Au pairing in Ireland is a thriving industry. A quick Internet search of the word ‘Au Pair’ produces countless options of websites offering au pair services. Despite the growing numbers of families using au pairs, accurate data on au pairing is extremely limited and little is understood or documented about the experiences of au pairs.
The following report provides qualitative and quantitative data on the experiences of more than fifty au pairs in Ireland. This small-scale research project was conducted by MRCI over a five-month period from November 2011 to March 2012.
The report shows wide interpretations of au pairing. The range includes individuals on cultural exchange programmes in addition to both domestic and childcare workers. The findings indicate a high level of exploitation and abuse, which includes au pairs working excessively long hours; carrying out heavy workloads; having too much responsibility and receiving extremely low pay. Cases of extreme exploitation are described and health and safety issues were also identified. In some cases, the au pair’s freedom was restricted and personal documents were withheld. A few young women encountered physical and psychological stress at the hands of their host families and were left without the necessary support and protection.