NGO denounces exploitation of au pairs in Belgium

Au pairs are frequently victims of exploitation, according to the NGO Fairwork Belgium, which has criticised their treatment in a statement.

The NGO said its helpdesk was contacted in 589 cases between 2014 and 2022. The inspection services in Flanders, where three-quarters of au pairs in Belgium are based, note that the rules are not respected in more than a third of cases. Abuses have also been identified in Brussels and Wallonia.

In 2022, there were 397 au pairs in Flanders, 89 in Brussels and 67 in Wallonia. Only people who are not from EU Member States are listed by the NGO, which aims to improve the working conditions of workers without legal residence or in a precarious situation.

"I was completely cut off from the world and the emotional abuse was constant. I only received 60 euros for my three months of work," said one young au pair working in Arlon, Luxembourg province. The legislation provides for a remuneration of 450 euros for 20 hours of work per week.

Fairwork also denounces the au pair agency system, through which young people are obliged to work. "When there is a conflict with the host family, the agency will almost always take the family's side," said Jan Knockaert, coordinator of the NGO.

While the basic objective of hiring an au pair is to allow young people to discover the country's language and culture in exchange for household chores, the host families are more interested in hiring cheap labour, the NGO said.

"It is time to end the hypocrisy and recognise that au pairs are workers," said the organisation, adding that this is a position shared by the National Labour Council.




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