The Europe of the “au pair”

Image: The Europe of the “au pair”

While Europe is held in a cold grip, a real army of youngsters are planning their own ‘holiday au pair’ for the upcoming summer. We’re talking of those people who are ready to spend a period abroad as guests in a family. In change of food, accommodation and a small reimbursement of expenses, they look after their hosting family’s children for a few hours every day.

This is no new. But with the economic crisis, this business is expected to see record figures this year. As confirmed by the boom in the last few weeks of the many online websites working to place demand and supply of this special type of tourism.

It’s a shame that, although the Agreement signed by the European Council in Strasbourg in 1969 ratifies the au-pair rules in Europe, legislation on the matter varies notably from one country to the other. Let’s see, albeit synthetically, how.

Let’s start from Luxembourg, where the Chamber of Deputies has recently defined the au-pair status. The new law, not included in work legislation, sets obligations in terms of employment hours, life conditions that must be provided and integration guidelines. This results in a real welcome convention having the State as guarantor.

France established more precise conditions on the matter, particularly in terms of remuneration. The salary is currently €60/week, but in most cases it is of €20/week plus an extra for French courses, a sine qua non requirement to obtain a longer visa.

Germany proved more kind. In 2006 already, they set a €260 reimbursement for people working au pair. On the other side, one of the pre-requisites for admission is that candidates must not smoke.

The Finnish model wrote in black and white the new hire responsibilities, including light house work: 6 hours every day in total, 5 days a week. In change: private room, unlimited food and €252/month. In Norway, besides salary, they have the right to insurance and all-expenses-paid trips.

In the UK, the category has been considered on a par with immigrants until 2008, when a new score system was introduced by the Ministry of Internal Affairs as part of a juvenile mobility program for Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Monaco citizens who rely on private agencies, not regulated by the British government.

The Europe scenario is definitely variegated. How is it possible that over the last 40 years the EU has not established basic criteria such as remuneration, employment conditions and security, and visa access criteria for au pair foreign citizens?