The research project that I have been working on for just over two years comes to an end this month and this week the key findings from the project are officially ‘launched’ on the Birkbeck website. There is also a pdf document that can be downloaded from here. While the funding has finished there will still be many outputs coming out of this project – including an edited collection early next year and a joint authored book in 2016!
We found that the average au pair in the UK works over 38 hours a week, although some are expected to work for up to 70 hours, with expected duties sometimes including caring for elderly relatives, or helping out in family businesses. Average pay is £108 per week, but 14% of au pairs do not receive the £85 a week recommended by the British Au Pairs Agencies Association.
Au pairing was traditionally supposed to offer young people the opportunity for adventure and cultural exchange, but most hosts interviewed conceded that meeting their childcare needs was their motivation for employing an au pair and many au pairs felt that their hosts were not interested in providing opportunities for cultural exchange. 44% of those advertising for au pairs expected prior experience, and 26% were only considering applicants who are already in the UK, showing that the increasing reliance on au pairs is leading to a decreasing differentiation between au pair and nanny roles. Many au pairs are significantly older than the typical image of someone in their late teens or early 20s, with the economic situation in southern Europe spurring those in their mid-late 20s on to improve their English and ‘wait out the crisis’ or use au pairing as a first step to more permanent migration.
The nationality of the au pair appears to influence how they are treated, with au pairs from western Europe generally working shorter hours and being given more opportunities for study and cultural exchange than those from central and eastern Europe.