Au pair and ‘direct hire’ Filipinos abroad
One of the few perks of being a Filipino traveling abroad is meeting countrymen based overseas who are always eager to help a kababayan in a variety of ways. They also have interesting stories to share. On a recent trip to Europe, I met four Filipino women.
My wife and I, with our one-year-old baby in tow, were lost while walking in the streets of Amsterdam, Netherlands. We were having difficulty hailing a taxicab or an Uber car to go back to our hotel, and I was in a bit of panic because it was beginning to rain. Then I saw two women alternately taking each other’s pictures, and I instinctively knew they were Filipinos.
I approached and asked them which tram line would bring us near our hotel. They went beyond giving us information. For the next 20 minutes, they walked us to the correct tram stop, bought tickets for us and waited to ensure we got on board the tram. Along the way, they shared their stories with us. They even messaged us to check if we reached our hotel safely.
Jedz and Rocelyn are staying in Europe as “au pair.” Jedz is 28 years old and from Iloilo, while Rocelyn is turning 30 years old and from Batangas. They’re both single, college graduates, and they’re on their fifth year as au pairs in Europe.
The au pair program, popular across Europe, allows young people to learn a new language and culture by living with a host family in exchange for light household chores. It is promoted as a cultural exchange program available only for young people between 18 and 30 years old, unmarried and without any children.
Au pairs are neither classified as students nor workers. But they’re provided free food and lodging, work minimal hours a day, receive a minimum monthly allowance, and enjoy one to two days off every week to pursue language courses and cultural interests. Jedz and Rocelyn have traveled all over Europe during their days off.
The three European countries that are top destinations for Filipino au pairs are Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands, but the program is also available in Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Switzerland, among others. There are also au pair programs in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
A total of 16,000 Filipinos went to various European countries as au pairs from 2012 to 2018. For young Filipinos who want to see the world and learn a foreign language and culture, but who do not have the financial means to pursue these dreams, the au pair program is a promising option to explore prior to taking full-time work in the Philippines or as a stepping stone to pursue opportunities abroad.
In Venice, Italy, I also met Anna and Maan. They’re both in their 30s, and they work as room staff in a boutique hotel. They were so helpful and caring when it came to the myriad of things and the variety of local information that were needed by a couple traveling with a baby. I will not recommend traveling with a baby for the faint of heart.
Filipinos who desire to work abroad generally have to go through recruitment agencies, but there are a few countries whose employers are exempt from the requirement. Anna and Maan are both beneficiaries of “direct hire” employment. But their fates diverged in the outcome of their marital lives.
Anna was able to petition her husband to migrate to Italy, and their children were born and are growing up enjoying the benefits provided by the state. Maan separated from her husband because of the latter’s infidelity, and her children continue to live and study in the Philippines.
They made a quick rundown of the benefits of life in Italy—free childbirth, free hospitalization, free precollege education, 11 months’ maternity leave with full pay, unlimited public transportation for a minimal fixed monthly fee, and merely six hours of work per day. With these enviable benefits, it’s no wonder that any Filipino provided with the opportunity would join the diaspora.
The au pair program and direct hire employment are promising options for Filipinos who want to see the world or seek prospects of a better life abroad.
Comments to [email protected]
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.