Caretaker cabinet only wants to allow young singles as au pairs

State Secretary for Justice and Security Ankie Broekers-Knol writes this to the House of Representatives. The hope is that tightening the rules will prevent abuse.

Cultural exchange

Quite a few rules already apply to au pairs. For example, they must still be between 18 and 30 years old and receive room and board with the host family. The au pair may then do light housework for a maximum of 30 hours a week and receive a maximum of 340 euros per month. Moreover, the purpose of the trip should be to ‘get acquainted with Dutch culture and society’.

In practice things often turn out differently, the State Secretary noted.

Support poor family

A survey conducted a few years ago already showed that half of the surveyed au pairs worked more than is allowed. Nearly half also had to perform heavy household chores. According to Broekers-Knol, little has changed in the meantime, so extra rules will be added.

The problem mainly lies with au pairs from countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines. They would soon be willing to work too much, with the aim of supporting the family in the homeland financially.

No salaried employment

“The willingness to perform more or more demanding tasks for the host family, whether or not in exchange for a financial contribution, is high. In such a situation, the intended purpose of stay is experienced more as ‘paid work’ and not ‘cultural exchange ‘” writes Broekers-Knol.

To prevent this, stricter rules will be introduced. With effect from the new rules, the women – all but women are women – must be 25 years of age or younger and may not have children or have custody of children, nor may they be married.

The idea is that young, unmarried women without children do not come here to support their families.

‘Au pair not better protected’

These new rules only partly hit the mark, thinks Ellen Heesen-Hiemstra of au pair agency House o Orange. Reducing the age does help, she thinks, to prevent abuse of the program.

She is referring to the cultural approach of the au pair program. A 27-year-old Filipino who doesn’t speak a word of English and lives three floors behind is probably not here to get to know the culture, she describes the situation.

But for the protection of the au pair himself, from a poor country in Southeast Asia, ‘it doesn’t matter much’. “They always have concerns about parents or brothers or sisters. It is not the case that a vulnerable group no longer becomes vulnerable because they are 24.”

Not from poor countries

According to Heesen-Hiemstra, the solution to this must be found in a different way. As far as she is concerned, it is better not to bring au pairs from low-wage countries here, or only to a very limited extent. Because the risk is simply too great that they are not here for the purpose for which the au pair arrangement was devised.

The Secretary of State does not want to go that far yet. If all goes well, the new rules will come into effect on 1 July, or at the latest on 1 October 2022. In 2024 it should become clear whether they have had an effect.

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