Au Pairs’ Lives in Global Context: Sisters or Servants?

The Global Migration of Filipino Domestic Workers
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The au pair stay is officially defined as a cultural exchange program, thus au pairs are legally not granted the status of migrants, workers or students. Unlike many migration statuses, such as educational, labour or marriage migration, au pair placement is a blurry category. The official definition of the au pair stay incorporates national au pair regulations and migratory policies.

In their current analyses, social scientists and practitioners evaluate the legitimacy of the scheme, in terms of the extent to which it fits the political and public norms of the receiving society. They warn that the initial idea of au pair placement as cultural exchange program has been distorted and either the careful restoration of the original program is necessary, or an official transition to the employment contract of a domestic worker should be implemented e.

Au Pairs' Lives in Global Context

A previous research about the au pair stay has shed light on different aspects of this phenomenon. Firstly, au pairing has been studied as a migration process, secondly, it has been investigated as a form of domestic and care work, and thirdly, au pairing has been examined as a biographical phase of young adulthood. The main reason why these women decide to become an au pair is that educational and employment options in their countries of origin do not appear aspiring or satisfying to them and that, due to the limited access to other migration options, they consider the au pair stay as the easiest or the only way to temporarily live abroad.

Typically, these women strive to enter the skilled employment market in the receiving or home country after the au pair stay. Implicitly, it is assumed that au pairs return to their countries of origin after au pairing, but in fact this program provides an avenue for various modes of consequential migration through different types of labour, education and training, marriage and also tourist activities Rohde ; Tkach The employment of female migrants in private households to cover domestic and care work of the family has been widely discussed in literature e.

The need for domestic and care workers in private households arose from the increasing labour market participation of women without an equivalent involvement of men in reproductive labour, while public arrangements do not cover sufficiently the need of families for childcare, elderly care and housework Hess : ff, Karakayali : 45 ff, compare also Oertzen The au pair stay has been subordinated to this sector of employment e.

These studies show how middle class families used au pairs to organize childcare or housework in their private household.

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Very often au pairs cover parts of the work or the entire work of nannies and cleaners, but receive much lower payments than the professional groups. Within the research field of domestic and care work, the aspect of gender in intersections with culture, religion, age, etc. As organising the domestic and care workers is usually considered the responsibility of wives, the employer-employee relationship is often a purely female one.

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As MacDonald has stated, this may prompt competition over who is the better housekeeper and mother. Therefore, the employment of a female domestic and care worker by a female employee manifests and reproduces the gendering of domesticity. Rohde-Abuba investigates the perspective of au pairs on privatized in-home childcare, who generally reject the idea of hiring an au pair for their own future family.

In the au pair scheme, it is a precondition that the au pair is of a foreign nationality as the locals cannot participate in the programme. Anderson argues that because Western European families are often uncomfortable about employing a care worker in their household, and thereby commercializing their private sphere, the employment of a domestic and care worker from another country is interpreted as an act of charity of offering a life chance to a migrant from an apparently poor country Anderson : Above that, it can be assumed that the dominance of migrants in the sector of domestic and care work in many countries is based on the fact that migrants often have to accept work for lower wages than locals.

Being well-educated individuals and professionals, the au pairs often experience care work and their dependent position in the host family as involuntarily downgrading and as a devaluation of their professional qualifications Tkach The third perspective links the au pair scheme to the biographical background of its participants and explains their short-term migratory choices and consequential mobilities with reference to conditions in the context of origin, especially the family and social network Rohde ; Rohde The biographical perspective on the au pair stay focuses on the specific life phase of youth and young adulthood, in which au pairing takes place.

Most of the receiving countries have restrictive age limits for au pairing, which regulate that only young adults below the age of thirty are able to become au pairs. Some au pair schemes, for example the one in the USA, also specify that au pairs have to be single and childless. Therefore, au pairing normally takes place in a specific biographical phase of independence from the family of origin, and before the start of their own family.

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Far from being the preserve of middle-class women from Northern Europe, au pairing is now booming worldwide. This collection, the first dedicated entirely to. Au Pairs' Lives introduces itself as “some of the first research on par-. ticular national contexts of au pairing” (p. ). Although a region-specific.

In this research perspective, au pairing is considered a rite de passage, which encompasses the dissolution from the family of origin and the process of identity building and identity formation in a foreign context, while improving foreign language skills. Consequently, the young people are supposed to build up orientations for their future life, such as education and professional choices, the relationship to the family of origin, partner choice and family making, while they are confronted with a new cultural context.

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Thus, their future life plans have to be negotiated with not only the socio-cultural norms of the context of origin and the receiving context, but also with the structural conditions of the immigration and employment laws. At the same time, many au pairs experience alienation and loneliness in the unfamiliar environment, but also make new contacts and discover unknown possibilities.

As discussed above, roughly before , au pairs were mainly studied in the context of social deprivation as migrant care workers arriving from poor to wealthy countries, as class and ethnically others. With regard to the level of daily interactions, au pairs have been researched as objects of the gaze of the local population. The way they are sexualised and subordinated in public discourses Cox , exposes the institutional racism and whiteness.

Human Rights in a Globalizing World

In this perspective, au pairs are seen not as maids doing dirty work, but rather as young reflective mobile persons who make complicated choices, and observers who learn about the new life around them with curiosity and passion. Yet, recent studies show that female participants in an au pair scheme are actively standing up for themselves against a background of unfavourable immigration conditions, and when confronted with multiple obligations arising from their au pair placement and their own family.

Au pair applicants perform as agents or actors even before departure, when they decide to move either to provide for their sending families or to fulfil their own ambitions. They perform a transnational balancing act between two contradictory goals, in order to use au pair placement for their own needs of development and for further integration into a new context Bikova The scholars also show how au pairs act in the cases of failed relationships with host families — under exploitation and harassment.

R Cox.

The Global Migration of Filipino Domestic Workers

Tell us if something is incorrect. Out of stock. Get In-Stock Alert. Delivery not available. Pickup not available. This collection, the first dedicated to examining the lives of au pairs, reveals that this is far from the whole story. Au pairing is now a global phenomenon and au pairs are just as likely to come from Asia and Latin America as from Sweden or France.

Sisters or Servants?

They are an increasingly important form of very low waged, often unregulated, childcare and domestic labour enabling tens of thousands of families to meet the demands of both work and home life. Despite the importance of the work that they do, au pairs are not recognized as workers and are often excluded from even the most basic protections, such as a minimum wage. About This Item We aim to show you accurate product information. Manufacturers, suppliers and others provide what you see here, and we have not verified it. See our disclaimer. As young migrants living inside their employers' homes they are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse"-- Au Pairs' Lives in Global Context.

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