A statement from the Norwegian Minister of Labor and Inclusion Marte Mjøs Persen (AP) the Norwegian Labour Party.
“The system that does not work as intended. It is no longer about cultural exchange as it once was,” Minister of Labor and Inclusion Marte Mjøs Persen says.
The minister says that there must be decent working conditions for everyone, even when the work is done at home. “Although many au pairs are fine with the families they live with, the program has also become a loophole for some to get cheap labour,” she says.
According to VG, there are 1.100 people working as Au Pair’s in Norway at the moment. Most of them are from the Philippines.
The program was set to give young people between the ages of 17 and 30 the opportunity to go on cultural exchange in other countries. They are covered for board and lodging and receive at least NOK 5,900 in pocket money per month. Instead, they must work a maximum of 30 hours per week.
The current leader of LO, also called this program the “Western Slavery” already six years ago.
“Ending the au pair program is a great victory for the efforts towards a decent work life,” Persen says.
Photo: regjeringen.no – Marte Mjøs Persen, Norway’s Minister of Labor and Inclusion
Here is my take!
To clear out all the facts about what is “Western Slavery” or “Modern Slavery” into a perspective it’s fair to put all the fact on the table and let the numbers and words speak it’s own language.
Modern slavery is defined by Anti-Slavery International. They define modern slavery as when an individual is exploited by others, for personal or commercial gain. Whether tricked, coerced, or forced, they lose their freedom. This includes but is not limited to human trafficking, forced labour and debt bondage
My examples and numbers is related to and based on a living standard in the Oslo area – Viken/Akershus. This is of course not 100 percent accurate, but one thing for sure, to live in Norway is very expensive.
Minimum price of renting a cheap apartment in Oslo starts at 6.500 NOK per month. The highest price for a fully furnished apartments is approx 40.000 NOK. You can buy food on a budget for 2 adults from 4.500 – 6.000 NOK and up per month. 1 single person approx 3.500 – 5.000 NOK +/-
Normal Work Visa
Work contract and Work Visa for foreigners in Norway.
To apply for a normal work visa inside Norway you normally need to have a completed higher education or have completed vocational training. You can then apply for a residence permit as a skilled worker with a Bachelor’s Degree education.
If you have received a job offer, signed a work contract or have your own business you are ready to go all in.
The minimum salary in a work contract have to be minimum 230 NOK per hour or 34.000 NOK per month. If the job require higher education like a Bachelor’s Degree or a Master Degree and you write/read/speak fluent Norwegian you can reach up to an average salary level which is approx 47.000 NOK per month.
Earlier only 33 % of all Au Pair’s had a higher education like for example a Bachelor’s Degree. Today this is numbers are much higher. For some countries up to 72 % of the Au Pair’s are educated with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher. 8 – 10 % have a High School Diploma.
To find work in Norway without or with a low education can be challenging without any work experience and some language skills. This will sadly mostly always end up with some jobs related to the cleaning industry which is much lower paid, even if it’s not allowed according to the Norwegian law.
Living in Norway
Budget based on the Norwegian living standard.
Let’s try to add some numbers and find out the cost of living close to the Oslo Area in Norway.
- You have 34.000 NOK brutto income before TAX.
- Government TAX is 22 – 36 % = 7.480 – 12.240 NOK per month.
- Renting a small room / apartment average small size 10.000 NOK.
- Electricity same apartment 1.500 NOK – 3.000 NOK per month.
- Food average approx 4.000 NOK.
- Insurance, transport, internet, mobile +++ approx 2.500 NOK – 3.500 NOK.
You dont need to be a rocket scientist to understand that there is not too much left for saving, after 1 months hard work, 8 hours per day. Roughly calculated there is 6 – 8.000 NOK left on your account +/- before any social activity.
Don’t forget that this is about a high educated person in a medium/higher work position with good Norwegian language skills. We all know that an Au Pair is not allowed to have extra work, but only as an example, a normal Au Pair, with low or up to medium education, will never get a work offer, not even close to these examples given ahead.
Here I am brutally honest, but realistic.
Host Family & the Benefit
How much does the Au Pair cost the Host family?
To apply for a normal aupair work visa the Host Family have to pay upfront 9.100 NOK for the Au Pair Visa. Up front also payment of 2.500 NOK for the Au Pair insurance and then normally 10.000 +/- NOK for a flight ticket from a foreign country to Norway. Total costs so far is approx 22.000 NOK and some time much more if there is an agency that is involved in the processing.
