Disputed au pair program to continue

The Norwegian government has secured a majority in Parliament for its intention to maintain the country’s disputed au pair program. The program has resulted in many young women from the Philippines working as low-paid domestic servants in Norway, instead of functioning as the cultural exchange it was intended to be, and that’s made it a target of strong criticism.

Norwegian Peoples Aid (Norsk Folkehjelp) produced these handbooks for au pair and their host families as part of efforts to help ensure the rights of au pair. A government-funded center run by the organization and a local trade union federation was shut down, however, after the government cut its budget. Now it may reopen, if the au pair program continues in its current form as expected amidst strong political opposition. PHOTO: Norsk Folkehjelp

Despite a series of cases highlighting illegal abuse of the program, and funding cuts that forced closure of Oslo’s Au Pair Center, the minority government coalition’s two support parties have agreed to back the government’s desire to maintain an au pair program in Norway. The Christian Democrats and the Liberals have both criticized the program earlier, while oppostion parties in Parliament including Labour have called for the program to be shut down after repeated cases of its exploitation.

“We have (also) expressed ourselves critically,” André Sjelstad of the Liberal Party acknowledged to news bureau ANB this week. “But after a lengthy evaluation both we and the Christian Democrats decided on this standpoint.” It remained unclear why the two parties have now decided to ensure the au pair program’s survival: “We’re looking forward to hear the arguments from the Christian Democrats and Liberals,” wrote Kjell Werner, editor of ANB, in a commentary on Tuesday. “Was this just political horse-trading or a change in course involving other factors from the government?”

More debate expected

The issue is due to be debated in Parliament later this week, and the opposition will be expecting answers as well. Member of Parliament Sveinung Rotevatn of the Liberals had earlier admitted, for example, that the au pair program has been abused and said the party “was more than willing to look at changes.” Fellow MP Geir Bekkevold of the Christian Democrats had even supported Labour’s proposal to replace the current au pair program with one that provides “real cultural exchange.” That’s now due to be voted down in Parliament, and both Rotevatn and Bekkevold are expected to be challenged.

Bekkevold had also expressed hope that the current program could be tightened up to prevent the exploitation to which the around 3,000 au pairs in Norway are vulnerable. Court cases in recent years have uncovered au pair being subjected to long working hours, minimal pay, situations described as “Downtown Abbey” in Norway, and even sexual assault. Nearly all the au pair in Norway come from the Philippines and need money to send home to their families.

“We are now very critical that both the Liberals and the Christian Democrats are securing the au pair program,” Karin Andersen, an MP for the Socialist Left party told ANB. “It’s fine to have household help, but then you must pay properly for it, and accord your domestic help their rights.”

Andersen said she, at the very least, will expect that the Liberals and the Christian Democrats have secured funding in the revised state budget to reopen a center set up to help au pair by the humanitarian organization Norsk Folkehjelp (Norwegian Peoples Aid). Its Au pair-senteret in Oslo was forced to close this spring after the government cut the NOK 3 million in public support that it had received.


Henriette Killi Westhrin, secretary general of Norsk Folkehjelp, said she feared au pair abuse would increase after the center closed on April 1. It had been set up in 2012 in cooperation with the trade union federation Fagforbundet and at the request of Norwegian authorities, after several “ugly cases” of au pair abuse had been presented in the media.

Westhrin claimed the government shut down “an important and well-functioning service” with no replacement. “We fear au pair will now become free game for host families who want underpaid household help,” Westhrin said. “Unfortunately NOK 3 million a year was more than the government and its support parties could find to secure the rights of au pairs. We think that’s just embarrassing.”

Now the parties in Parliament may at least be able to reinstate funding for the au pair center if the au pair program is to continue. One of the most prominent cases of au pair abuse recently resulted in convictions and jail terms against a wealthy Oslo couple. The case is currently under appeal.

Read other news on the city site of Oslo.

Norwegiangovernment Parliament youngwomen program
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
1 view in december
I recommend
No recommendations yet


Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Oslo finds itself in the bottom ten, at number 49 out of the 56 cities ranked. Elsewhere, Belfast tops the list of best urban cities for digital nomads. Recent analysis by online home rental company  Spotahome has standardised the latest city and country-level data available* for categories such as internet speed, the number of co-working spaces, apartment rental prices and migrant acceptance to determine which urban cities are best-suited for digital noma...
Thousands of Norwegians are organized and preparing for a possible doomsday scenario. NRK publishes a documentary about doomsday preppers in Norway. Michel van Coevorden is one of thousands of members on survivalist Facebook group. He is 52 years old and from the Netherlands. He has lived in Norway for almost 20 years, and has been preparing for the worst possible scenarios. His motivation is that the world has become more dangerous place and the governmen...
Two Lithuanian citizens have been sentenced in Stavanger District Court to two years, and one year and two months in prison, for so-called ‘black work’ (moonlighting) for which they didn’t pay tax.   The two men, aged 30 and 31, have had positions as general manager and owner of several construction companies in the district. The youngest of them acknowledged a penalty for everything and received the shortest sentence. The other admitted partial guilt said...
Ferde repays several million after toll scandal A technical error in the North Jæren toll system has led to many motorists being billed too much in the peak hours. Tens of millions will be repaid to the victims, and the peak hour fee is put on hold.   Motorists on North Jæren are furious about the toll station wall surrounding all urban hubs. Now it turns out that they have been overbilled for the peak hour fee. According to the Steering Group for the ”Urb...
Nearly 8000 foreigners took the Norwegian test Nearly 8000 immigrants can have a well-deserved break after completing the last Norwegian examinations of the year. The test is becoming increasingly important.   – Norwegian language skills open the door to integration, education and jobs, says Director in Competence Norway, Gina Lund. The Norwegian test has gained an increasing role, and is, among other things, entry conditions for both residence permits and...
Judgement day for Janne Jemtland’s husband The prosecutor wants the husband of Janne Jemtland behind bars for 18 years for the murder of his spouse. He, however, demands an acquittal. The sentencing is due on Monday morning.   At 10 am on Monday, District Court Judge, Trond Christoffersen, calls for order in court for the last time in the Janne Jemtland case. The Hedmark District Court will then provide an answer to the question that everyone asked before...
The man charged with sending a bomb to the police in Ski has been in conflict with them for a long time. He denies having anything to do with the bomb.   When he was detained for four weeks on Saturday, the man appealed the decision on the spot. His lawyer, John Christian Elden, told VG newspaper that his client does not acknowledge having sent the package containing the bomb. “The basis for imprisonment is primarily the risk that there may have been other...
In Norway, there are far more believers than in Denmark, Sweden, and Finland, according to a new survey.   According to the study by the independent American think-tank Pew Research Center, 17 per cent of Norway’s citizens are strong believers. The same is true for 8 per cent of Danes, 10 per cent of Swedes and 13 per cent of Finns. In the survey, the degree of religiosity is measured in all the European countries. Romania is at the top with 55 per cent st...
PST investigate threats against Minister of Justice, Wara The Special Branch (PST) investigates serious threats to Justice Minister Tor Mikkel Wara (Progress Party). His house and car have been tagged, and his car may have been attempted to be ignited.   – We have started investigating threats against Government officials this afternoon. We are in an initial phase of the investigation. There are aspects of the matter that make us look very seriously at it,...