand jobs will require some Asia capabilities. In fact, many jobs already do.

“It’s interesting to see that language is perceived as a barrier to travel to Asia. Language skills are always really helpful and enhance travel experiences – but it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.”

Mr Draper points out there are now many opportunities for young New Zealanders to gain Asia-related skills by studying in Asia through the Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia, administered by Education New Zealand.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation also offers business internships in Asia for New Zealand students and graduates, as well as media work placements and artist residencies.

He himself backpacked in southern China in 1984, when he was 19 years old. That year, only 80 New Zealand residents aged between 18 to 30 travelled China as their main destination – compared to the more than 22,000 young New Zealand residents who visited China in 2015.[1]

“I could only speak the word for fried rice – chǎo fàn – but I had great fun and some rich experiences that sparked my interest in Asia and international relations.”

He later joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, where he has held a number of leadership positions, including as director of the United Nations, Human Rights and Commonwealth Division.

Auckland senior management consultant Tessa McGregor, a member of the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s Leadership Network, studied in Singapore in her late teens and early twenties, completing a degree in civil engineering at the National University of Singapore. “I have had so many opportunities open up purely as a result of living in Singapore. New Zealand's future is increasingly linked to Asia and any young Kiwi who has experience living in Asia has a big advantage.

“The travel was amazing – even on a student budget we were able to travel around Southeast Asia in the holidays. Likewise, you could eat like a king in between visiting temples, palaces, markets and some pretty amazing parks and beaches.”

Mr Draper says the Asia New Zealand Foundation can foresee a time when Asia will be the first choice for New Zealanders heading off on their OEs.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation is a non-partisan, non-profit organisation with a range of programmes designed to equip New Zealanders with first-hand experience of Asia and to forge valuable links to the region. Founded in 1994, the Foundation works in five main areas - business, arts and culture, education, media and research. It also runs a Leadership Network and takes a lead role in track II (informal diplomacy) bilateral and multilateral dialogues in the Asia-Pacific region. For more information:

For more information about working holiday schemes in Asia, visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Tradewebsite.


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