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Foreign Backpackers Flock to Australia to Escape Global Recession

Officials in Australia say more young foreigners looking to escape recession in other parts of the world could be heading for the country this year on working holidays. The number of skilled travelers from Britain and Germany applying for working holiday visas is up sharply from last year.

Australia has always been a backpacker's delight, a vast island that's relatively inexpensive and safe that offers them the chance to work for up to two years. While the country has not avoided the global credit meltdown, Australia is increasingly becoming a haven for young foreign travelers looking to strengthen their resumes and escape economic problems back home.

Applications from British and German travelers for working holiday visas are up by 20 percent.

A 21-year-old backpacker from England who identified herself only as Rachel, says she is looking for work in Sydney but is concerned about those she has left behind.

"Speaking to people and friends back home there is always the constant worry that they are going to be made redundant, she said. "I am also trying to decide whether to stay here for a year rather than three months that I initially planned to because I just do not see that there is that many prospects back at home."

Australia's economy is declining, and with unemployment rising, finding a job is likely to be increasingly difficult for international backpackers.

Patricia Forsyth from the Sydney Chamber of Commerce says young travelers will have to be patient.

"I cannot pretend that it will be easy for people to be able to get jobs but I think you would need to come in prepared to hunt for work," said Forsyth. "It is not going to be on a plate and handed to you as it might have been 12 months or more ago."

Australia's working holiday scheme is open to travelers between the ages of 18 and 30 from a range of countries, including Canada, Britain, Sweden and South Korea.

Work permits are valid for 12 months but can be extended up to two years if participants agree to work on a farm - an attempt to help Australia's agricultural sector which often has trouble finding enough laborers.