An Article in the Welt Newspaper – Germany
Is Brexit deterring Au Pairs from coming to London?
By Claudia Wanner, 20th July 2017
Great Britain is traditionally popular amongst au pairs. But for a few months now, the number of interested candidates decreased. Some think that Brexit is at fault. But experts have further explanations.
The Brexit decision unsettled Antonia Born. For a short time, she was unsure whether her au pair stay in Great Britain could fail due to a new visa regulation. However she quickly realised that Britain would not be actually leaving the EU for a while. Regulations did therefore not yet change. For four weeks now, the 20-year old au pair from Dresden is placed with family Smallwood in Bedford, north of London – and is learning to speak fluent English more or less on the go.
Family Smallwood was lucky. For a few months now, young people show less and less interest in being an au pair in England. Sandra Landau MBE, confirms this observation. The boss of the au pair agency Childcare International in Borehamwood, north of London, is baffled. “Maybe they think they are no longer welcome here” says Landau, “but this of course is not the case!” She is looking for an explanation for the decreasing interest.
Her concern is: The upcoming exit of Great Britain out of the EU could be at fault – the fear of a critical attitude towards Europeans up to hostility towards foreigners. “But nothing changed here, we still have as many families as always who are looking to take on a foreign au pair”, says Landau, who has been in business for 30 years. Numbers of potential applicants seem to have decreased exponentially during this year. In her agency, she has experienced a drop of one third in application numbers.
Continuing decrease since the referendum
Even more dramatic is the description of the situation, which the British Au Pair Agencies Association BAPAA gave. A survey amongst member agencies shows that applications for July dropped about almost 50% as compared to the previous year,
says Rebecca Hayworth-Wood, Chairlady of the Association, who is running her own agency A2Z Au Pairs.
Since the Referendum in June last year, there appears to be a continuing decrease. Spokesperson of Au Pair World, an online platform based in Kassel, placing applicants world-wide, confirms this trend. “We see an obvious decrease in interest in Great Britain”, she says. There are no official numbers, immigration statistics do not include au pairs, and they are not required to register. Traditionally however, Britain is considered as the most popular destination for au pairs in Europe, due to the possibility of gaining English language skills during their stay with a family, as well as great insight into the country and culture.
Less offers for families
Antonia Born is not the first au pair for family Smallwood. Alex Smallwood and his wife are working full-time. Since the birth of their children, now six and eight, they seek support for childcare and household. “We likes the idea of a ‘big sister’ for the two”, says the physician from Bedford.
Even today, they are in contact to their previous au pairs, some come to visit them occasionally. As a positive side effect, he describes, his children also learned German, as the au pairs speak for a few hours each week in their native language with the children.
Smallwood, as well, experienced certain change. “ At the beginning, we were offered five, six, seven applicants. Now, only one or two.” A family they are friends with did not have any luck at all in finding an au pair the last year.
For many British families, au pairs are the ideal childcare option. Due to after school clubs, which usually end between 3 and 4 pm, the maximum weekly working hours of 30 hours are sufficient. Alternatives like qualified nannies are considerably more expensive and places in pre- and after school care scarce.
Au Pair Association urges towards solution
How legal regulations would proceed, is currently completely open, says Chairlady Rebecca Hayworth-Wood. Brexit would put an end to free movement of people, which means that European citizens would no longer be able to live and work in Great Britain. A stricter border control is one of the most important goals of the British government. The au pair program is handled restrictively already today.
Apart from citizens of states of the European Union and Switzerland, only a handful of other countries qualify as au pairs for Britain, amongst them Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Taiwan. However, Hayworth-Wood is positive that a solution will be found. The Association is already busy lobbying on behalf of au pairs.
Terrorist Attacks deter further
Katie Saunders doubts that Brexit is deterring applicants. The marketing expert from London found it difficult to find an au pair this year. “In the last few months, there were way too many bad news from Great Britain”, is her explanation.
“Would I send my daughter to a country where there are terrorist attacks again and again? Probably not.” Also Maria Riedmaier, who is running the agency Active Abroad in Freisingen, observes a correlation with the attacks. “Immediately after the attacks, we had a handful of au pairs who waned to go home immediately.”
Antonia Born is in any case very satisfied with her decision. “Until now, everyone I met was extremely friendly. I really made no negative experiences, and heard no xenophobic slurs whatsoever.” And with the improvement of her language skills, she is also quite satisfied.
For those who can read German, please find herewith the article for your perusal.