Au Pairs In Australia Exploited By Families, Study Finds

A new report has detailed a need to regulate the au pair market to prevent the exploitation of thousands of young women.

The study, conducted by the University of Technology, Sydney and Macquarie University, surveyed 1500 international au pairs who are employed across Australia.

It found the majority of au pairs  are being paid well below minimum wage.

It's estimated there are at least 10,000 people working as au pairs in Australia - with 90 percent of them young women.

Often au pairs work as maids, but don't get paid the according wage. Image: Getty Images.

More than half of those surveyed reported working around 36 hours a week caring for children as well a daily cooking, cleaning and other household tasks.

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UTS Law academic Laurie Berg said the study highlights the need for a defined au pair program in Australia as a means of avoiding possible exploitation.

“We don’t have an au pair program in this country so, up until now, we have had no concrete information on the day-to-day experiences of au pairs in Australian homes," Berg said.

A large proportion of travellers working as au pairs in Australia are being exploited where they are being paid like babysitters, but working like a house keeper, according to the report's authors.

"The study indicates many families are taking advantage of the large supply of working holiday makers to obtain cheap housekeeping services as well," Berg said.

Typically, au pairs have board and some payment provided in exchange for looking after the a family's children and performing light housework.

Unlike some other countries, Australia does not have a specific au pair visa, and most au pairs are legally allowed to work on Working Holiday visas.

Often, au pairs come to Australia looking for an immersive, cultural experience. Image: Getty Images.

Macquarie University Sociology professor Gabrielle Meagher said the study is the most comprehensive of its kind and it emphasises power imbalances between au pairs and their employers.

“Families need to understand that along with the convenience and affordability of in-home care come full responsibilities as employers," Meagher said.

"The Federal Government in turn should support families and au pairs to help them understand these complex rules.”

Berg said the findings raise  important questions about childcare accessibility and regulating au pair work would benefit both travellers and Australian parents.

“The demand for au pairing is often explained by Australian families’ need for affordable childcare."

Featured Image: Getty Images. 

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au