The Au Pair Program research and analysed by Genevieve Arroyo-Part 1

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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. This article will be posted here with permission by the author in to 2 parts.

Part 1

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The Au Pair Program
Different Views, Different News
by Genevieve Arroyo

 

Gnevieve Arroyo

Gnevieve Arroyo

 

 

 

Hello everyone!

I am a graduating student who decided to make a research on the au pair program for my dissertation. To begin with, I would like to explain what an au pair program is about. I know that probably most of you already know what an au pair is but I would explain it again for the benefit of those who do not know it yet and what the au pair program really is.

The Au pair Program

Cultural policies have been developed and promoted for over a century already and the au pair program is just one of those. Cultural exchange programs are supported from local councils, to national governments; to supranational and even at global levels (like UNESCO). Au pair literally means “as equal” which means that when a young person is placed as an au pair, the host family will treat that person as a member or guest in their house. Here in the Netherlands, if a host family decides to sponsor an au pair, the au pair will in exchange of free board and lodging:

-Assist in doing some light household chores and some babysitting. For a complete list of what falls on light household chores visit the following link: http://www.napoweb.nl/en/download/regulations3a.pdf

-Do her duties for a maximum of 8 hours a day, 30 hours per week only.

-Be allowed to participate in different leisure activities such as making trips or taking a language course.

-Receive an allowance of up to a maximum 340 euros per month.

The Council of Europe has set out the standards on au pair placement, entitled the “European Agreement on Au pair Placement” in 1969. Although the Netherlands is not a signatory of this treaty the rules are not contradictory to the said agreement.

For students or young people, this program is a good way to learn other culture and broaden their horizons. Having a unique status, an au pair is neither a student nor a worker but has both features. You can attend a language school to harness your language skills and at the same time receive some pocket money which you can use to visit other parts of the country and maybe save some of the money for future plans. Through this program, au pairs are then able to share their country’s culture and at the same time learn the culture of their host country.

Au pair ban in the Philippines

Having said those, why then would the Philippine government ban the au pair program HERE in Europe when in fact a lot of young people around the world (even Dutch youths!) are actively participating from this program? There were different justifications for the ban. According to some reports Filipino placed au pairs are being exploited, turned into slaves, domestic helpers and prostitutes among other things. It was also mentioned that there were many confirmed cases BUT there were no actual numbers of such justifications.

The ban was implemented nine years ago and caused a lot of stir. Dialogues, complaints, opinions, petition have been aired and published but up to this day the ban is still in effect. The situation since 1997 has changed. There are now lots of entities who help and support au pairs in cases of abuse or exploitation. Even the Immigratie en Naturalisatiedienst(IND) has taken a move. Since June 1, 2004, au pairs with complaints can lodge their complaints to the IND (for those who don’t know the number it is: 070-3703888), au pairs may also try to contact the Netherlands Au pair Organization (NAPO), trusted au pair agencies and a lot of Filipino organizations who has devoted their time in helping co-Filipinos.

In a statement made by the Philippine embassy last April 1999 published by MN, it was mentioned that there was an ongoing dialogue between the Netherlands and Philippine government and both government are seeking solutions and “� this should certainly be forthcoming.” The Dutch government has already taken steps in tackling the problem. I haven’t seen any data yet about any moves made by the Philippine government (of course, maybe this is because my files/research is still not complete). When I wrote to the Philippine embassy in The Hague last November 2005, I was informed that the embassy is not aware of any statistical information that Filipinos continue to travel to the Netherlands under the au pair arrangement. Below are the actual numbers:

Approved MVV’s on Au pair arrangement

Year

Number of Au pair

2000

127

2001

90

2002

115

2003

101

2004

94

2005

133

2006

To be published on next issue

 

Source: IND

According to the president of NAPO, Mr. Jack Hompes, Filipino au pairs continue to arrive and through the years the numbers are stable, as you can see and in 2005 alone there are 133 Filipino placed au pairs here in the Netherlands. This is quite a huge number considering that the ban is still implemented and that immigration officials in the Philippines have been notified about it. Some reasons that prompted the growth are:

– Youths from around the world are becoming aware of the benefits of the au pair program

– Growth of the number of au pair agencies specialized in Filipinos.

