"Au Pair" is a french term that translates roughly to "equal". An au Pair is an equal member of the family, sharing domestic duties.
The concept of the au pair originated in Europe after World War II. Social change increased the number of middle class girls who needed to earn their own living, at the same time greater opportunities for education made learning foreign languages more desirable.
The original concept has evolved over the years. Today the motivation for being an Au Pair is the opportunity to travel the world at very little cost. Being an Au Pair is still a great way to learn a new language, immersing yourself in another country and speaking their language all the time.
Hosting an Au Pair is about cultural exchange, whilst at the same time getting a little help with the never ending parental list of things to get done. There is an element of barter, sharing the family home in exchange for domestic assistance.