Au Pair Jobs in Europe
How and Where to Find Work
|Work as an au pair with children in Italy.
Au pairing (literally “living on equal terms”) provides single women and sometimes men over 18 and normally under 27 the chance to study a language and culture while living as part of a family abroad. The demand
for live-in childcare is huge especially for young women. A good source of agency addresses is the International Au Pair Association (IAPA), though a number
of member agencies operate outgoing programs only (i.e., they send their nationals abroad, primarily to learn English).
Au pairs are meant to work for no more than a certain amount of agreed upon hours a week, plus potential evenings of babysitting. In exchange they are given a separate room, all meals and pocket money per week—the amount depending by country. Unlike nannies and mother’s helps, au pairs do not sign a contract since the arrangement is an informal one. Au pairs should be treated more like family members than employees. An au pair has much less responsibility for the welfare
of the children than does a nanny, and is not normally expected to take sole charge of a young child.
Holiday au pairs usually work from July to September and accompany the family on their holidays. Since the children are out of school, there may be less free time than during the academic year and often no chance to attend
language classes. Otherwise the same rules should apply as for ordinary au pairing.
A brief summary of job prospects and red tape is given for many of the countries of Europe below which continue to merge as part of the EU. Note that the supply of au pairs has greatly increased in Europe with the expansion of the European Union. Consequently, do check up on the latest requirements for employment and residency in each country via the au pair site and the IAPA.
Searching the Web for Au Pair Jobs in Europe
Cyberspace buzzes with an exchange of information about live-in childcare. A great many online agencies provide a database of families on the one hand and people looking for live-in jobs on the other so that they can match
themselves up. Prospective au pairs register their details, including age, nationality, relevant experience and in many cases a photo, to be uploaded onto a website which then becomes accessible to registered families. Registration is usually
free or reasonably priced for the job-seeker, whereas the hiring families usually pay an introduction fee to the web-based agency.
Before a prospective au pair decides to look for a family on the internet, it is worth considering the relative advantages and disadvantages of using the web as opposed to a conventional agency as described below. Making
the arrangement directly with a family sight unseen and with no agency back-up carries potential risks. No doubt many of the matches result in successful outcomes. Typically a family contacts a promising looking candidate or a job-seeker contacts
a promising sounding family; they make contact via email and then telephone and decide whether they are compatible. Assuming each party is upfront and keeps to their part of the bargain, all should be well.
Without the support of an agency, it is very difficult to carry out any effective screening of either party. If relying on the internet it is essential that you ascertain exactly the nature of the situation and the expectations
of your new employer. Work out in your mind what you will do in the event the arrangement does not work out. If the agency is simply a database-provider, they will be able to offer little or no back-up.
If it happens that either side is not committed to the arrangement to which they have signed up, the other side can be badly let down and have no recourse. For example an employer might change his or her mind between inviting
a young girl to come and the start date. It is not unknown for families to issue several invitations and choose the one they like the look of better after arrival. In this case, an au pair could be turned away on the doorstep, without fluent
English or much money. Similarly, families that are expecting an au pair to arrive on a certain date can find themselves disappointed.
The tradition of au pairing is well established in Austria and prospective au pairs are served by several agencies (see below), who are accustomed to dealing with direct applications from foreigners. Requirements are not
strenuous, and many inexperienced 18-year-olds are placed. The agencies can take a long time to reply and may need some follow-up emails and phone calls. The norm is for the agencies to charge their au pairs a fee equivalent to a week’s
Officially, au pairs from outside Europe must obtain both a work and residence permit. The employing family should apply at their local employment office at least two weeks before
the start date. Before the permit can be approved and an permit issued, the authorities must see an agreement or contract (signed by the employer and the au pair) and proof that health and accident insurance cover
has been obtained by the au pair.
See More Websites for Au Pair Work in Austria
Au pairing has always been a favored way for young women to learn French and, increasingly, for young men too. The pocket money for au pairs in France is currently Euro 60 per week plus in most cases a 20-euro-a-week contribution
to language classes; in Paris families also provide a carte orange (urban travel pass) which is worth more than 50 euros.
North Americans can fix up au pair placements directly with a French agency, but they should bear in mind that high placement fees may have to be paid in advance and that in some cases little advance information about the
family will be made available. Enrolment in a French language course is compulsory for non-European au pairs.
A number of established agencies belongs to UFAAP, the Union Francaise des Associations Au Pair, an umbrella group set up in 1999, based at present at Europair Services in Paris (listed below). Contact details for the member
agencies are included on the UFAAP website. In Paris, the notice board at the American Church (65 Quai d’Orsay) is crammed with announcements of live-in positions.
See More Websites for Au Pair Work in France
Dozens of independent agents have popped up all over Germany, many of them members of the IAPA. Commercial au pair agencies do not charge a placement fee to incoming au pairs.