– Need for self improvement by means of experience.

For this reason, I managed to interview Filipina au pairs who are already here sometime in 2005 and some of those who arrived in 2006 and this year. I would like to ask all Filipina au pairs to participate in my survey and if you know anyone else who is into the au pair program starting from 1998 to present. Also different au pair agencies to let me interview Filipino au pairs they’ve placed. The survey will be sent by email and if it’s not possible I can send it to you by post or we can make an appointment.

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MN-205, March 24, 2007

Life on campus has many distractions that can keep students from managing their time and keeping up with their studies, but according to Thomas Huxley: “Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the things that you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.”

I have decided to compare the au pair program as implemented by two powerful continents: United States and Europe. Why? Because the au pair ban imposed by the Philippine government only applies in Europe BUT not in the US.

In the US, they have what they call an Exchange Visitor Program (EVP). The purpose of the program is to provide foreign nationals the opportunity to participate in educational and cultural programs in the US. EVP is divided into 13 program categories. The au pair program is just one of these categories. The Philippine participation on the EVP is being handled by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO).

The following table is a compilation about the au pair program in US and Europe.

Requisites

US

Europe

Netherlands

Program Regulations

Exchange Visitor Program Regulations (22CFR62)

European Agreement on au pair Placements (EAAPP) EU Treaty Series No. 68

Immigratie en Naturalisatie Dienst (IND)

Extension Possibilities

Possibility of extending for another 6, 9 or 12 months

Possibility of extending for another year (only in some countries)

Not possible

Pre-arrival training

Compulsory + orientation seminar

Not necessary

Not necessary

Academic Requirements (while in the host country)

Must complete at least 6 hours of academic credits

Must take language courses (before and after arrival) in some countries

Optional

Course costs to be paid by family?

Yes, maximum $500

Differs per countries

Maximum €230.00

Age limit

18 to 26 yrs old

17 to 30 years

18 to 25 years old

Maximum number of work hours per week

45

Differs per country

30

Maximum number of work hours per day

10

Differs per country

8

Day(s) off

1

1 or more

2 or more

Compensation

$231.75/week

Differs per country

Maximum 340.00/month

Board and lodging

$92.70/week

FREE

FREE

Insurance

Paid by the au pair

Paid by the host family

Paid by the host family

Host Family-Au pair Agreement

Required (before arriving at host family�s home)

Required (before or after arrival, depending on the host country)

Required when applying for a residence permit

This table has two purposes:

1. To compare the differences of the au pair program between US and Europe and

2. To find out whether the au pair program in Netherlands is contradictory to the EAAP.

As mentioned before, Netherlands is not a signatory to the EAAP. Based on the table, there are slight differences. Of course in Europe, rules are applied differently as each country has to adhere on their own regulations. In Belgium for example, the au pair should already be enrolled in a language course (Dutch, German or French) before a visa is issued. If a person wants to go to Germany as an au pair she needs to speak German. In the Netherlands, taking a language course is optional. But it is worth noting that most au pair agencies here and some companies provide Dutch courses especially for the au pairs and it doesn’t cost as much as when you attend to a normal school.

Another interesting difference is the “working” hours. In the US, au pairs can work up to a maximum of ten (10) hours per day; in France five (5) hours per day and in the Netherlands eight (8) hours per day. There is also a big difference in compensation. If you are an au pair in the US they will deduct $92.70/week for board and lodging, so the total compensation per week would be $139.05. This wage is according to the Fair Labor Standards Act of the US Department of Labor. In the Netherlands, the maximum allowance is €340.00 per month. This is in accordance to the Foreign Nationals Employment Act (Wav). In Belgium, the au pair’s compensation must be at least €450.00 per month and must be deposited into the au pair’s bank account. There is also a possibility of extending the au pair’s stay for 6, 9 or 12 months after a year in the US. In Europe, some countries allow au pairs to extend their stay for another year but this is not the case in the Netherlands.