The Host family have to pay minimum 5.900 NOK pocket money/salary to the Au Pair per month. The Host Family also have to pay 740 NOK per month for Norwegian school lessons and for the Au Pair’s transportation. A monthly train/bus card for the Oslo – Viken/Akershus Area cost from 814 – 1.000 NOK per month.
In Norway we have something we call feriepenger / vacation money. This is calculated to be 95 NOK per day and will be paid to the Au Pair once in a year.
Of course the cost totally is lower than all this, if the family is lucky to have the same Au Pair for up to 2 year in the family. Some Au Pair’s, because of different reasons are jumping from family to family. 1-2-3 times within a 2 years visa periode. The visa have to be paid and renewed every time so these are in practical some “expensive projects”.
Totally 1 years costs for having an Au Pair in Norway is totally approx 113.280 NOK per year. (11.000 EURO or 12.000 USD)
Benefits for the Host Family.
The Host Family get some help in their home to look after the children and some help with light household chores. The children will have someone to play with and most important, to learn a new language from, from a new culture like Asia, Africa or maybe South America, or from where the Au Pair is born and raised.
This is a great opportunity for a children to develop as long as the host parents is willing see this “golden egg” as something positive and if the intention about having an Au Pair is “Pure & Clean”.
Au Pair & the Benifit
Au Pair or a Slave. Make up your own opinion.
Some Au Pair’s pay parts of the costs and sometimes they even pay all the expensive by them self. The Au Pair’s situation in their home country is different from country to country, but some will do almost whatever needed to get the chance to travel to another European country.
In Philippines we call them “breadwinners”. Some will sign up big loans to finance their dreams and their new project in Europe. Agencies is charging astronomical fees to “help them” getting to Europe. Sometimes these people ending up in a circle dept to more than one agency and the situation will not be good for any of them in the near future.
An Au Pair have free accommodation, Free food, 5 hours light household work per day. After maximum 1.000 NOK in TAX. (The tax is lower for low income. Sometimes close to 10 %.) An Au Pair can easily save 4 – 4.500 NOK per month.
Benefits for the Au Pair.
You will have the experience about travelling to a new country and to learn a new culture, meet people and explore your horizon. A new language to learn, getting new international friend. Be a part of a family who will treat you as a family member. There is also a safety about all this. You have your own room, a bed to sleep in, you will wake up having breakfast, lunch and dinner like a package. Mostly all you need in life, totally for free. It’s a part of your agreement and a your living package for your next year or two.
For some Au Pair’s to have the opportunity to work and live in Norway is very important. Check out this links for fun and you will understand more:
Slavery - Or Not ?
It’s a fact that some Au Pair’s are complaining and describe their “situation” as modern slavery. ” My family is treating me like a slave”. Many sad stories. There is some really bad Host Families out there and there is also som really bad Au Pair’s out here. Good People – Bad People, you will find them everywhere.
The power of the press is “heavy”! Also politicians read and watching TV News. The consequences for the termination of the Au Pair program will be that all those Au Pair’s who didn’t do anything wrong, just dreaming high about a better life, about supporting their family financially, will now never get the change to work in Norway and to get a better life. Norway will within 30 June, 2023 vote about closing down the Au Pair program. Other European countries is now also discussing the same issue for the next coming year.
The Au Pair Program is ment to be a program for Culture Exchange. If the Host families and the Au Pair’s could stick to this ideas and principles there wouldn’t be any problems. Both Host Families and Au Pair’s have totally messed up this great opportunity that is given, by not following the intentions for this exchange program. For many this program also just was a “false flag operation”. For for mostly all the rest it was real.
I have been travelling my hold life as a Film Director, Photographer and as a Documentary Journalist. I know something about how important it is to have a global view and to understand different people from different countries. To understand theirs culture and background. This is how we all get a bigger perspective on whats going on in the world. To have a global perspective makes it easier to understand, especially today during all these conflict we are dealing with. It is extremely important for young people to have this basic of knowledge to understand whats going on in this crazy world we are living in.
Nobody is perfect. No one can change the world alone, today. But we can all learn more and more so we one day can be a part of tomorrows decision-taking. The Au Pair Program could be a starter for many young people.
So in the end for me it’s about asking the question and to add all this into a context and to a bigger perspective.
But this should instead be directed to the Minister of Labor and Inclusion Marte Mjøs Persen and to the Parlament who is going to vote for this decision after the end of the hearing 30 June, 2023.
So feel free to send her an email and ask her about all this and about her decision. It it still possible that they will turn around ans keep the program going. Miracles happen before. Her public email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Minister. If this is a “just a loophole” for some to get cheap labour, why then punish them all? Is the Au Pair Program here in Norway just a Western Modern Slavery?