By Rosie Cox
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Additional resources for Au Pairs' Lives in Global Context: Sisters or Servants?
Pink Slave’ or the ‘Modern Young Woman’? 33 2. European Agreement on “au pair” placement. Council of Europe: Explanatory Report, Strasbourg, 24. XI. htm (accessed on 20/7/ 2013) 3. ‘The Social Advisory Group for Girls Away from Home’ – Report for 1961, p 1. London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), ACC/1888/250/043. 4. The Domestic Servants’ Benevolent Institution, 49th AGM, Extract of speeches and report, 16/5/1895, pp. 6–7. LMA, A/FWA/C/D/032. 5. DSBI, May 1846, p 4. 6. ‘Stranger in the House’, Manchester Guardian, 15/5/1931.
Two key findings emerge from this research: first, the origins of the au pair scheme are fundamentally socio-economic, and so the scheme should be understood alongside other histories of economic migration, instead of foregrounding it as a ‘cultural exchange programme’. Secondly, there are some striking similarities between concerns about au pairs in the twentieth century and concerns today, notably the abuse of the scheme by employers and the government’s refusal to recognise au pairing as a form of domestic labour and to formalise it in line with international labour law.
F. St. John Corbett spoke about the problem of ‘foreign competition’ as a ‘grievance’, and urged attendees to employ English servants. When one member retorted that foreign servants were cheaper, he admitted: We have an advantage when we employ foreign servants, because foreigners of the servant class have not yet imbibed the idea which so ‘Pink Slave’ or the ‘Modern Young Woman’? 23 many English servants have – that they are as good as their masters. ’5 Those servants on the bottom rung of the ladder – that is, foreign or ‘unworthy’ servants – were by definition excluded.
Au Pairs' Lives in Global Context: Sisters or Servants? by Rosie Cox