Americans and Canadians do not need to apply for a residence and work permit before leaving their home countries; however it is a general
requirement that au pairs prove that they have studied German.
The majority of families offer monthly pocket money and also give their au pairs a monthly travel pass, including other benefits such as a contribution to course fees
for language school and sometimes money for return travel at end of year. For these perks au pairs will be expected to hard work and probably to undertake more housework than most au pairs normally do.
See More Websites for Au Pair Work in Germany
It is possible to apply independently through an Italian agency, but first make sure that you won’t be liable to pay a hefty registration fee. There are many opportunities for au pairs during the summer holidays when
most Italians who can afford au pairs migrate to the coast or the mountains and take their helpers with them. The weekly pocket money for au pairs is average or above for Europe, starting at. 60-70 euros for working 30 hours a week, 80-100 euros
for 40 hours, though many families in the big cities pay more than this.
Non-European nationals are not eligible for a Permesso di Soggiorno (residence permit) unless they arrive with the appropriate visa from the Italian embassy in their country. The best route is to obtain a
student visa which permits the holder to work up to 20 hours per week (live-in or live-out). To obtain a long-stay visa, non-EU au pairs will need to enroll in and pay for an Italian language course at an approved school or college. The school
registrar will issue a certificate which must then be stamped by the local police (Questura). The visa will be valid only for the length of the course. You must also show sufficient insurance coverage, a return air ticket, proof of accommodations
stamped by the police and a contract specifying dates, pocket money and benefits stamped by the provincial labor office and/or the police.
If you are already in Italy you can check classified adverts in English language journals, many of which are published online, such as Wanted in Rome classifieds, aimed at the expatriate community. Try notice boards in English language bookshops, English-speaking churches, student travel agencies and language school notice boards.
See More Websites for Au Pair Work in Italy
The au pair system is gaining popularity in the countries of Scandinavia, despite the fact that relatively few foreigners are keen to learn Swedish, Norwegian or Finnish. More of the agencies which send Scandinavian au pairs
abroad are also placing young foreigners as au pairs in Scandinavian homes, incidentally providing one of the few ways to afford an extended stay in this expensive region.
Denmark is another country where the level of English in the general population is extremely high. Conditions for au pairs are congenial: on top of the monthly pocket money of at least 2,500 Danish kroners, you should be
given health insurance and are entitled to join free language courses in Danish. The main au pair agencies in Denmark are Au Pairs International in Copenhagen and the Scandinavian Au Pair Center Denmark located in the north of the country but
mainly working online with partners in Norway and Sweden. They do not charge a fee to incoming au pairs.
For Finland, a new private agency called Snow Au Pairs in Helsinki has started placing some au pairs with Finnish families. Otherwise, placements must be arranged independently through contacts or advertisements.
Interest in au pairing in Iceland is increasing, and Americans can find a family through the agency Stúdentaferdir (the main mediating agency for au pairs licensed by the Ministry of Social Affairs). Families often cover half the travel costs (if you stay six to nine months) and the full cost if you stay nine to 12 months.
The private employment agency Ninukot originally specialized in agricultural and horticultural jobs throughout Iceland but has branched out to offer other jobs including in babysitting.
See More Websites for Au Pair Work in Sweden
The chance of arranging an au pair placement in Spain is good. The majority of jobs are in the cities and environs of Madrid and Barcelona, though jobs do crop up in glamorous resorts like Marbella and Tenerife from
time to time. Several au pair agencies in Spain are associated with language schools such as Centros Europeos Galve in Madrid, Kingsbrook in Barcelona and Crossing Limits in Seville.
There are also opportunities for young people to stay with Spanish families in exchange for speaking English with the children without having any domestic
or childcare duties. Americans and Canadians who wish to work as au pairs should apply for a student visa before leaving home. Officially, the Embassy requires both an offer of employment from the family and a letter from the school where the
au pair is enrolled (or will enroll) to study Spanish for at least 15 hours a week.
See More Websites for Au Pair Work in Spain
Those interested in a domestic position with a Swiss family should know the rules laid down by each Swiss canton. You must be a female between the ages of 17 (18 in Geneva) and 29 from Western Europe, North America, Australia,
or New Zealand, stay for a minimum of one year and a maximum of 18 months, and attend a minimum of three hours a week of language classes in Zürich, four in Geneva. Families in most places are required to pay half the language school fees.
Au pairs in Switzerland work for a maximum of 30 hours per week, plus babysitting once or twice a week. The monthly salary varies among cantons but varies when deductions
for tax and health insurance have been made.
SUSAN GRIFFITH is author of the classic Work Your Way Around the World. See her bio to order a copy. She was also co-editor
of the groundbreaking editions of Transitions Abroad's Work Abroad book.