The following article is written by Genevieve Arroyo who researched the au pair program during her stay as a cultural exchange student in the Netherlands and used it in her dissertation. This article was published at Munting Nayon News Magazine which is base in the Netherlands (http://www.mnnetherlands.com/mn/articles/aupair3.php). This article is posted here in to 2 parts with permission by the author .
After 4 years of hard work, I’ve finally graduated last July 12, held at the Heineken Music Hall. One of the reasons why I’ve been very busy and wasn’t able to keep you posted about my thesis, but hey, here I am again! First of all, I would like to express my great appreciation to everyone who supported me in finalizing my dissertation (you all know who you are!)
According to Alex Osborn “A fair idea put to use is better than a good idea kept on the polishing wheel.” So last June 5, an activity using the Six Thinking Hats technique of Edward de Bono was organized. This technique was used in order to explore different perspectives towards a complex situation or challenge. In this case: Should the Philippine government lift the ban on the deployment of the Filipinos under the so called au pair program? This method was a huge assistance in distinguishing ideas or solutions about the problem in various ways, which may be a good idea in strategy formation or complex decision-making processes. The participants were asked to wear different colored hats (for various reasons, names will not be mentioned). Each colored hats is a mnemonic description of a particular hat: white (information), red (emotions), blue (process), yellow (optimism), green (growth and possibilities), and black (pessimism). To sum up, all the participants agreed that it is indeed logical for the au pair ban to be lifted but certain mechanisms should be put in place.
I would also like to clarify some confusion about all the reports surrounding Filipina au pairs during the first and second quarter of this year. The total number of Filipina au pairs who were here in the Netherlands last year (2006) in total is 238. There are in fact 898 au pairs who came to the Netherlands from 2000-2006. So contrary to some reports, the number of Filipina au pairs coming to the Netherlands is increasing. On the February issue of MN, one commented that I should also get the number of au pairs leaving the Netherlands because they were aware that there are a lot of au pairs who are overstaying. According to the Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (CBS) “Almost three quarters of all labor migrants from 1997 had left within six years. Au pairs, trainees and students leave even faster. Almost all au pairs and trainees have left within six years….” Getting the exact number of leaving au pairs is almost impossible. Due to the EU integration there are no longer border controls and because of the European geography, one can go to other countries through different modes of transportation.
In order to maintain quality and to actually find out the au pairs say about the topic and to further inform them about the program, experiential survey was used for comparative analysis. With the assistance of Mr. Rico Fernando, this research managed to reach seventy one (71%) of the target market. This percentage is considered representative although all au pair agencies specializing in Filipina au pairs have declined to provide information regarding the topic because of privacy and confidentiality reasons. The survey has shown astounding results some of which will be shared.
In the past reports and was again reiterated by the Philippine embassy in The Hague, they claimed that: “Filipinas traveled to Europe as an “au pair” not with the intention to study a country’s culture and learn its language, but more to find employment by offering care giving, nannying or domestic related-services.” Based on the survey, forty (40%) percent of the Filipina au pairs really came here to learn the Dutch culture. Ranking second is for personal development (33%). This is normal because young people of this generation are very keen on developing themselves for future endeavors. Ranking third is to gain experience. A lot of reports have proven that through cultural exchanges, including the 2007 World Development Report (WDR), young people are improving more and more. Only eight percent (8%) of the respondents answered that their main purpose is to work.
As a response to the question: Did you feel abused by your host family? Out of the 40 respondents 3 people (8%) said that they were abused. The main reasons: they worked more hours than what is allowed and had to do what is considered heavy work. These au pairs are the very same people who were not completely informed about the au pair program. Sadly, none of them did something to stop this abuse just because they did not know who to contact or ask for help. By doing a cross analysis, these au pairs got to know about the au pair program through relatives/acquaintances, au pair agency and internet. There are different reasons for this:
* Perhaps the au pair agency did not provide proper information to the au pair applicant;
* As was stated by IAPA and NAPO there are dangers of finding host families through the internet;
* The relatives/acquaintances which introduced the au pair program to the au pair and the host families are not aware of the regulations of the au pair program.
