“It’s clear to us that too many of those who have an au pair in Norway are looking for a maid for cheap labour. It’s not OK! That was never the intention and is not allowed,” Gerd Kristiansen, leader of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, told Norway’s VG newspaper.
According to Norwegian labour regulations, an au pair can work a maximum of five hours a day and should receive a minimum of 5,200 kroner ($670) a month as pocket money as well as meals and a bedroom.
Earlier this week, VG revealed that a large number of young women are being mistreated in Norwegian families, with one girl working 96 hours in a single week.
VG has seen lists of chores that au pairs are tasked with, including clearing dog faeces off the lawn, cleaning toilets, and cleaning the house at all hours.
“The problem is that the au pairs cannot achieve these tasks during regulated working hours, five hours a day,” Magnhild Otnes who works for Au Pair Centre in Oslo, an organization working to protect the rights of au pairs in Norway.
There are currently around 3,200 au pairs working in Norway. The vast majority, 87 percent, are young women from the Philippines, according to an article in Norway's Dagens Næringsliv newspaper.
“The whole point of au pairs is cultural exchange, learning Norwegian and learning about Norway,” Kristiansen said. “Time and time again there are examples that show that the special regulations have outlived their usefulness. They camouflage exploitation of young girls under the veil of cultural exchange.”
Norwegian authorities tightened the rules for au pairs in 2013 in response to reports of young women being used as cheap domestic labour.
Since the new rules were introduced, five families have had their right to have an au pair withdrawn for ten years because they have mistreated their employees.
Editor's note: The photo that originally accompanied this article was unrelated to the content.