Social Policy

Au Pairs' Lives in Global Context: Sisters or Servants? by Rosie Cox

By Rosie Cox

Au pairs have normally been considered middle-class younger ladies from Northern Europe, who're having a enjoyable hole 12 months out of the country. This assortment, the 1st devoted to interpreting the lives of au pairs, unearths that this can be faraway from the complete tale. Au pairing is now a world phenomenon and au pairs are only as prone to come from Asia and Latin the US as from Sweden or France. they're an more and more vital kind of very low waged, usually unregulated, childcare and household labour allowing tens of hundreds of thousands of households to satisfy the calls for of either paintings and residential existence. regardless of the significance of the paintings that they do, au pairs usually are not well-known as employees and are usually excluded from even the main easy protections, reminiscent of a minimal salary. As younger migrants residing within their employers' houses they're prone to exploitation and abuse.

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Lucy Delap’s book (2011) is one of the first systematic efforts to link the early twentieth-century employment of maids and cooks to later practices of employing au pairs, mothers’ helps and cleaners. ‘Pink Slave’ or the ‘Modern Young Woman’? 33 2. European Agreement on “au pair” placement. Council of Europe: Explanatory Report, Strasbourg, 24. XI. htm (accessed on 20/7/ 2013) 3. ‘The Social Advisory Group for Girls Away from Home’ – Report for 1961, p 1. London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), ACC/1888/250/043.

In 1946 the government-sponsored National Institute of Houseworkers was set up to train domestic workers and to look into standards of wages and work conditions in private households. 21 These changes, by leaving behind old traditions of servitude and scandalous waste of resources by a wealthy minority, aimed at placing domestic service on a new footing, in tune with the egalitarian spirit of the welfare state. The modern image of the au pair fitted the bill perfectly. The limits of these reforms were, however, soon exposed.

European girls coming to work as domestics in Britain to relieve the British middle-classes of the ‘servant problem’ often had to face the dangers associated with the experience of travelling abroad, to distant, unfamiliar places. This aspect of the history of the au pair forms the background to the 1969 au pair agreement, which aimed to offer au pairs social protection. 22 Eleni Liarou The history of the life and work of young women away from home – and of public concern for their welfare – can be traced back to the late nineteenth century.

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