Two of these au pairs don’t want to be an au pair anymore and in order for them to come here in the Netherlands they bribed some immigration officials in the Philippines.
This research attempted to elucidate the complex rationalization of the au pair ban in the Philippines and why the Philippine government should lift the ban. The government has good intentions on why they imposed a ban on au pair placements although the program is internationally recognized. But by refusing to acknowledge the program’s uniqueness, it has caused a negative image not only to the country but also to the Filipino au pairs.
By revoking the ban this image can be retracted and at the same time be valuable in the formation of a bilateral agreements with the EU. By insisting on its assumption that the au pair program is an employment scheme, it violates international norm which in the EU has already been established through the 1969 Treaty. So, such an agreement would be proven unfeasible. The benefits of the au pair program would rematerialize not only to the Philippine government and the receiving countries through economic growth but most prominently to the youths wanting to join this program.
On an academic point of view, the program provides benefits to the youth by enhancing and transforming their skills through first hand experience, cultural exploration and immersion, and broadens perspectives. Au pairs will also be endowed with added human capitals such as proper education, advanced knowledge and language skills. The comparative analysis has revealed that the au pair program is not being exploited by Filipino youths, has not caused trafficking to Filipino women and it is not a disguise to avoid unemployment safeguards. The number of abused au pairs is so diminutive that it does not constitute national interest and public welfare. The analysis has also shown that these Filipino au pairs, the ones who actually experienced the program, does not agree on the ban and would like the ban lifted. Nine years have passed and the situation has changed.
Through careful analysis and considering the legal issues involved, the ban is not in accordance with international regulations. Therefore, the Philippine government should lift the imposed ban on the deployment of Filipino au pairs under the so called au pair program.
A copy of the dissertation was presented to the International Au Pair Association (IAPA) and to the World Youth Student and Education Travel Confederation (WYSETC). After briefings and discussions, both organizations have agreed to be of assistance to the Filipino youths and have asked the Philippine government to reconsider the au pair ban in the Philippines through the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Alberto G. Romulo with a CC to Mr. Jose Z. Molano Jr., of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO). Copy of the letter follows.
Alberto G. Romulo
Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs
11th Floor DFA Building
2330 Roxas Blvd. Pasay City
June 28, 2007
Dear Mr. Romulo,
On behalf of the International Au Pair Association (IAPA), I am writing to kindly request that the current policy of the Philippine Government prohibiting young people from travelling to Europe as au pairs be reconsidered.
This letter provides an overview of the policy in question, reviews progress made over the past decade to address the concerns which originally underpinned the policy, and provides background information about the work of IAPA and its members to provide cultural exchange au pair experiences for young people and host families around the world.
On November 5, 1997 the Republic of the Philippines implemented a temporary ban on the deployment of Filipino ‘migrant workers’ under the so-called au pair program.
The ban was introduced on the basis that it would stop the perceived exploitation of Filipino youth, primarily females, living with families in Europe as au pairs. In particular, there were concerns that Filipino au pairs in Europe were being unfairly compensated, working excessive hours, and experiencing culture shock. A few exceptional cases of abuse, discrimination and prostitution were also reportedly brought to the attention of government officials.
Evidently, as no compelling evidence validating these concerns was available at the time, the ban was introduced on a temporary basis to allow for a more substantial study of the experience of Filipino au pairs in Europe to be carried out.
On April 20, 1998, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) distributed Circular Note Number 981289 to European diplomatic missions in Manila requesting their support in implementing the above-mentioned ban on Filipino au pairs.
The ban has now been in effect for almost 10 years.
IAPA has a number of serious concerns about the ban.
First, IAPA is worried that what was intended as a “temporary” measure has in fact become a permanent policy which is denying young people from the Philippines an opportunity to participate in cultural exchange au pair experiences in Europe.
Second, in the past 10 years, no compelling research or information has been made publicly available which substantiates the concerns raised about the experiences of (some) Filipino au pairs in Europe in the early and mid 1990s. If the research has been done, it should be made public. If the research has not been done, then there is no objective basis for continuing the ban. Ad hoc, impressionistic allegations from more than 10 years ago that have never been properly investigated or validated are not an adequate basis for maintaining the current policy.