Based on these comparisons, are the regulation differences really that huge? How do we know that indeed Filipina au pairs are exploited? Or turned into domestic helpers? Is it from the working hours? Or is it based from the au pair’s stipends? Considering that it’s only this year that the salary of domestic helpers increased from $200 to $400. Au pairs are supposed to be treated as a member of the family. Are au pairs treated in a way that is comparable to how domestic helpers in Hong Kong or Middle East are treated? We’ve all heard horror stories (and facts!). But I will not go into this as my research is not about domestic helpers.

So, how do we distinguish the difference then? From hear says? Where and how do we base such judgment? Is it through perceptions? What about duties? Is it really similar? There are lots of questions that need to be answered in order to clarify these confusions. There were also reports that some au pairs do not really come here in Europe for cultural exchange but to work, this is certainly a valid ground BUT isn’t it that when someone applies for a visa in any embassy or consulate the applicants are interviewed by one or two of the embassy staff in order to determine if someone is eligible or not (for whatever purpose). Isn’t that sort of directly or indirectly questioning/doubting how this people do their job? Also, is it fair to pre-judge someone to do something illegal or inappropriate? All human beings have different needs and desires; one of them is to have a good life. What is wrong in wanting or trying to earn some money? What about those who really want to participate in cultural exchange programs? Should they just all go to US when in fact it costs much more to go there? Should they just leave out Europe which is actually more culturally diverse than anywhere else?

Although I will never have the opportunity to become an au pair, I am into cultural exchange programs (being an international student). Never will I regret being a part of a program that shapes and hones one’s skills and aids in attaining your goal. Being culturally diverse is just one of the things that someone needs to learn in order to be competitive. I do not intend to play havoc with this topic but I do welcome answers and comments on all sides.

For your response/comments: vieve965@yahoo.com

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6 Comments

  1. Pingback: On equal terms? An evaluation of the aupair Norwegian Scheme. | Filipina Au Pair Network

  2. is the aupair visa in the netherlands still ban here in the philippines?

  3. sa pag kakaalm ko pero may mga agency na nagpapa alis papuntang Netherland ewan ko lang kung marami pa silang nakukuha dahil mahirap silang makaalis a airport.

  4. Paano hindi paalisin.puro pang katulong binibigay nila.madami nang European nagrereklamo na gusto nila ng tao nakakaintindi kung ano ba talaga ang au pair. naabuso kasi ng karamihan ang visa para mapag kakitaan ang pagpapadala ng katulong. ayos,kaya yung mga alam talaga ang au pair at mahilig sa cultural immersion damay. Kaya kung ako sa DFA at immigration dapat wag nilang lahatin…suriin nila kung nag aabide ba talaga sa cultural immersion yung mag au au pair. kasi yung mag au aupair din ang mahihirapan dyan eh kung pupunta sila dun na hindi alam kung ano ba talaga ang cultural immersion through au pair. wag naman sana natin abusuhin ang mga ganitong programa kaya kaming gusto mag immerse hindi madamay.

  5. Hi Ana,

    Thanks for posting…sorry hindi na tau nagkita, maybe next time? Real good news about the lifting of the au pair ban isn’t it? Keep up the good work!

  6. @Genevieve oo nga hayan mo darating din yan. Good news nga salamat sa former Phil Ambassador Buensuceso na Assist Sec. na ng Foreign Affairs sya ang nagpursge talaga. but it doesn’t mean na smooth mas mraming problema darating but at least nawalan ng kita yung mga corrupt sa airport.

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