New MRCI Study Shows Over One Third of Au Pairs Felt Exploited
3 Jan 2013
A new study by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) shows the unregulated au pair sector in Ireland leaves au pairs completely unprotected and wide open to abuse and exploitation. MRCI is calling for a regulatory framework to establish rights for au pairs and to set industry standards.
The research, ‘Part of the Family?’ was conducted with 53 au pairs in Ireland over a five month period. It shows young au pairs, predominantly women, working excessively long hours with heavy workloads, given too much responsibility while receiving low payment.
The report highlighted ad hoc recruitment practices, unsuitable placements, poor vetting procedures, the lack of support available for au pairs, psychological stress for young au pairs, and a lack of concern for the welfare of the au pair who is increasingly being relied on to provide fulltime childcare in host families but without the protection of legislation. Recommendations call for an urgent need to regulate the sector and prevent further exploitation, as is best practice in other EU countries.
Aoife Smith, of MRCI and author of the research said: “The Au Pair is not a worker. It was intended to be a cultural exchange programme. Au pairs are not protected by employment legislation. However, the research shows they are being used as a cheap form of labour to provide childcare”. She continued, “We need regulations to establish rights for au pairs and host families. We need an Au Pair Visa for non EU au pairs. We need to clamp down on precarious online recruitment that poses a serious threat to the health and safety of au pairs. There should be vetting procedures and model contracts established to outline hours, duties and payment. If a host family is found to be abusing au pairs, they should be banned from accessing further au pairs”.