"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.
Integration of a modern Au Pair into a family should be similar to an exchange student or elder child. The Au Pair typically focuses on assisting with child care with-in the family.
It is important to note that Au Pairs are not expected to be qualified child care professionals. With particularly young children or a situation were extended unsupervised child care is required, a professional Nanny may be a better choice.
Au Pairs usually stay under long stay or working holiday visas, they can travel freely between some countries such as members of the European Union.
In many countries there are no specific regulations for Au Pairs, and they are often not considered to be employees.
However, as the original concept has evolved some countries have introduced regulations regarding Au Pair roles, which can lead to confusion around visa requirements for Au Pairs. In countries were regulations apply this can mean registering with the government while working in that country, it can also mean the Au Pair is considered to be an employee in terms of wages and benefits.
Duties for an Au Pair are primarily concerned with childcare, but may also include some light housework.
Duties should be similar to what would be expected from an elder child… OK the super helpful elder child of every parents dreams!
Expectations of hours per week for Au Pair duties vary between countries and families, but hours per week typically range from 20 to 30 hours. This is usually over five days, so on average 4 to 6 hours per day Monday through Friday.
From statistics in the Au Pair Finder database on average the top three duties that Host Families request are -
Au Pairs receive a weekly allowance, or pocket money, and have most their expenses paid for. It’s a great way to explore the world on a very small budget.
The benefits an Au Pair receives normally include -
Sometimes Host Families might also provide gifts or a bonus, or perhaps even help with the cost of an Au Pairs return flights.
From allowance statistics in the Au Pair Finder database on average Au Pairs receive around 130 and 146 Euro per week for up to 20 hours of work (between $160 and $180 US, or between $207 and $233 AU).
To find an Au Pair, or to find a Host Family, you should typically allow a couple of months of searching. It can take time to make a connection with the right person.
Once Host Families start using Au Pairs they will typically continue for several years. Each Au Pair staying around six months. So two months before the current Au Pairs visit ends the Host Family would start searching for their next Au Pair.
There are a few different ways that Au Pairs and Host Families can find each other, ranging from traditional agency models with varying levels of involvement through to on-line matching services.
Traditional Au Pair agencies have varying degrees of involvement depending upon the agency. Some agencies are very involved in the process, you might develop a relationship with specific people at the agency.
Each Agency has a selection of Au Pair and Host Families who have registered with them, and sometimes have partnering arrangements with organisations in other countries. They attempt to facilitate the match, and provide information regarding expectations or regulations.
Traditional agency models involve peoples time, so they tend to be expensive. Costs vary but often involve registration and placement fees. The fees can be particularly expensive for families and be many thousands of dollars.
However, if you are new to the Au Pair process and lacking confidence a traditional agency may be a good way to start.
In the age of the Internet and Digital Disruption on-line matching services have become popular. Au Pair Finder falls into this category.
Au Pair sites provide a platform to support matching Host Families to Au Pairs. They usually provide search tools, secure messaging, language translation and helpful information.
This approach places control of the process in the hands of the Families and the Au Pairs, allowing them to connect directly and make decisions.
On-line services are designed to scale globally using automation, and be available 24 hours a day. Consequently they have the advantage over traditional agencies of providing a much larger selection of people to choose from, with the registered Families and Au Pairs changing more rapidly, whilst at the same time providing the matching service at a considerably lower cost.
Au-Pair sites are a great option for those who are confident with using the Internet to connect with people, but also want a streamlined solution to find the right people.
Social media is focused on discussion of shared experience rather than placing Au Pairs, but this can still be a way to connect.
Au Pair Facebook groups tend to be local to specific countries or cities. They can be a great way for Au Pairs to make local friends while abroad.
Facebook groups can also be a way for Families and Au Pairs to find each other, particularly if an Au Pair is already in the Families country, perhaps looking for their next Host.
Facebook groups typically have a relatively small number of members to connect with. They also have a more serious disadvantage, they are an unstructured and inaccurate way to find a good match, being just on-line chat. The social media approach for placing an Au Pair is very open to miscommunication of expectations.
However, social groups do have the advantage of being completely free to join. If you have experience with the Au Pair process and are confident in your ability to communicate expectations this may be an option, particularly if looking for someone local and immediately available.