Press Centre

New research tracks growing exploitation of au pairs and childminders in Irish homes

A new paper from the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) indicates that urgent action is needed to ensure that Ireland guarantees the safety and welfare of the thousands of migrant women caring for Ireland’s children. ‘Childcare in the Domestic Work Sector: Who’s Minding the Children?’, which launches today (Wednesday 3rd June), draws on Irish and European data and contains an infographic illustrating the long hours worked by ‘Jessica’, one young au pair who came to the MRCI for help.

More than 20,000 families in Ireland rely on au pairs to provide childcare and household duties. The average au pair is paid just €100 for a 40 hour week of childminding, cleaning and cooking – considerably less than the legal minimum wage.

MRCI’s Aoife Smith said “We have seen a huge growth in the number of women au pairing in Ireland over the last five years. Our centre is providing support and information to over 1000 au pairs today compared to just 40 in 2013, and Jessica’s story is unfortunately not unusual. These are extremely vulnerable workers who are being illegally denied basic employment rights, and our research shows that this problem will continue to grow if the Government does not act now."

Elisangela Camposrosa, former au pair and Domestic Workers Action Group (DWAG) spokesperson said: “Au pairs are hidden in family homes across the country, caring for children, cooking and cleaning. Without the work of au pairs, parents could not do their own jobs – and yet our work is not valued, we are severely underpaid, and we’re not seen as real workers. Au pairs are not excluded from any employment legislation in Ireland, so why is the government failing to protect our rights?”

Orla O’Connor, Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) stated “Childcare is a cost. It is not fair that women in unprotected and unregulated working environments are being used to meet the childcare needs in Ireland. What we need is a publicly subsidised childcare model that provides accessible, affordable quality childcare for families in Ireland.”

Aoife Smith concluded, “This paper reveals a grim picture of deeply inadequate public investment in childcare in Ireland. Au pairs are filling the gap left by Government underinvestment, and the Government is turning a blind eye to their exploitation. We need to ensure that childcare in Ireland is safe and sustainable for children and for those caring for them.”

The findings of this paper are reflected in an EU report published this week, which named the domestic work sector the most exploitative area of work in Ireland.


Aoife Murphy, MRCI Communications: 01 524 1454


Childcare in the Domestic Work Sector: Who’s Minding the Children? will be launched at 11.30am, Wednesday 3rd June, in the Carmelite Centre on Aungier Street, Dublin 2 as part of Domestic Workers Action Week (June 1-7 2015). Orla O’Connor (NWCI), Elisangela Camposrosa (DWAG) and Aoife Smith (MRCI) will speak at the launch.

The paper and accompanying infographics are available at

Key recommendations from the paper:

Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

  • Issue a clear statement on the rights and entitlements of au pairs as workers and inform all statutory information bodies such as Citizens Information and Workplace Relations.
  • Reintroduce an eligible employment permit for domestic work to respond to labour market demand and mitigate exploitation.
  • Increase inspections in private homes to address non-compliance in this sector, with an immediate focus on au pairs.

Department of Children and Youth Affairs

  • Invest in the creation of affordable and accessible childcare services.

The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) provides free and confidential support, advice and information to migrants and their families in Ireland. For more on MRCI’s work with au pairs, childminders and domestic workers, please see