A note from AuPairMom muse, ShouldBeWorking:
Here is an insight I just had about USA vs. European au pair programs.
It’s a surprising paradox:
The US Au Pair Program is actually more “European” in the way it works:
- It is highly regulated;
- Insurance is included in the program (built into fees paid on both sides);
- You can’t simply hire OR fire someone without going through due process, which is sometimes onerous;
- Participants (on both sides) who are not really suited to the program are often given a second (or third) chance; the total number of work hours is limited (not to say rules aren’t broken);
- The au pair is in principle not to be exploited and her/his duties are fairly narrowly prescribed by rules;
- There is a lot of administration that to the participants might seem superfluous;
- That does translate into rules and protections for both sides that are sometimes not transparent when a difficulty arises.
The European* Au Pair program is more ‘American’ in the liberal (not left-liberal, but classic free-market liberal) sense:
- Matching is done on a more ad hoc, individual basis with lots of different agencies and individuals operating largely unregulated;
- The arrangement is more ‘at will’, and often more short-term, on both sides;
- Payments are more ‘pay-as-you-go’ and less up front costs (agency, insurance);
- The basic wage is much lower; APs can earn much more if they are willing to work more;
- Their duties are less narrowly prescribed and they can find themselves working as domestic workers despite the representation of the matching HF; there is far less institutional recourse for anyone to take in a bad situation;
- ‘Member of the family’ inclusion on family benefits (e.g. vacations) is far less the norm.
(* editor’s note: European countries have different au pair rules, but have the same overall feeling, as SBW describes)
Image: Europe according to the USA