Au Pair pay or pocket money can be a controversial topic. Periodically articles in the media are published discussing rates and the potential exploitation of Au Pairs by Host Families.
Being an Au Pair is about cultural exchange, seeing the world and being part of a Family. Being an Au Pair is not a way to earn an income. However, this concept can result in confusion around appropriate pay, entitlements and consequently the relationship with a Host Family.
It’s important that Au Pairs are not taken advantage of and under paid. It is also important that Au Pairs remain affordable and an attractive proposition for Families. The aim is a relationship from which everyone benefits. Transparency around pay expectations can contribute to a good experience for everyone involved.
In this post we are going to examine the statistics from the Au Pair Finder database, comparing Au Pair and Host Family pay expectations.
Au Pairs are provided a weekly amount typically referred to as “pocket money” or an “allowance”. The amount paid is for an expected maximum number of hours per week spent helping the Host Family.
So for example lets say the agreed number of hours per week is 20 hours, and the Host Family only required 17 hours in a given week, the Au Pair would still receive the full amount of pocket money.
However, if the agreed number of hours per week is exceeded the Host Family would need to compensate the Au Pair. It’s a good idea to have that discussion before a busy week happens, and agree on what the compensation would be. A typical example might be some extra baby sitting money while the parents have an evening out.
It should also be pointed out that as this is a weekly allowance the Au Pair should still receive their pocket money if the Host Family is away or on Holiday.
On the Au Pair finder site Au Pairs and Host Families can express their pocket money expectations in a number of different currencies. For comparison in the following chart all pocket money expectations have been converted to US dollars.
Au Pairs on average have allowance expectations of around 182 US Dollars per week for up to 30 hours per week. It is interesting that on average Au Pairs have the same allowance expectation regardless of time per week being 10, 20 or 30 hours. One theory could be that Au Pairs consider how much spending money they think they will need per week, rather than the value of hours worked.
Once expectations climb above 30 hours per week Au Pair expectations also climb. On Average Au Pairs would like around 200 US Dollars per week for up to 40 hours.
Host Families seem to take greater consideration of the hours per week when determining how much pocket money they would like to pay. Families have an average expectation of 123 US Dollars for less than 10 hours, and an expectation of around 158 US Dollars for up to 30 hours.
Host Families and Au Pairs agree on an average expectation of 200 US Dollars per week for up to 40 hours.
Converting Au Pair pay expectations to an average hourly rate is not entirely valid, as Au Pairs usually receive an allowance for an agreed maximum number of hours, rather than being paid per hour worked. However, it is an interesting comparison, highlighting the flaws in allowance thinking, and also useful for checking compliance with any applicable wage legislation.
Hourly rate expectations start at 18 US Dollars per hour. Interestingly both Au Pair and Host Family rate expectations fall as the expected hours increase. Families and Au Pairs agree on an hourly rate of around 5 US Dollars per hour for up to a 40 hour week.
This corresponding drop in the perceived value of time is possibly a reflection of a traditional focus on a weekly allowance, rather than hours worked. With Au Pairs concerned with how much they expect to spend per week, and Families focusing on a fixed budget for child related expenses.
The comparison of hourly rate expectations highlights the potential danger of unintentionally undervaluing an Au Pairs time as the hours increase.
Once we start to equate pay to hours it’s useful to understand what the expectation is around the hours an Au Pair works. Particularly having noted there is not a corresponding allowance increase as hours go up.
Around 70% of Host Families and Au Pairs agree that hours per week should be 30 hours our less, with around 60% preferring between 20 and 30 hours per week.
This is encouraging, with both Au Pairs and Families seeming to recognise part of the role is cultural exchange, and in-effect an extended holiday.
Pocket money is not the major financial benefit that an Au Pair receives.
An Au Pair also receives -
All of these benefits have monetary value. The major benefit is accommodation. In major cities the cost of rent can be very high.
|Benefit||Amount per week (USD)||Comments|
|Accommodation||$214||How much does it cost to rent a 1-bedroom in 20 major cities around the world examines apartment rent. In our estimate we're considering a single bedroom rather than an apartment, which is similar to share accommodation, so I've halved the weekly cost to an average of $214. Spot checking share accommodation sites for a few cities and a 6 month duration reveals this estimate to be perhaps a little low. Check share accommodation sites for your area to get a better estimate, rent will vary with distance to a city.|
|Food||$50||Average household cost of food estimates cost per person to be $2,641 per year (in 2013). This is about 7 dollars a day for 3 meals.|
|Utilities||$21||Cost of Living in the top cities around the world provides a comparision across 8 cities including basic utilities. Again I've halved the average.|
|Internet Access||$5||Based on a cheap home broadband plan, and halved based on an assumption of share accommodation.|
|Possibly the use of a car||$0||For this estimate I'm going to assume the Au Pair does not have access to a car. The cost of owning your car suggests a value around $9,000 per year. If an Au Pair did have personal use of a car for 10% of the cars available time over 6 months, it would be approximately a $19 per week value.|
This estimate attempts to be conservative and indicates an average value of 290 US Dollars per week. General living cost vary around the world and rent will vary with proximity to a city.
|Pocket Money||Benefits||Weekly Total (USD)|
|Au Pair expectations||$182||$290||$472|
|Host Family expectations||$158||$290||$448|
In some countries Au Pairs are not classed as employees, it is up to the Host Family and Au Pair to agree on an equitable arrangement.
Some countries do class Au Pairs as employees, and Au Pairs are covered by minimum wage and benefit legislation.
For example in Australia Au Pairs are classed as employees, so a minimum wage defined by the government applies. This is currently around 18.29 Australian dollars or 14.36 US Dollars per hour. Au Pairs are also entitled to retirement investment payments (superannuation) if they work 30 hours or more per week.
Host Family’s have average hourly rate expectations of around 5 US Dollars per hour for up to 30 hours per week. However when factoring in other benefits (around 290 US Dollars per week) that average effectively climbs to 15 US Dollars per hour. In Australia this average would be close to the minimum wage rate.
We are using the maximum expectation of 30 hours in the previous example, the actual hours worked could be lower, effectively raising the hourly rate. At up to 20 hours a week Host Family expectations of 23 US dollars an hour (inclusive of benefits) would be above minimum wage rates in Australia.
In looking at averages we are generalising expectations. Individual expectations can be higher or lower, and the cost of living varies around the world. However, from these averages we can draw some general conclusions.
Most Au Pairs prefer to work 30 hours or less per week. Also, most families require 30 hours or less. There is generally a match of expectation for hours per week, with most preferring between 20 and 30 hours.
Au Pairs appear to want a minimum allowance per week to enjoy their stay, irrespective of hours, they would like this on average to be around 182 US Dollars per week. Host families would prefer to spend less on pocket money. There is on average a mismatch of expectations, with Families wanting to pay between 20 and 31 Dollars less per week than Au Pairs would prefer.
As the expected hours per week rise there is not a corresponding increase in allowance. This highlights a risk of undervaluing an Au Pairs time. This also highlights that in general Au Pair and Host Family relationships are more equitable when there is a lower expectation of hours per week.