A Family Member or a Family Servant? Why Norwegian Families Hire Au Pairs. A Qualitative Study.
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The au pair programme is a scheme for cultural exchange that is meant to enable young people experience a new culture and increase their linguistic and professional abilities through participation in a foreign family’s everyday life. In the official discourse the au pairs are constructed as neither workers nor students, but as ‘guests’ of a ‘host family’ on a temporary visit. The au pairs are meant to live as members of a host family and as such they receive free board and lodging as well as pocket money. In return the au pairs help with childcare and housework. The au pair scheme has become very popular in Norway during the last decade and now an increasing number of Norwegian families hire au pairs. Couples with or without children – married as well as cohabiting and single parents with children may hire au pairs through the au pair scheme. Single persons without children may not use the scheme. Given the large availability of high-quality affordable public daycare arrangements for preschoolers as well as for children at school age, the generous parental leave legislation and the familyfriendliness of the Norwegian labour market, the study asks why an increasing number of Norwegian families hire au pairs.