Third, it is clear that a small number of individuals from the Philippines are finding ways to circumvent the ban. Many European countries are still willing to provide Filipinos with visas to travel to their country as au pairs. In order to leave the Philippines, however, many Filipinos are forced to pay bribes to officials at the airport. Thus perversely, by pushing the business underground, the ban may in fact be exposing young Filipinos to precisely the kinds of exploitation it was designed to prevent.
Fourth, in the 10 years since the ban was introduced, the au pair industry in Europe and around the world has undergone significant development and professionalism. There are now hundreds of registered, licensed companies operating in Europe providing thousands of young people from around the world with cultural exchange au pair experiences. These companies are supported at the national, continental and global level by professional au pair associations:
There are national au pair associations in 7 European countries, including the Netherlands, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Latvia, Spain and Ireland. A national au pair association is expected to be established shortly in Austria.
At a continental level, the European Committee for Au Pair Standards (ECAPS) – www.ecapsweb.eu — is bringing about additional professional and regulatory clarity in the industry.
At the global level, IAPA has established international standards for au pair program operators, a code of conduct, and other support mechanisms to support the international au pair community and strengthen the ‘cultural exchange’ benefits of au pairing.
The rapid professionalisation of the au pair industry over the past decade means that the difficulties that some au pairs from the Philippines may have encountered in Europe ten years ago are far less likely to occur now and, if they do occur, such problems can be much more quickly, effectively and aggressively remedied.
Fifth, the fact that young people from the Philippines are allowed to travel as au pairs to the United States but not to Europe is not justifiable on any objective grounds. The standards and regulations regarding au pairing in many European countries exceed those which are commonly applied in the United States. At a minimum, therefore, the blanket continent-wide ban denying young Filipinos the chance to be an au pair with a European family should be replaced with a less rigid policy that reflects the high-standards of au pairing in most, if not all, European countries.
Finally, IAPA is very concerned that the ban is based on a false assumption about the nature and practice of the au pair experience itself. The ban presumes that the typical au pair considers herself to be – and is viewed by her host family as – an inexpensive foreign labourer or ‘migrant worker’. This conception of au pairing is way off the mark.
The primary ‘currency’ of the au pairing experience is cultural exchange (i.e. values, ideas, etc.) not money. Indeed, au pairing is arguably the oldest and purest form of international cultural exchange experience available to young persons. As an integral part of a host family, an au pair is exposed to a new language and foreign culture in one of the most direct, personal, sustained and meaningful ways imaginable.
The modest stipend that au pairs receive helps to offset the costs they face while living and travelling abroad. Without this modest remuneration (or ‘pocket money’), many young people would never be able to afford the extended travel and cultural experience abroad that au pairing provides. Furthermore, many au pairs use their stipend to pay for language courses, thus gaining additional fluency in the recipient country’s language and culture.
Furthermore, over the past decade, the notion of au pairing as primarily a cultural exchange experience has been extensively reinforced through standardized business practices and legal frameworks now common in the industry. Nowadays, individuals wishing to participate in a cultural exchange au pair experience in Europe (organized by a licensed and/or registered au pair agency) are properly screened and prepared. Likewise, a European family wishing to host an au pair will be rigorously screened and informed about all relevant rules, legal requirements and appropriate cultural (exchange) practices.
For all of these reasons, IAPA formally requests that the government of the Philippines reconsider its out-dated, discriminatory ban on young people from the Philippines travelling to Europe as au pairs.
IAPA would be happy to meet with you or any of your colleagues to discuss this matter further. IAPA representatives would likewise be pleased to travel to the Philippines to participate in any process that may be undertaken to develop an alternative policy or legal framework for Filipino au pairs in Europe.
Thank you, in advance, for taking IAPA’s views into account. I look forward to hearing back you shortly.
Mr. J.A.L.E. Hompes
International Au Pair Association – IAPA
International Au Pair Association
Store Kongensgade 40H, 1264 Copenhagen K, Denmark
Tel. +31 20 421 2800 Fax +45 33 93 96 76
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.iapa.org