Au Pairs in the U.S.

Thousands of au pairs reside in the U.S. at any given point (Jordan, 2014; MacDonald, 2011; Cox, 2015). Some of the requirements for becoming an au pair in the U.S. involve being 18-26 years of age and physically fit and having basic proficiency in English, among many other hidden requirements. Au pairs in the U.S. earn $195.75 per week (before taxes) for working 45 hours a week, up to 10 hours a day. In 2015, a class action lawsuit claimed that the au pair program was engaged in a “price fixing conspiracy” with wages “so low that it… violates Federal and State minimum wage laws” (p. 2 Civil Case No. 14-cv-03074-CMA-CBS). The minimal cash compensation is rationalized through the study options within the student exchange visa the au pairs receive upon joining the program. The au pairs’ host families are required to spend up to $500 on courses at accredited post-secondary institutions, in addition to room and board. Yet as the film shows, these are problematic substitutes.

Postcard Front SafetyLine

While the au pair companies promise prospective recruits further educational opportunities and a safe place to live and work in the U.S., they market the Latin American au pairs to host family employers more in terms of their love of children. These gendered and nationalized representations of Latin American women as good housekeepers and childcare workers promote them as ‘traditional women’ with domestic work as natural to their identities. It further represents Latin American au pairs as prepared subjects for the 21st century U.S. service economy in line with their colonial legacy as maids. This servant identity creates contradictions for the au pairs’ professional aspirations and trajectories. These au pairs after all are highly skilled and desire to advance their lives and careers through the au pair program. Rous’ story will illuminate the injustices of being an au pair and an invisible Mexican immigrant woman in U.S. society.

Resources:

Au Pair Center on Equal Terms Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/AuPairCenterNorge/

Civil Case No. 14-cv-03074-CMA-CBS (AKA Towards Justice Amended Complaint). (U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado). https://www.scribd.com/doc/259396701/Towards-Justice-Amended-Complaint

Cox, R. (Ed.). (2015). Au Pairs’ Lives in Global Context: Sisters or Servants? Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.

GAATW Working Paper. (2013). Challenges to Safe Migration and Decent Work. GAATW.org. http://www.gaatw.org/publications/AuPair_ChallengestoSafeMigrationandDecentWork.GAATW2013.pdf

Jordan, M. (2014, January 24). New Push to Protect Au pairs as U.S. Program is Reviewed. The Wall Street Journal. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304887104579304992013688328

Macdonald, Cameron Lynne. (2011). Shadow Mothers: Nannies, Au Pairs, and the Micropolitics of Mothering. University of California Press.