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Filipina Au Pairs in Denmark in the Spotlight

Last October 22 the Filipina au pairs were on the Spotlight when the Danish Parliament conducted a joint hearing regarding the au pair scheme. On that hearing they focus on the Filipina Au pairs because of many cases of abuse from their host families. Many of them were used a cheap house help which is not their duty as an au pair.

What is au pair?

The au pair scheme is a cultural exchange program where young girls stays with families with at least 1 child under 18 years old and are treated as equal by the host families. The au pair is a cultural/educational exchange program that will enhance au pair’s proffesionally by understanding the culture of it’s host country by learning the language and its people. They have a written contract wherein they site what responsibilities of the au pair and these are light household chores, taking care of the children and buying groceries. They are only allowed to work from min 18 to maximum 30 hours per week, one day off during week days and free during weekends and besides that they are allowed to have time to join or attend danish language lessons.

You can visit the Danish Immigration Service official website www.nyidanmark.dk for more information.
Why Filipina au pairs?

  • This is because they represent the biggest chunk of au pairs here in Denmark. When I arrive in 2002 according to the Danish Foreign Service Statistics they were only 124 Filipinas out of 1,156 au pairs but last year there were 1510 Filipina au pairs out of 2,207 .
  • Out of these numbers of Filipinas many are being abused by their host families by working more than the allowed maximum of 30hrs. per week.
  • Some documentary programs exposed that this au pair scheme is being used as a work

VVF status

The danish status symbol before was VVV or 3V’s (Villa, Volvo & Vov) meaning that you live in a house or precise a villa, driving a Volvo and have a dog. But now it’s Villa, Volvo and Filipina Au pair that is the buzzword specially in the whiskey belt areas more specifically up in North Sealand where rich people lives.
Why are Filipinas are popular?

From what I know and other danes are talking bybrowsing some forums they describe Filipinas that they

  • communicates in English
  • don’t complain
  • they always says yes even they don’t fell like it
  • sometimes they call their host Ma’am or Sir.
  • good housekeeping skills especially those who had previous experiences from Hongkong, Singapore etc.
  • they love children
  • Most can cooked
  • they don’t answer back even if you shout at them some they just sulk or cry

On that hearing they heard statements from people who show concern for the Filipino au pairs one from labor union, a catholic priest, a danish born Filipino . I said Filipino au pairs because there is also some male Filipino au pairs here. But what saddened me is that there was no Filipino women who speaks in that hearing since these problems represents the Filipina in bad image as well. No one can represent a filipina problem but a filipina itself. So Filipina speaks up or Filipinos as whole should stand up and participate.

The goals of that hearing are the following :

  • To proposed higher allowance of au pairs from minimum of 2,500dkk to 4,000 dkk.
  • To encourage au pairs to take danish lessons.
  • Propose that au pair should not be shown out of Denmark if there will be case against the employer.
  • And many more like taxation, holidays and administration of au pairs.

There were a lot of media who were present but as I read all the news I was so sad because it seems like the press manipulated the stories away for the purpose of the hearing and maybe I’m wrong in my interpretation that the purpose was to stop the abuse of au pairs.

But they focus more on

  • The au pair scheme is just being used by Filipinas to work since it is very hard to find job in the Philippines and the salary is so low.
  • Many Filipinas are working black job meaning outside from their host families.
  • Many became stays illegally after their stay as au pair in the country.

But I can clarify some of the above issues form my own knowledge:

  • We are almost 90 million people so it is very competitive to find a job. But there are some who leave their jobs in the Philippines of the promise of some people about high salaries and better future here in Denmark. Almost all the Filipinas who came here as a au pair were highly educated although they don’t receive high salary but they do a gratifying job meaning they are not treated as slaves. They have different purpose of why they want to be an au pair.

Just to give a little glimpse of the working conditions in the Philippines

  • Working hours is 8 hours everyday salary rates differs form the the national capital Region to the other provinces which lower but in Metro Manila the minimum rate is 300pesos/day around 7 dollars plus COLA (cost of living allowance). Thats around 10,000 pesos /month but its also depends on the position office like office job usually the salary is lump sum. Thats is a starting rate and some actually gets paid double more than the minimum rate. But we can not compare from here because we have different the standard of living. But still the Philippines economy always tied up to the oil prices so the cost of commodities are so expensive so most Filipinos wanted to work abroad.
  • Most au pair receives 2,500 -3000 DKk around 550-600/month minus tax which by the way some host families just shoulder it but imagine what will happen if they go out the minimum fare is 20dkk and the sofdrinks cost 15-20 dkk. So I think most are tempted but I’m not saying that all of them are doing it. It’s not ok when someone is working black or illegally but isn’t more irresponsible and punishable if the host families are using au pairs to work as house help letting them work long hours and not paying them right. The host families have all the means while the poor girls hasn’t had any not even friends.
  • I don’t know anybody who stays illegally after their term as an au pair. But I know most the Filipinas try to seek au pair jobs in other countries like Norway or Spain in that matter and I think that is not illegal.

It’s really sad to hear the stories of au pairs not only Filipinas but I had a friend form Brazil who suffered 2 years of abuse without telling her problems to anyone because she don’t know where to turn to not even in the Immigration service. She taught at that time that it was normal occurrence here in denamrk

I hope that what ever changes they will make or agree in the Parliament is for the benefit for all not only for the filipinas but all the au pairs that comes in the country.
But to the Filipino Community get involved.

Another problem is we should inform our Kababayans that au pair scheme is not a an alternative to a real job because it is a cultural exchange progam not a job. It can not pay off especially if they have to shoulder all the payments to their recruiter and the corrupt immigration officials (remember au pair is not permitted in the Philippines).

And to the would be au pairs remember you don’t have to pay any amount more than 1 month of you allowance as an au pair so that will be minimum of 2,500 around 24,000 pesos. no more no less if that is a legitimate agency. If it is a private person who will try to be an agent for you don’t try to be fooled because actually there are expenses here because you can actually download the application from the website www.nyidanmark.dk. Even if you negotiate directly to the host families in the internet beware! know you rights.

HUWAG PALOLOKO. DON’T BE FOOLED!

Ana Lindenhann

Ana Lindenhann
This article was first published on October 28, 2008 at www.filipinamom.com
– the author’s personal blog site.

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Posted in Au Pair, Documentation.

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