Thursday, 8 May 2014

Is an Au Pair just a cheap Nanny?

Childcare in Australia is sooo expensive and being a mum myself I can understand why anyone would love the cheapest and best form for you and your children. But also being a nanny I know how hard the work can be; the long hours you end up working and how mentally draining it can be (sometimes just having your name repeated 200 times in a day is in itself draining enough!). I have a few friends that were professional nannies (and I'm talking over 15 years in the industry), who are now leaving and trying something else because they cannot compete with the rates charged by Au Pairs.

Now I'm not actually anti Au Pairs, but I think the definition of an Au Pair has become slightly confused by some people. This is the definition that I found at the Free dictionary site
"Au pair (əʊ ˈpɛə; French o pɛr)
n1. (Professions)
a. a young foreigner, usually a girl, who undertakes housework in exchange for board and lodging, esp in order to learn the language
b. (as modifier): an au pair girl.
2. a young person who lives temporarily with a family abroad in exchange for a reciprocal arrangement with his or her own family
vb3. (intr) to work as an au pair "

I have met many Au Pair's that fit that description perfectly; they were from a foreign country studying English and living with a host family helping them out for an exchange of food and board. But I also have known a few nannies that are 'live in' and get the same rate as an Au Pair, benefiting the family but not themselves. I have also known Au Pairs that only received board and food without any money exchanging hands. I have to wonder, how does this benefit the nanny or the Au Pair? I do believe that the industry needs to be more regulated so no one is taken advantage of.

For the family there is also a major disadvantage to having an Au Pair and it is that their visa does eventually expire and they have to move on, meaning the kids don't get the continuity that a nanny can provide, but if you have a spare room the savings can be great. This is the big drawcard and one hard for any nanny to compete with.

It does make me wonder though, are there too many Au pairs out there taking the jobs of nannies? Should the amount of Au Pairs in Australia be limited to give nannies a better chance to find employment? and do the parents hiring the Au Pairs know that they are not actually hiring an experienced nanny but a young person wanting to travel?

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