In the Blind Spot of the Studies on International Migration and Domestic Employment: the case of au pairs-you from a Comparative Perspective
More than 400,000 young people, mostly women around the world, are currently travelling through the au pair program, something possible after setting up an agreement which mixes professional contract issues that includes underlining and not clearly stated moral clauses, with a host family in the destination country. Through an exchange of "working for room and board", au pairs come to work on child care in a host family ready to share their daily lives and the culture of their country, while they are allowed to perfect a new language and earn a weekly allowance. At its origin, this program was designed to mean an equal exchange. Yet, due to the ambiguity about the type of au pairs´ duties and their working hours, this young people often play a role of underpaid and flexible domestic workers by ensuring tasks that normally are not part of the au pair’s responsibilities. On the other hand, some au pair candidates may vision it as a real possibility to settle down legally in another country (for long or short term) as part of an immigration strategy. Not clearly domestic employees, not fully members of their host family, not entirely students and not even counted as immigrants, the situation of these young people can often lead to ambiguous perception of their statuses by themselves and by the whole society. Based on the premise that the figure of the young au pair in society remains unclear in concept and practice and to the fact that certain political, social and economic mechanisms promote inequalities based on the creation of categories through employs strongly sexualized and ethnicized that are maintained in the domestic space and in the social sphere, my work would like to offer a new look into what means really to be an "au pair", a program and an experience to which the words "market", "domestic work" and "immigration" are not often but must be associated.