Au pairs as a business model

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Au pairs are vulnerable for exploitation, and their isolated position became even more worrisome during the Covid pandemic.

These conclusions were presented by FairWork after research in 2020.
New graduation research by Azumi Nakane, a former au pair, highlights the role of au pair agencies and policies around the Dutch au pair programme. Findings reveal how the programme’s policy is structured in a way that keeps the au pairs in a vulnerable and precarious position. Nakane also argues that au pair agencies act as independent companies and that the au pair program has become a business model rather than a cultural exchange for young individuals.

The thesis ‘It all happens behind closed doors’ represents an inside view of how an au pair experiences the au pair program, and how organizations involved in the program support, facilitate, or obstruct the working conditions of the au pairs. Nakane concludes that the out-of-date legal framework of the program created a loophole for ‘legal’ domestic exploitation and is not protecting the rights of au pairs.

FairWork presents the findings of the research ‘it all happens behind closed doors’ on Friday 9 December 9th between 14:00-17:00 o’clock at the office of FairWork, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 32, Amsterdam. If you want to participate, please register before Wednesday December 7th 2022, through the registration form. The event will be in English.


After a presentation of the research and main findings, we will discuss the role of stakeholders in preventing abuse and strengthening the position of au pairs in the Netherlands. The Danish labour union Forbundet af Offenligt Ansatte (FOA) will explain their strategy in supporting au pairs.

  • 14:00-15:15 Part 1: Presentation research and main conclusions, followed by Q&A.
  • 15:15-15:30 Short break
  • 15:30-16:45 Part 2: Presentation of Danish situation and support by FOA. Role of FairWork and other actors. Followed by Q&A.
  • 16:45-17:30 Drinks & snacks

About the research

Download a summary report of the research summary report of the research

A digital version of the thesis can be requested via our contact form

“The policies surrounding the au pair program control and shape the program. Policy surrounding the au pair agencies is somewhat flexible but vague, resulting in each agency having its values and systems to run the au pair program, which in turn creates an unequally distributed protection for every au pair that enters the program. The au pair agency may be put to blame however, the question is not who is to blame, but why is the system failing to recognize and prevent the abuse of the au pair program.” (Nakane, 2022)

Project Hidden at Work

This research is part of the two-year project ‘Hidden at Work’. This project started in January 2021 and is coordinated by FairWork. We are implementing the project jointly with LEFÖ IBF in Austria, La Strada Czech Republic and La Strada International.

The project aims to reach out to these women through (online) awareness-raising and empowerment strategies and (referral to) direct support services, to ensure they know and (can) claim their labour and human rights. The project consortium will also train professionals who are likely to detect exploited or harassed women at work. Relevant in depth insights in the problems of the target group and the obstacles they experience in practice will be used to advocate for improvements in relevant legislation and/or in their implementation.

Visit the Hidden at Work project page