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East Timorese youth looking for job opportunities overseas
The East Timorese Government is encouraging the country's unemployed youth to look for jobs abroad, as Stephanie March reports.



Oil and gas revenues have injected millions into East Timor's coffers over the past few years, but for its growing young population job opportunities remain few and far between.

The government is encouraging workers to look overseas, including at jobs in Australia as part of its seasonal workers program.

Only a handful of Timorese have so far made the trip, and Dili is pushing to have the programme expanded to the oil and gas sector.

Stephanie March reports from Dili.
Transcript
(Footage of East Timorese pulling in fishing nets on beach)

STEPHANIE MARCH, REPORTER: East Timor - a beautiful country with limited opportunities.

These days the country's traditional industries can't provide enough jobs for the growing population.

OSCAR VINCENTE, JOB SEEKER: Now I don't have a job still now. I am free time every day. Every time I send my application letter, they say, no, there's nothing.

CILIANI POANI, JOB SEEKER: We have the low skills sometimes and also have the many, many young people in East Timor. So difficult to find a job.

(Footage of people registering for work)

STEPHANIE MARCH: Every day, dozens of young Timorese gather here, outside the Ministry of Employment and Training in the hope of finding work. They register for jobs but often leave disappointed.

In a country with a young and growing population, employment or a lack of it has become one of the Government's biggest challenges.

ILIDIO XIMENES DA COSTA, SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING: You compare in Asia, East Timor is one of the country that the unemployment number is higher than another country. So this is one of the big problem that we face.

STEPHANIE MARCH: To try to solve that problem, East Timor is looking abroad, encouraging some of its workers to go overseas to find a job. And so last year East Timor joined Australia's seasonal worker program.

ILIDIO XIMENES DA COSTA: This is a very, very positive because they already learn something in Australia and then they come back, they bring some knowledge and skill that they have and they can start to do something.

STEPHANIE MARCH: East Timorese can now apply to work in the horticulture industry, and 12 of them are already participating in a three year trial in the hospitality sector.

Aguida Araujo's husband, Saul, left for Australia five months ago

AGUIDA ARAIJO (translation): With the money he sends to me I look after my sister who is studying. I support her and pay her school fees. I also use the money to buy food and drink, and I also send some to Saul's parents. They have a small kiosk business in the rural area and they take care of our child.

STEPHANIE MARCH: It's a short-term loss for what Aguida hopes is a long-term gain.

AGUIDA ARAIJO (translation): I feel a little bit sad because I'm alone. But on the other side I'm glad because this is a good opportunity for our future, especially for our family.

My plan with Saul when he returns is that we will run a hotel or restaurants because Timor is in a good position with tourism and that will develop our country.

STEPHANIE MARCH: Only 30 per cent of East Timor's population has ongoing paid work. That's one reason why the seasonal worker program is so appealing to locals.

The workers are put through a one month course before they're sent to Australia. They learn basic hospitality and housekeeping skills and a little bit about Australian culture.

It's still early days. But the Timorese government already wants the seasonal worker program to expand.

(to Ilidio Ximenes da Costa): How many workers would you like to see coming from Timor to Australia every year?

ILIDIO XIMENES DA COSTA: I would like to ask the Australian Government on behalf of Timorese government if possibility 2,000 people or more than that.

STEPHANIE MARCH: The optimistic government in Dili is preparing hundreds of workers in the hope more Australian employers will join the scheme.

Among them, Ciliani Poani and Oscar Vicente.

Despite doing hospitality training in Indonesia, 29-year-old Ciliani has struggled to find work in Dili. She volunteers six days a week at East Timor's Visitors Centre, so she can practice her English, in the hope one day it will land her a job in Australia.

CIILANI POANI: I want to improve my skill. And also the second to (inaudible) study and education.

STEPHANIE MARCH: The workers are only allowed to stay in Australia for six months then they have to return to their home country for at least five months before applying for more work abroad.

OSCAR VINCENTE: I'm very excited about the possibilities to work in Australia if .. because Australians are a big country. I get some more experience in the hospitality. When I'm back from Australia, I improve my life and my family life.

STEPHANIE MARCH: There are thousands of Timorese keen to sign up to this program. But the Australian Government will only issue 12,000 visas over the next four years. And only 1,500 of them are for the tourism sector trial.

The number of workers East Timor sends to Australia also depends on demand from employers.

The Australian Government has recently boosted its efforts to promote the seasonal worker program to employers, but so far the take up has been slow. For now, all prospective workers can do is wait.

CIILANI POANI: We just waited for six months already. So we just wait. Must be patient first.
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