PHILIPPINE MIGRATION AND
AU PAIR PROGRAMS IN EUROPE
Reports of exploitation and abuse of Filipina au pairs in Europe have undermined the integrity of au pair programs in Europe. The ambiguous legal status of au pairs in Europe has fuelled public scrutiny on the questionable policies governing the placement of au pairs in European countries. As a reaction to the reports of abuse, the Philippine government imposed an au pair ban to Europe in 1998. Despite the ban the number of Filipina au pairs continued to increase in Europe.As a result of the ban, the Filipina au pairs were now undocumented and not protected by Philippine regulations and institutions. Following bilateral agreements between the Philippines, Denmark and the Netherlands and after the issuance of the New Guidelines on the Departure of Au Pairs to Europe by a Technical Working Group, the ban was lifted in 2012.
In the absence of extensive labor immigration policies for domestic workers in Europe, the au pair programs are increasingly used to attract cheap domestic workers. Many Filipino women have been recruited under the guise of the au pair programs. Au pairs are neither recognized as workers nor students in Europe. Hence, Filipina au pairs do not enjoy the full protection and social security provided under the applicable European labor laws and remain vulnerable to exploitation. As au pairs, Filipinas are not paid full wages. Instead, they receive allowances of around 400 Euros varying between countries, far short of the minimum wage of domestic workers.
The au pair sector is typified by this unregulated character. The limited legal mechanisms that are in place to regulate au pair programs are inadequate to provide sufficient protection for au pairs. Acknowledging the vulnerability of au pairs and the inadequate instruments for their protection, the Parliamentary Assembly of the European Council recommended in 2004 to recognize and safeguard the distinctive status of au pairs and appropriately regulate the au pair sector. Officially recognized as a cultural exchange program by European countries these programs should be used for the sole purpose of cultural exchange rather than a cheap recruitment tool to attract cheap domestic labor.
This policy brief analyzes the rules and regulations governing the European au pair programs and assesses if these are sufficient to protect the au pairs from exploitation. Based on these policies, this brief sets forth recommendations for European governments and the Philippine government to safeguard the rights of au pairs. This paper, specifically focuses on Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium as they are among the top receiving countries of Filipina au pairs. To explain the need for comprehensive policies ensuring the protection of au pairs, the abuses and exploitation of the au pair programs are outlined first. Amongst others, the reports of abuse of the au pair program include excessive working hours, and the limited available time to study as a result of the long working hours or an outright prohibition to study. Other abuse includes discrimination, sexual harassment, and the exploitation of the vulnerability of undocumented au pairs when they overstay their visas in the country of destination. By outlining the legal framework that is intended to protect the rights of au pairs and explaining under what conditions au pairs may be placed in European host families, this paper informs policy makers, au pairs, NGOs and other stakeholders about the rules and regulations governing the placement of au pairs. Lastly, this policy brief will set forth recommendations to enhance protection for Filipina au pairs based on the rules and regulations that were examined.
CMA recommends the European governments to:
- Formulate concrete regulations specifically addressing au pairs stipulating the rights and obligations of au pairs including technical accommodation requirements, exact amount of allowances, hours of work, defining the type of light household chores and payment of return ticket.
- Monitor the compliance of host families by conducting interviews with au pairs and inspecting the houses of the families
- Continuously evaluate and improve monitoring mechanisms.
- Establish an independent complaint mechanism including a toll free 24/7 hotline for au pairs to lodge their complaints and report abuses to; with assurances that their immigration status will not be affected;
- Establish mechanism for availment of temporary protected status for those with pending complaints in the EU countries until the resolution of their cases
- Penalize misuse of the au pair program with appropriate penalties, instead of mere blacklisting
- Promote ongoing dialogue with the Philippine government to thresh out issues/ policy implementation and programs
- Extend the period for which au pairs can find a new host family.
- Ensure that the au pair program is publicly respected as a cultural exchange program and not for purposes of work.
CMA recommends the Philippine government to:
- Ensure that European receiving countries of au pairs fully respect and protect the au pair programme as a cultural exchange programme through continuous dialogue.
- Urge au pair receiving countries to report cases of abuse and communicate on policy changes, implementation and monitoring.
- Disseminate information on policies governing au pair placement to all stakeholders, including the new Guidelines for Au Pairs.
- Encourage with au pair receiving countries and offer hotlines to provide info for complaints info etc.
- Mainstream and integrate au pair issues in illegal recruitment and Human Trafficking programs and policies.